Tag Archives: Emotions

Who Told You?

Studies I Genesis 3

He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11 ESV)

God continues asking questions, with the purpose of drawing a response out of Adam to force him to honestly face his rebellion. Yet, God’s questions reveal more about eternity than is apparent.

“Who told you” begins the next question. It is apparent God’s intent is to show Adam he needs to repent through confession. God knows everything, including the answer to this question. Still, there are four personalities present. God, the Creator of all. Adam and Eve, the first people, created in His image. The Deceiver, inhabiting the serpent, also a created being, but without the image of God, yet intelligent, with an emotional understanding of morality, and a will to act. As far as we know, the Deceiver did not have dominion over anything. His deception was a grasping at dominion.

No part of the conversation recorded between Eve and the Deceiver suggested they were naked. It is likely the conversation was not short but long, possibly over a period of days. We do not know. We do know, from the evidence, that Eve and Adam were prepared to rebel against God. Rebellion is never spontaneous.  Misdirected thought and emotion, a looking for alternatives by thinking about self, turning needs into wants, always comes before rebellion.

“Who” is a pronoun for persons. We know God did not tell them they were naked. He created them naked and did not want them wearing clothing. The Deceiver, as far as we know, may have told them they were naked. We do not know because that part of the conversation is not recorded. Did they tell themselves? Somehow, they learned they were unclothed, naked to the world, exposed and vulnerable. This is a consequence of sin and rebellion. Everyone sins and everyone hides because everyone feels vulnerable and exposed to the dangers of the world and others. Being exposed is shameful until the conscious is seared and deadened and what is shameful becomes something which brings pride.

If we cannot hide from God then we must somehow change the rules to either exclude God or make the rebellious act legitimate.

 

Evidence and Conviction

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [Matthew 5:25-26 ESV]

In these verses the word “accuser” means someone who has a justified claim or accusation against another. A “judge” is given the responsibility to uphold every law strictly. Finally, the “guard” is another delegated to carry out sentence.  Each has their place in the justice of God.  All consequences are determined by the violation of a law and rebellion against the One who gave the law.

In these verses the accuser is Jesus, the Creator of all and the Author of the Law. He is not the judge. That position is held by God, the Father, who will judge each man’s works according to the righteous life of His Son. Finally, the officer is the Holy Spirit who will carry out sentence, either guaranteeing our place before God or removing those who are not His from His presence.

God’s image in man comprises many elements. Some specific elements are the mind, or the intelligence, the moral-emotional being, or that which interprets the righteous and just standard of God, and the will. Our minds tell us to do something based on the evidence. Our moral-emotional self warns us of the danger of violating God’s known law. Yet, our corrupted nature suggests we use our intelligence and the moral-emotional to rationalize and excuse sin. Our will acts upon the thinking of our hearts. Rebellion involves the whole person.

Adam and Eve committed one act of willful rebellion and separated themselves and all people from God. Jesus Christ did one disciplined act of obedience and made a way for any to not be separated from God.

Volumes have been written discussing the willful act of rebellion committed by Adam and Eve. Even more volumes have been written and preached presenting the passionate obedience of Christ and the grace offered.

God has a reasonable expectation His commands be obeyed. Adam was given one prohibition. Adam could have confronted the lies of the Serpent with the truth of God. Eve’s response to the lie of the Serpent was to add to the prohibition of God. Adam complacently acquiesced to Eve’s rationalized addition to the command of God.

Eve’s whole person, the image of God in her, was misused to excuse her rebellious action. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” [Genesis 3:6 ESV].

She saw the evidence of the goodness of the tree and its fruit. She delighted in what she saw. She desired the fruit because she knew it would make her as wise as God. Or so she thought. She thought God was keeping from her something which would benefit her.

Living within God’s boundaries, placed not to constrain but to allow the whole person to have a relationship with Him, is true freedom. How can there be true freedom when there are boundaries?

When we try to be something we are not we rebel against God’s design and purpose. We have intelligence and a moral foundation, our emotions telling us when God’s moral standard is being violated or upheld. He created Adam as His servant and gave him dominion over the earth. With one deliberate constraint, to not eat the forbidden fruit, Adam reigned everywhere and over all things. When he ate that which was forbidden he introduced to the world grief beyond comprehension.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” [Genesis 3:7-8 ESV].

They hid from Him who would judge them. It is obvious to us they should not have eaten the forbidden fruit. Nor should they have covered themselves or hidden from God. They did all of these things and then offered excuses for their rebellion. They were caught. God had already told them the consequences of a single act of rebellion. Hiding from Him would not lessen the judgment.

We all sin. Our freedom in Christ is to come before the Judge, admit and confess the sin and know He has forgiven us because of the Cross. This is “come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” [Matthew 5:25-26 ESV]

A False and True Center

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [James 4:1-4 ESV]

Repentance has a demand which must be met. Not fulfilling this demand says there has been no repentance. This demand is a knowing and feeling working together. Sin must be known with the mind and the turning away from sin must be felt with the emotions. This is one act not two for the whole person must meet the demand. What occurs may not be explainable. Most people cannot say exactly what has occurred but they know in the thinking of their hearts it has happened. With this turning comes a war with skirmishes and battles and assaults both overt and covert. Turning away from sin demands diligence in both thinking and feeling, for sin is jealous and will not relinquish its control until there is death. However, we are given the tools we need to wage this war and to grow into the individual God makes us for eternity through the indwelling of the Spirit. Sin no longer has control yet continues to assault to try to manipulate control. How we act while fully engaged in this war is the evidence of the truth of our turning.

I have spent time on the moral law of God because the conflict we face between intimately knowing it and facing the reality of sin cannot be ignored.

For any sinful person the center of the world, even the center of the universe, is self. How difficult it is for me, when I think and feel, perceive and act based wholly upon the isolation of myself. My life extends out from my person in tight, concentric circles, touching first those people and events closest to me. If anything does not touch my life in some tangible way, some way I can easily perceive, then I feel it has little or no bearing upon my decisions and values. When I am the center if anything does not touch me then it really doesn’t matter.

When something does touch me it must, absolutely must, adhere to my self-developed expectations or it makes me angry, which may transform into bitterness, hatred, frustration, depression and many other destructive emotions. These violent emotions separate people, driving families apart and further isolating every person.

Perceived needs are first sensual and once identified become fixed, or codified, into a loosely defined system of personal values, expectations and even laws. Each person in a community has their own personal value system, based upon individual experience and developed personality. There is no cohesion between individuals unless they hold similar and like values. Every community has a recognized and applied system of values and even ethics. This system must be recognized as abiding outside of the individual yet held as valuable by all of the individuals.

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” [Matthew 12:25-2 ESV] God cannot be divided against Himself. Satan’s work is to tear apart, to divide, to rip asunder. He has failed and will fall. Our world is under the control, or influence, of Satan. His method of operation is to divide. At the same time, this world is under the spell, the law, of sin. Sin has a personality. It is the personality of the individual sinner. Sin doesn’t divide but separates the individual from the Creator. Sin never unites. Satan never unites. Even Satan is under the dominance of sin.

Each person cannot be the center of the world or the universe. There can be only one center and that center is nowhere on this little speck of blue dust floating in an unimaginably vast universe. God, who is the first and last, the beginning and end, the alpha and omega, is not viewed as the center by any sinful person. That person’s universe, my universe, cannot stand. It will self-destruct. When we view ourselves as the center, most of the time doing this without being aware of our self-centered focus, we contribute to the to the tearing apart of our relationships. Only by forcibly making God the center in the thinking of our hearts will we begin to have healthy relationships. Nothing functions as it is supposed to without the conscious knowledge of the truth of God at the center.

“Dysfunction”, that which looks as if it would operate properly but does not, for various reason or under certain circumstance. Function implies design, creation to fulfill or adherence to the design, and the ability to act according to the express purpose of the design.

Is it possible for a person to be a functioning dysfunctional? How about a society or culture?

In Scripture we learn people are created with the express function to have an intimate relationship with both their Creator and each other. True intimacy, especially with God, is evidence of proper working. Where dysfunction occurs the evidence will be a breakdown or even severing of relationship. No body functions properly with missing or broken pieces. Such a compromised body may continue to operate, or function, but not to the fullest capacity intended. Lose a hand or foot or eye or ear and other parts may compensate for the loss. Lose a head or other vital organ and the body ceases to operate or function. Proper function is hindered but not stopped with the loss of a non-vital piece. Is it possible for the function of one part to be taken over by another while the first part is still complete? The eye cannot smell, but the foot can operate as a hand, in a limited way, and the arms can operate as legs. This is not optimal. What is true for the body is equally true for the person, the family an the community.

Now, a litany of my personal dislikes:

Clothes are designed to be worn in a specific manner. A ball cap has a bill jutting out of the front in order to shield the eyes of the wearer from the sun, or other bright lights. When worn askew, with the bill to the side or back, the cap is not functioning as it is intended. Is the person wearing the cap in such a manner is showing they do not understand or care about the function of the cap? In any case, the cap is not dysfunctional but the individual wearing the cap is not allowing the cap to function properly.

When made “properly” a pair of pants has a waist designed to fit around the person’s actual waist. Generally there are loops for a belt to add security and ensure the pants don’t fall down, causing the person to trip and fall, or to expose those areas below the waist considered private. To purposefully wear pants far below the waist causes the pants to not function properly. Doing this forces the wearer to hold the pants up with one hand or continually pull them up in order to walk or run. Why would anyone cause a functional pair of pants to slip down and impede other bodily functions, like walking?

An individual who wears headphones to listen to music may do so in order to not disturb others. However, when the individual moves into the public, walking, riding, driving, they must turn the volume up to drown out the noise around them. Eventually, the volume becomes so high others can hear, which may disturb them. There are other consequences. Hearing loss caused by excessive volume bombarding the nerves cause permanent damage. The headphones function properly, the person does not.

Evidence for a person’s dysfunction is found in every facet of their behavior. Continued behavior reinforces the dysfunction making it more difficult to identify the problem and break it. Soon, the dysfunction is viewed as normal, accepted by the person, by their peers, and even by the community and society at large. There may be grumbling, but unless there is social pressure to not act, dress or think in a particular dysfunctional way there will be no change. The dysfunction is ingrained.

It is obvious a society, culture and community are dysfunctional. Societal norms change to accommodate the dysfunction. Those individuals who do not act in accordance with the accepted dysfunction are shunned, until others begin to emulate them, and those actions and attitudes become normal. Each successive ring of dysfunction solidifies into a impenetrable plate of armor shielding the individual from learning or acting in a truly functional manner. Driven out of the person is the recognition of what was originally intended, their original purpose, with any understanding so corrupted rehabilitation is impossible.

People do not, will not, and cannot act in a manner for which they were originally intended. Even if they have a glimpse of the original, functional purpose there is too much pressure to continue thinking, then acting in a dysfunctional way. 

It is not the intent of this piece to examine the reasons or evidences of a dysfunctional person or society. It is enough to know the dysfunction exists and is impossible to overcome. It is also enough to identify the reality when a community or society accepts the dysfunction as normal. It is also important to realize the individual, community, society or culture which is dysfunctional cannot and does not recognize the dysfunction and will even fight against those who identify and highlight the dysfunction. We could even say value is placed upon the dysfunction when the activity and attitude is accepted and embraced.

Jesus, the only functioning person ever (even Adam created perfect, when he fell, ceased to function the way God originally intended), decided to come into a world turned upside down. He did not come to change the world and make it right. He came to convict the world of sin, to change those redeemed, and to serve God. He is Man the way God originally intended. This is why the world hates Him. He is the true center of a world which wants self at the center.

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.