Five Steps to Feel What God Feels

I’m not going to take long because clearly we could do Q&A the rest of the time for twenty minutes, but if somebody’s just burning with an issue, I will be willing to hear it, and if you don’t stand up or just holler at me quick, I’m going to keep going.

It can’t just mean that he won’t answer your prayer, right?

Yes, it can. The question is, can it just mean he won’t answer your prayer? Your prayers are hindered, meaning when you’re living out of sync with God’s will in your marriage, he just won’t answer, and yes, it could just mean that. That’s why I said of these three, I’m not sure. Sorry. Just for all of you who wonder, well, how do you lead a small group if you don’t know? How do you preach a sermon if you don’t know?

Well, those of you who’ve been here a while know that I will just say what I said. I said I’m not sure about this. People appreciate that. They won’t you to be honest, and then you give them the options, and then you give them your inclination, you give them some reasons, and then they go home to pray about it. I think that’s authentic preaching. If you did that on every point: “I don’t know. I don’t know. Trinity, I don’t know. Deity of Christ, not sure.” You should be fired quick, but if that’s what you think it means, I think you’ve got probably as much to go on as I do.

On one of your screens, you had 1 Thessalonians 4:5. The question is: What were you going to say about it?

Thank you. I love that kind of question. All right, the point of 1 Thessalonians 4:5, and this is my little paraphrase of the preceding words. Where’s the end of that? There it is. Relate sexually to your wife. It’s like, contain your vessel or receive your wife. There’s a real dispute about how to translate this, but it means, relate sexually to your wife, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.

I was simply going to let 1 Thessalonians 4:5 confirm that Paul and Peter are thinking the same here. That there are passions that accord with your former ignorance and those passions lead you to treat your wife sexually badly. In Thessalonians, it says, “Relate to her, receive her, or possess her, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles.” Well, what’s that like? They don’t know God. Isn’t that amazing?

Like knowing God makes sex better? Duh! You don’t even know what sex is for if you don’t know God. You’re a prostitute if you don’t know God. Meaning you’ve taken a gift given to human beings to be used in worship of him in gratitude, and you prostitute it by just satisfying herself and yourself with him not even in the picture. That’s not what it’s for. Well, it means a lot more than that. That’s the starting point.

If you don’t know God, then you’re in the grip of this ignorance here. This ignorance right there, and that ignorance produces former passions, and those passions lead you to be indifferent to her happiness and her good, and you will wind up doing stuff or demanding stuff or treating her in ways that do not honor her, please her, et cetera. That’s where I was going to go.

I just think you could write a book on this. Don’t have sex like the Gentiles who do not know God. Have better sex. Better sex. And if you don’t know how to do that, I’m talking to married people now, please. If you don’t know what that means, how would knowing God inform this marriage bed that Hebrews says to keep sacred (Hebrews 13:4)? If you don’t know that, then that’s second base of Christianity. Just ask God to show you, what does it mean to know you? That’s what this book is about. Maybe the rest of this seminar could be called “Better Sex: 1 Peter” because everything you learn about God affects how you treat your wife and your husband.

The Application of Submission

Okay, 18 minutes and we’re on the last unit of the application of submission, I think. He said, “Let your conduct be beautiful among the Gentiles so that when they see your good deeds, when they criticize you as evildoers, they might see your good deeds and give glory to your Father.”

Illustration number one: submit to the government. Illustration number two: submit to your employers. Illustration number three: wives submit to husbands. Illustration number four: husbands live together in accordance with knowledge, and if you wanted to push me, I would go to the point of saying, treating her as a fellow heir of the grace of life and treating her according to knowledge, and being oriented towards God so that your prayers may not be hindered, means you are coming under God’s authority and under her needs, and you are being submissive in that sense, not the same sense that she is, but in that sense.

Mutual submission at that point is okay. In my language, that’s what I would mean by it, and now he says, “Finally, all of you,” so submitters to government, servants, wives, husbands, now all of you, and I’m all wired up to say, “Okay, what’s he going to say to everybody? Is it going to be the same kind of thing he said to the groups or is he going to say something different?” “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).

The Riches of the Greek and English Bible

Let’s just stop there and think. Now you get another list, another picture to look at for an hour. Now, that is worth looking at for an hour, and if you know Greek, it is super helpful at this point, but please, if you ever hear me allude to Greek here, don’t throw up your hands and say, “Well, I don’t have Greek, and so I can’t get anything.” Baloney.

The riches of the English Bible are barely tapped by anybody. Okay? You hear that? The riches of the English Bible have barely been tapped by anybody. I don’t think that’s an overstatement. There is a painting, and it’s called the English Bible, and a good English Bible, it’s a good rendering of the original. Not perfect, but good, and the riches of it are untold.

Therefore, devote your life to it, and you will not have wasted your life, but there are occasions where you see things more sharply. This unity of mind here, homophrón, probably untranslatable because the word group in Greek is more than thinking and more than feeling, but a little bit of both. I’m going to argue that every one of these is a feeling or includes feelings, even unity of mind, or it doesn’t look like it in English.

Unity of mind. That is a common attitude. Attitude. Sympathies. Even in Greek, it’s sumpathés, feeling or feeling with. Or this one is philadelphos, brotherly love. Not just any old love, not just service love, not just “I’m gutting it out, enduring all things love,” but rather, “You’re my brother, my sister, love you, and tender heart.” Eusplagchnos means good bowels. I love it. Get good bowels for somebody. Good bowels. That’s groping. Groping for something pretty inner. Humble mind. Tapeinophrosune. Lowliness.

Okay, pattern, order. What about, and this is a guess, don’t know. After my hour of watching this text or more over the years, might it be that the text is moving down into deep or up, so humility is a deep sense of brokenness before God, dependence upon God, lowliness before God, which leads then to tenderness.

A broken person doesn’t tend to be a hard person, a harsh person. Tends to be a soft person, easily touched like a heart that’s touch it. It has nerves in it and it’s not hard. You can’t touch me anymore. You can’t hurt me anymore. It’s tender, and then maybe that leads to a kind of family-like brotherliness, sisterliness in the group that you’re talking about, the church or the small group or whatever.

There’s an affection that rises for that’s family-like, and maybe that then leads to a feeling together. When your family member cries, you cry. I’ll tell you, I don’t know whether I’m wired funny or not, but when I deal with tragedy and loss, say Alex’s death seven weeks ago, or also my granddaughter or my mother’s death or whatever, I’ll have my good long cry, and then as I start circulating among people or walk into the room where the funeral’s going to be, I’m okay. I’m in control. I’m not going to lose this. I got work to do. I can’t sob. You know what triggers it? Other people’s crying.

I could look at a coffin. I’ve looked at hundreds of them, I suppose, and not cry. I lift my eyes up to the family member and lose it, but there’s something about it. It’s not just the tragedy that’s getting you. It’s the way others are experiencing the tragedy that’s getting you. That’s what this is, I think. It’s easy for that to happen as you mature in Christ. It’s easy for that to happen, and that’s a beautiful thing. That’s a good thing. When other people’s pain or other people’s happiness makes you happy, it’s easy. It’s just the opposite of Asperger’s. There are people, as the autism scale moves along, they’re not able to read you. They don’t know what’s going on inside of you. There’s no detection of any emotion, so there’s no correspondence to the emotion, and so it’s very hard for them to do that, and you need to cut them a lot of slack. But I think as we grow, that becomes more natural, and then that leads, I think, to remarkable unity.

The Complexities of Obedience to Emotional Commands

That’s my effort to try to find some. Why would he list all of those there? Every one of them is an emotion, or if you want to disagree about the first one, that’s fine. The last four clearly are. Although if you need to strike the word mind there to see it. Lowliness, tenderness, brotherliness, and sympathy are emotions, and they are commanded.

I have devoted years of my life trying to both understand and explain how you obey a command to feel because I grew up, I went to college. I don’t blame my parents for this, not at all, but I took courses in college where I read books that argued that you cannot command emotions. If love is commanded, that’s proof positive it’s not an emotion because you can’t command emotions. Emotions cannot be performed as an obedience, and the answer to that is they are commanded all over the Bible.

Whether you can do them is neither here nor there. They’re commanded, and it is right for God to command what we ought to experience even if we can’t. You got that? That’s a theology I just said. It is right for God to command that you do things you cannot do if it’s right to do them and you ought to do them. It doesn’t matter that you can’t do them because the only reason you can’t is that you’re bad, fallen, corrupt, dead in sins and trespasses.

God has a right to command Lazarus to stand up, doesn’t he? I can command Lazarus to walk. He’s dead. I know he’s dead. And he can command you. So, it’s a big deal to ask, “All right, finally, all of you have these things. What are we supposed to do now?” And I’ll use probably the rest of our time to answer that question.

This is my effort to give you a summary answer from 1 Peter, and you could do this with lots of books of the Bible, but I’ll just use 1 Peter because that’s where we are, and I put them in R’s. Here are the five things I would, if you came to me for counseling and you said, “I went to your 1 Peter seminar, and I just came away feeling so guilty because you said I’m supposed to feel all these things. I almost never feel these things, so I feel horrible after that seminar.” This is what I would do to preempt that counseling session. I would say, I see five things:

  1. repent
  2. resort to Christ
  3. request change from God
  4. relish some sweet word (that is trust)
  5. resolve to feel

And I’ll show you the verses.


Repent. First Peter 3:10–11: “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”

So the word repent in Hebrew means turn away from. In Greek metanoia, turn with your mind, change your mind. Are you willing, as you sit there, to actively turn against the things that are an obstacle to your emotions or the contrary emotions? If you’re supposed to have sympathy and you’re feeling very unsympathetic toward a person, are you willing right now to consciously turn on it? Turn on it. I’m against you on sympathy. I’m against you, and I’m leaving you. I’m turning on you. It’s a conscious turning your back on that thing.

Resort to Christ

Next, resort to Christ. First Peter 2:4 states, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” As you come to him, come to him. Are you willing to pursue him, to draw near to him, not let him go? Not in a fatalistic way, say, “I’ve tried. That doesn’t work.” No. Will you come? Will you keep coming to him? I’m drawing near to you because I’m turning on that thing that I don’t like about myself, that absence of feeling, or that presence of bad feeling, and I’m coming to you. I’m consciously embracing you, consciously seeking you, consciously drawing near to you. James says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Relish Some Sweet Word

Third, relish. I’ll tell you why I’ve chosen that word in a minute. Relish some sweet word that is trust. I think that’s the definition of trust in this context.

First Peter 2:2–3, “Like newborn infants,” so he’s just said, you’ve been born again by the living and abiding word of God. And now he says, “Like newborn infants, long,” there’s another desire word, “long for the pure spiritual milk.” He doesn’t say what the milk is, “that by it you may grow up into salvation if indeed you have tasted,” and taste goes with milk, and that taste created that longing. “If you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Now, if you ask me to define this milk here, I would say the milk is the word of God, specifically mediating the goodness of God. That’s the milk. It’s got a point to it. It’s not just word in general, but in this context, have you tasted that the Lord is good as you have drunk the milk of his word. On your way towards experiencing new emotions, you take hold of some sweet cup of milk, and by the way, I don’t think milk here connotes immature teaching. That is, beginner’s teaching.

It does in Hebrews: “You should be eating meat and I feed you milk.” I don’t think that’s going on here. I think milk simply means you’re a newborn baby. Newborn baby want one thing. They want mommy’s breast and they are hungry and screaming their lungs out for it, and that’s the way you should want the word of God and the goodness of God. Are you willing to take hold of some promise?

For me, I do this all the time. This afternoon, feeling anxious, am I going to be able to recite the two chapters tonight? Will I get bogged down? Will I get lost in all these sheets of paper? Will anybody like what I say? “Blah, blah, blah.” All the assaults of the evil one. And I took hold of 1 Peter 5:7: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that in due season, he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him,” and then here’s the rocker, “because he cares for you.”

I’ve just been blown away all afternoon by, he’s the God of the universe. He holds in being the galaxies, and he said, “I stoop to be attentive to my sons and daughters, and help them and lift their anxieties because I care for you.” Are you willing, step three, to relish that? Best you can, best you can. Just take it and say, “Okay, that’s sweet. I’m sure I ought to feel the sweetness a lot more than I do, but I’m going to feel what I can feel, and I’m holding onto that and I’m lick that lollipop all afternoon.” That’s number three.

Request Change

Four, and our time is up so we’ll wrap it up in two minutes. Request change from God. First Peter 3:12: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

His eyes are on you; his ears are open to you. Pray. “God, help me. Make me more tender, make me more sympathetic.” Whatever the emotion is that you don’t have that the Bible says you ought to have. Fourth, ask him. Ask him. “God, change me. Work it in me. As if it takes ten years, work it in me.” If you’re 69 and you need it to still happen, pray that it happen before you die.

Resolve to Act with Feeling

And lastly, resolve to act with feeling. Resolve to act with the best feeling you can. “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling; on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called,” so somebody reviles you, emotions of and everything in you wants to say something ugly back or talk to other people about them, and you walk through these five R’s.

When you get to this one, you say, “I am going to resolve to bless them with as much feeling as God will give in the moment,” and at the point of approach, like you’re going to go knock on the door or you’re going to make a phone call, or you’re going to write an email or whatever you’re going to do, at the point of approach, you may feel almost zero, and this is sheer willpower.

This has happened to me all the time, and you walk into the presence of the other person and you say, “I just don’t want there to be anything between us. I want us to do the best we can. I was hurt by what you said, but maybe I misunderstood and I just want to do anything that lies in my power to make for peace here.” And as you make that attempt by initial willpower, that’s what I mean by resolve here. God gives it. He gives it. He creates emotions. He creates affections. As you find yourself saying, “I can’t believe.”

You say, “I can’t believe I’m saying this. I don’t like this guy.” Suddenly, something happens or maybe not suddenly, gradually. Those are my five R’s for how you walk with God in trying to obey the commands to feel when feelings are not a spigot that you can turn on and off. We pick it up in the morning at whatever time is on your schedule, and we will move on to not repaying evil for evil.