April 16-17, 2005
[At the beginning of the message, Ed sings the song “Feelings” by the group Gemini.]
Yeah! Thank you very much! Thank you Dallas! Thank you! As you exit, I’ve got a brand new CD with Wayne Newton called “Ed and Wayne sing the greatest hits.” You can pick it up for $49.95.
If you have your Bibles, turn to the book of John, Chapter 4. My brother calls this text the “whore in John 4.” If you have a problem with me saying the word “whore,” it’s mentioned 75 times in the Old Testament. The book of Revelation mentions it.
Jesus was talking to a worldly woman, a prostitute, about today’s very subject matter. He was talking to her about worship. What does it mean to worship? This woman didn’t understand what it meant. She was a Samaritan woman living in immorality. She was talking to Jesus by a well. She thought that God was limited to a certain place or a certain area or a certain mountain. Jesus, in this dialogue, is going to blow her doors off and you’re going to see how this woman, the “whore in John 4,” moves from a wanderer into a worshiper.
Here’s what the conversation was like. John Chapter 4:23 and 24—they’re talking about worship, and Jesus said in Verse 23, “…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” Jesus was saying, “True worshipers will be recognized by the way they worship.” How do they worship? By spirit and in truth.
This is sort of along the same lines that we talked about last week, because in Acts 17, the Apostle Paul was talking about the same thing. Jesus was applauding the fact that this woman was a worshiper. He’s saying, “Good worship, wrong object.”
We’re going to worship. All of us here worship. We might not call it worship, but we worship. Jesus says, “True worship is about spirit and truth.” Spirit and truth. Some people take the thread of worship and cut it between spirit and truth. They just worship God in spirit. They’re just into the feelings and emotions. And churches who do that turn into granola churches—fruits, flakes, and nuts all rolled into one church.
On the other hand, some people cut the thread between spirit and truth and just worship God in truth. They are the artic churches, churches that are cold. I’m talking about big steeple, few people churches. I’m talking about the only growth that’s taking place is the ivy around the walls. I’m talking about when the pastor has the invitation, Betsy the cow walks down front and she has to wear ice skates, and the pastor gives out popsicles. I’m talking about the pastor being named Dr. Jack Frost. He has more degrees than a thermometer. I’m talking about cold. We’ve got to be very careful with spirit and truth.
Are you a true worshiper? Jesus is going to say here that worship is not compartmentalized. Worship is not something you do in a church, per se, or as you receive communion or when you’re watching baptism or whatever. Worship, he’s going to say, is an all-encompassing thing. It’s the thread that is woven through everything we do say, feel, and touch. God makes much over us so we can make much over him, because he knows if we don’t make much over him we are going to be gravely disappointed, our lives will not matter, and there will not be very much. God wants us to matter.
We are made, we exist, for God. God does not exist for us. And as this woman, the “whore in John 4,” as she is receiving this and understanding this, she is moving from a wanderer into a worshiper.
Jesus continues, “God is spirit.” Now, what does that mean? God is spirit? Well, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. The Trinity—three in one, one in three. Community. Perfect harmony. God is spirit. God is not limited to a time or to a place. He’s omnipresent. He’s everywhere.
In the Old Testament, they thought God resided in the house. And in the New Testament, they got God outside the house and Jesus said, “You are the house.” Thus, if we know Christ personally, we can worship and glorify him and reflect him in everything we’re about.
So worship should be an all-encompassing thing. The thread of worship should cover us and surround us. “God is spirit,” Jesus told her, “and his worshipers must worship,”—there it is again—“in spirit and in truth.”
In spirit? What does that mean—in spirit? The spirit has to do with our emotions, our feelings—whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings! That’s the spirit. The truth would be the written revelation of God. We’re to worship God in a genuine way. Emotions and feelings tethered to truth.
Now, just for a second, put on your thinking caps because I want to direct your attention to John 3:6, because Jesus here is going to connect his spirit with our spirit. He said in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” In other words, I cannot worship God in my spirit. I cannot worship God by my feelings, by my emotions. I can try to conjure them up, but it’s not going to happen. I’m not going to be a true worshiper by myself. I can’t do it. I’m toast. So are you. What did God do? We exist for God. God makes much over you and me so we can make much over him. It’s the God-centeredness of God. Because he knows that if we chase anything else, we’re going to be disappointed. So we can’t worship alone. Jesus said it. “That which is born of flesh is flesh.” We’re toast. But look at the next part, “and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
God connects his spirit with our spirits. So check this out now. God has taken the responsibility of worship off of your shoulders and my shoulders, and he’s placed it on the back of the Holy Spirit of God. So the Holy Spirit of God energizes our spirit. And if he energizes our spirit, it connects that to the truth. So, we can worship God in spirit and truth.
The Holy Spirit has the responsibility of firing up our feelings and our emotions so that, being tethered to the truth, we can have this passion for God’s fashion. We can glorify God, we can worship him in spirit and in truth—not with just feelings. Not just like, “Well, I feel it, so I guess it must be real.” No, no, no, no. We’d better be tethered to the truth. If we’re not, our feelings will get freaky, man. Our feelings can mess us up.
In the 60’s, what was the mantra? “If it feels good do it!” We still live by that today, don’t we? “How do you feel about that?” “Go with your gut.” But what if you’re sick on your stomach? Many times, if it feels good, that means I shouldn’t do it. “Feelings, whoa, whoa, feelings.”
Let’s talk about feelings, because feelings, if they’re not processed in the right framework, can get funky and freaky on us. Feelings can keep us from worshiping God in spirit and in truth.
WE GET OUR FEELINGS FROM GOD
Here’s the first statement I want to talk to you about concerning feelings. God has given us our feelings and we should thank him for the feelings. Our feelings come from God.
God has feelings, too. When we worship Him, we can make God smile. We can make his heart beat fast. Think about Jesus. He got tired, he was lonely, he cried, he got angry. He was perfect emotionally. All of our feelings, all of our emotions, come from God. We should say “Yeah, God! Thank you for the opportunity, for the ability to feel stuff.”
That’s from God. God wants us to manage our feelings, empowered by the spirit of God, from the context of the truth. Feelings come from God. We should thank God regularly for our feelings. And think about the last week. Think about how many feelings that you displayed. Wouldn’t that be crazy to write down all the different feelings, all the different emotions, we all had? Wow! That’s the first statement. Feelings come from God. Thank God for them. They’re awesome.
FEELINGS OFTEN LIE TO US
Here’s the second statement I want to talk to you about: Feelings often lie to us. Man, my feelings have lied to me! Am I the only one? Have your feelings lied to you? Yeah. Feelings will lie.
And right now some of you are in the throws of making a decision, and your decision is feelings-focused. “Yeah, I’m going to do that because I feel that way.” Or, “I don’t feel like I love whoever. And because I don’t feel that way, I’m going to do this. And I feel this…”
Some of you right now are in a position of compromise in the business world because you feel a certain way. Or you’re in the midst of compromise in the marital world because you feel a certain way. Or maybe you’re going to compromise financially because you feel a certain way. “Feelings, whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings.” Feelings? Feelings? Feelings must be tethered to the truth. They must be connected by the thread of truth.
In John 10:10, Jesus said this about Satan, he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” The enemy comes to steal our emotions and feelings, to kill them and destroy them.
Lisa and I have had an opportunity to talk to a number of people over the years, and recently we were talking to a couple whose marriage was hanging by a thread. And they both told us they were Christ followers and that was great. And so we began to talk about an issue in their relationship. I decided to start at square one. I said, “Now tell me, when did you guys seek forgiveness over this issue?” And this one person looked at me like a deer in headlights. I said, “Specifically, when did you seek forgiveness?” And this person said, “I haven’t.” I said, “Now wait a minute. You have this issue that is tearing your marriage apart and you both say you’re Christ followers. You’ve been greatly forgiven by God—something you don’t deserve, something I don’t deserve, and none of us deserve here—and you’re telling me you have not sought forgiveness?”
The person looked at me again, “Right.” I said, “Can I ask you why? Because this is kind of messing me up. Why haven’t you done the forgiveness thing?” And here’s what they said to me. “I’m waiting to feel it.” “Feel it?!” I said, “You’re never going to feel it! The evil one will never let you feel it.”
“Feelings, whoa, whoa, feelings.” You want to mess your marriage up? “Whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings.” You want to mess your life up? “Feelings of love.” Feelings. “I’m waiting to feel feelings of forgiveness.”
I’ve been married for 24 years. I’ve never felt feelings of forgiveness. When I go to Lisa and say, “Lisa, I blew it. I’m sorry. I messed up. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” I don’t feel like doing it. Man, I’ve had to do it hundreds of times in our marriage, but I’ve never felt like it. “Okay, God, I feel it now. Honey, I’m sorry, will you forgive me? Whoooo! Thank you, Lord I felt it. Ahh, yes.”
I don’t feel like releasing other people who’ve wronged me. Do you? No. No, you’ll never feel it. “Feelings, whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings.”
Feelings will lie to you and me. We have to be very, very careful. Feelings are awesome; they’re great. We must tether them and keep them tethered by the thread to truth.
FEELINGS FLOW FROM COMMITMENTS
Here’s another statement, the third statement if you’re writing down notes here. Feelings flow from commitments, not the other way around. Feelings flow from commitments, not the other way around.
Life is all about commitments. Worship is all about commitments. It’s being committed to pledging yourself to a position no matter what the cost. Within the context of commitments, you will have feelings and I will have feelings. But you can’t feel your way into a commitment.
That’s the lie of people playing house. That’s the lie of people living together. Ladies, you are duped into thinking that this guy you’re shacking up with is going to feel his way through sex into the commitment of marriage. “Okay, yeah, I feel this. And I’m going to play house. And okay, now I’ll commitment. Will you marry me?”
Hey, it’s the best of both worlds for the guy—free sex with no commitment. “Well, Ed, you don’t know my man.” Oh, yes, I do. Here’s an experiment: cut sex off for three weeks and he’ll be gone within seven days. Bye, bye, bye. It’s just like my grandmother said from Laurel, Mississippi, “Why buy the cow if the milk is free?”
I have never felt my way into a commitment. “Okay, feeling it. Okay, now I’m committed. Okay, yeah, yeah.”
Two statements about my life concerning feelings. Number one: I regularly do not feel feelings of love for Lisa. Number two: I don’t always feel feelings of love for God.
“I can’t believe he said that! Pastor, what did you say?!” Let me tell you why you have that reaction. Because you’ve got a whacked up definition of love. Love is not about feelings. I said I don’t feel feelings of love. I said, feel feelings of love. I said, feel love. No, I don’t always feel love.
I love Lisa in the true essence of love more today than I did years and years ago when I first met her. I love God today more than I did 15 years ago when Lisa and I helped start Fellowship Church in a small rented office complex in Irving, Texas.
In the truest sense of the word, love is decision-driven. It’s all about commitment. Yes, there are feelings involved. Yes, wonderful feelings, passionate feelings, feelings like you’re on fire, feelings of happiness and that stuff and that’s good. But greatness in life, greatness in worship is all about commitment. The feelings follow.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient…” Well, surely feelings will be in here. Come on, come on. “…Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking…” I know feelings will be here. It’s got to be. “…It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…” It keeps no record of wrongs. Hey, husband and wives, it keeps no record of wrongs. What if Jesus did that? Hmm, I won’t chase that one. “…Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes always perseveres.”
There’s nothing in there about feelings. It’s about commitment. It’s about a decision. And we have this whacked view because we have a culture of convenience. We’re so freaked out and funky over feelings that our whole culture’s all about convenience and comfort. “How do you feel? Really, tell me how do you feel?”
Is it important about feelings? Feelings are important. “Feelings, whoa, whoa feelings.”
This week I wrote down some stuff I didn’t feel like doing. I just journaled it, and I’ll tell you what I wrote down. I said in my journal that I do not feel like getting up at 6:00-6:30 a.m. and driving to the office, praying, reading my Bible and studying for this talk for about 20 hours. I didn’t feel like doing that.
I didn’t feel like preparing for a talk I’ve got to give before 1,200 pastors in Chicago on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. I didn’t feel like it because I’ve got to talk to these pastors about stewardship, money. I didn’t feel like doing it.
I didn’t feel like eating turkey and brussel sprouts for lunch. I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t feel like lifting weights and spending 45 minutes on the EFX machine. I didn’t feel like it.
I didn’t even feel like going home early and spending a lot of time with my family. I didn’t. I didn’t feel it.
But I’m glad I did! I’ve made commitments in these areas before God. And because of the commitments, I’m glad I put the time in this talk. I’m feeling it now! I’m glad I put the time in the talk I’m supposed to give in Chicago at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday. I’m glad! I feel good about it. I’m finished with the talk. I’m glad I eat healthy. I’m glad I worked out. I’m glad I went home early to spend time with the kids. I’m glad because the feelings have followed. But during the midst of it I didn’t feel it.
“Feelings, whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings.”
Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross. Did you see Mel Gibson’s great movie, “The Passion”? Do you remember the scene in the garden, the struggle he had. He didn’t feel like it. What did Jesus say in Luke 22:42? “Not my will, but yours.” Jesus said, “If this cup can pass from me, if this suffering can pass, Lord, let it be.” But then he said, “No, no, no. Not my will, but your will. Your will.” Feelings flow from commitments.
GOD USES FEELINGS TO POINT US TO HIM
Here’s another statement: God uses feelings to point us to him. Feelings give us an opportunity to either worship God in the true sense of the word or to waste our worship. Whenever we have emotions or feelings, we can either take those feelings and worship God because we tether them to the truth or we waste our worship.
The “whore in John 4” was transformed from a wanderer into a worshiper. She understood what true worship was all about after talking to Christ. And we’re the same way. We’re the exact same way. God uses our emotions to draw us to him. We would never come to Christ if we didn’t feel lonely and depressed and alienated and separated from God.
Brad Pitt told Rolling Stone Magazine, he said [paraphrased], “I have all the fame, all the toys, all the stuff, all the looks. But,” he said, (I love this line, yet it’s so tragic), he said, “This is not it.” He said, “I still wake up with the same problems and the same junk. This is not it.”
Are you saying that right now? Maybe you’ve done all this stuff, tried all this stuff, yet you say, “This is not it.” You’re wasting your worship. Brad Pitt is wasting his life away.
We’re meant to worship God, to be true worshipers, to serve God in spirit and in truth, to allow the Holy Spirit to energize our spirits, to tether that to the truth, to have the thread of worship wrapped around everything we do, say, touch, and feel. And that is when we’re hitting on all cylinders. That is when we understand the fabric of being clothed in Christ.
USE A FEELINGS FILTER
When those feelings emerge in your life and mine, do we use them for worship, true worship? Or are we wasting those feelings? We need to use the feelings filter, don’t we? The filter is the truth. It’s the word of God. We must always run our feelings through the truth of the revelation of God.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another just as Christ God forgave you.” I mean there’s nothing here about feelings or emotion. It’s just that we’re to do it.
Hebrews 12:28, “Be thankful…” It doesn’t say, wait until you feel it. Just be thankful. The Bible says that we’re to come to church regularly, Hebrews 10:25. There are many times I don’t feel like coming to church. “Well, my daughter just doesn’t feel like coming to the student ministry. She doesn’t feel…”
[Ed breaks into song] “Feelings, whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings.” They’ll freak you out. They’ll mess you and me up. Feelings get funky.
Matthew 16:24, Jesus said, “Follow me.” Why do we follow Jesus? Because it’s popular? Because it’s cool? Because he’s relevant. Nope. You know why we follow Jesus? Because he is truth.
See, a lot of us have a warped view of God. My father is a grandfather. And I watch him with our kids and I say to myself, “Is this the same guy that reared me?” Last time he was here, he took out his wallet gave each child a $100 bill! I was like, “Where’s mine?” And here’s what he said, “Just do with it what you want to.” And then he drove off, he and Mom, back to Houston. “Bye, Mom. Bye, Dad.” $100 for each kid to do what they want with it. It’s wheels off.
That’s what it means to be a grandparent, doesn’t it? You know, you can spoil them. I’m their father. Do you think I would do that? Are you kidding me?! I have given them a $100 bill before, when it’s the last thing I’ve had. But I’ve said this, “Here’s a $100 bill. Bring me back the change, the receipts, tell me where you’re going, who’s going to be there with you, and call me regularly on your cell phone.”
I’m their father. I’m not their grandfather. And we have a warped view of God. We want to see God as Pa Pa God, Grandfather God, just handing out $100 bills. “You needn’t worry about sin or rebellion, no guide lines, guard rails. Just have a good time.” Pa Pa God!
That’s not the God of the New Testament. That’s not the God of the Old Testament. Jesus did not say “My grandfather.” He said, “My father.” When he gathered his disciples around him he didn’t say, “Pray this way, ‘Our grandfather, who art in heaven, hollowed be thy name…’” No, no, no. “Our Father.” And next weekend, I’m going to kind of elaborate on that. But we need to use the feelings filter. Understand who God is.
TALK TO AN OBJECTIVE SOURCE
Also, there’s another suggestion about feelings and its filter. Talk to an objective source before you make a decision for worship. Because worship is all about making decisions and choices. I’m flabbergasted at how Christians just go for “Feelings, whoa, whoa, whoa feelings.” They’ll follow this and they’ll follow that and they’ll make this choice about their family or that choice about their marriage or some career decision or some financial decision. And they never talk to an objective source. So often, they don’t want to hear the truth. They don’t want anybody to speak truth into their life.
Make sure your decisions square with God’s word, and also run it by someone who’s going to give you an objective word. Who is that person in your life? Who are you talking to? Because you’ve got to ask the right people the right questions to get the right answers. And too many people are not asking those questions. We’ve got to do that.
When it comes to worship, what song are you singing? Are you singing, “Feelings, whoa, whoa, feelings”? Or are you singing “Feelings, WHOA, WHOA, WHOA… feelings.” I don’t know. The decision is up to you.