Saturday, June 12, 2010

How Doctrine Relates to 'Relating' to Jesus

“Jesus is the center, the focal point, of the Christian faith. But it’s odd how averse we Christians can be to studying and defining a clear ‘doctrine’ of Jesus. That just doesn’t seem relational. We don’t want to study Jesus. We want to experience him.

“I see this tendency in my own life. When I think about Jesus, I’m not inclined to ask, ‘What truth does the Bible tell m e about Jesus? What does Jesus want me think and believe about him?’ Instead I’m more inclined to try to work my way into a certain emotional state. To ‘feel’ a certain way about Jesus.

“I’m not even sure how to describe the feeling that I believe I should have about Jesus. All I know is that I want a really deep and meaningful feeling. I want something to wash over me. I wouldn’t even mind crying. Actually crying is good. The feeling I’m after definitely needs to be passionate and profound. A touch of melancholy works too. Sad and austere feel very spiritual. I want to feel like Jesus is my closest friend, like we could hang out. I want to feel that he likes me – my tastes, my sensibilities, my music, my food. I want a deep bond – the kind that doesn’t even need words to communication.

“Putting all my desired ‘Jesus feelings’ into words makes me sound like an emotional seventh-grade girl about to leave summer camp. That is not good.

“I think many Christians are more interested in chasing a feeling about Jesus than pursuing Jesus himself and reviewing and thinking about the truth of who he is.

“The irony of this feeling-driven approach to Jesus is that ultimately it produces the opposite of that we actually want. Deep emotion in response to Jesus isn’t wrong. It can be good. But to find it, we need more than imagination and introspection.

“One of the most valuable lessons C.J. [Mahaney] has taught me about the spiritual life is that if you want to feel deeply, you have to think deeply. Too often we separate the two. We assume that if we want to feel deeply, then we need to sit around and, well, feel.

“But emotion built on emotion is empty. True emotion – emotion that is reliable and doesn’t lead us astray – is always a response to reality, to truth. It’s only as we study and consider truth about Jesus with our minds that our hearts will be moved by the depth of his greatness and love for us. When we engage our minds with the doctrine of his person and his work, our emotions are given something to stand on, a reason to worship and revel in the very appropriate feelings of awe and gratefulness and adoration.

“Knowing Jesus and feeling right emotions about him start with thinking about the truth of who he is and what he’s done. Jesus never asks us how we feel about him. He calls us to believe in him, to trust in him. The question he asked his disciples is the same one he confronts us with: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ The real questions when it comes to Jesus are, Do you believe he is who he says he is? Do you believe he’s done what he said he came to do?”

-- Joshua Harris, “Dug Down Deep” (pp.85-86)

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