Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Tuesday of Trinity 14

 Hooked on a Feeling?

David and Bathsheba, 1860, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Galatians 5:16-24 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Houston-native BJ Thomas had a hit single in 1968 called “Hooked on a Feeling.” Since the Epistle for Trinity 14 mentions “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,” it brought to mind this song. “Hooked on a feeling” aptly describes the temptation Christians face to get hooked on the experience of the five senses rather than staying hooked onto God’s Word through faith.
One way to get hooked on feelings is by living as a sensualist. Sensuality means that your physical feelings are ruling you, which makes your senses into idols to be served. The sensualist makes his senses his guide, and adopts hedonism: if it feels good, do it; if it feels bad, avoid it!
The song “Hooked on a Feeling” is dripping with sensuality related to fornication, along with allusions to drug abuse and alcohol addiction. Quite frankly, a great deal of rock, jazz, pop, and country music promotes sensuality through both their words and their music. Music is a powerful medium, and it is worth pausing to think about its effects on us and especially on our children. Sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll often work in tandem. Just consider the etymology of “rock and roll.”
The song “Hooked on a Feeling” revolves primarily around sexual immorality (fornication) and the passion of lust that leads to such sensuality. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Paul focuses on this aspect of our sanctification: “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
The concluding verse is a solemn warning from the Apostle, reminding the Thessalonians and all of us that he is speaking on behalf of God Himself. When we disregard God’s Word in the Bible, we disregard and reject God Himself. That is why it is such a serious matter when Christians adopt a way of life that contradicts God’s will in the Bible. That is why pastors, who are under orders from the Lord to conduct their ministry according to the Word of God, can’t play favorites or wink and nod at public sin and unbelief. We are duty bound to speak God’s Word in its fullness, no matter the time or the audience. In fact, all Christians have this duty toward one another: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Paul clearly warns Christians against sensuality related to fornication, but he also is alluding more generally to the need for self-control in all our bodily faculties, that our behavior might be holy and bring honor (not shame!) to our Father in heaven. Indeed, “self-control” is one of the nine elements produced as “fruit of the Spirit.”
Paul also contrasts Christians with unbelievers. Yes, there is a difference between these two groups! Believers have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and have been given a new life in Christ, while unbelievers remain trapped in the futile, sinful ways they have by their unregenerate nature, the ways reinforced by the dying world around us.
Believers not only have an old sinful flesh but also a new spirit from God in them; unbelievers live only according to their sinful flesh. So Paul says that Christians especially are not to fornicate but to control their bodies in holiness and honor, “not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” This means that if Christians let their lustful passions lead them into sin, they are not acting like followers of Jesus but as rank unbelievers who don’t even know the True God!
As we know from Romans 7 and our own experience, our old sinful flesh and new man are constantly battling, and this leads into a second type of feeling that Christians can get hooked onto: the feeling of wretchedness, hopelessness, and despair because of our sins. When we face up to God’s Law and feel His wrath against our sin, our emotions drag us into the feeling that God is wrathful toward us and that we are a lost cause. Satan hooks his claws into us and drags us into despair over our guilt, and then he piles on by hissing the lie that God has abandoned us. Especially when bad things are happening in our lives, we search for a reason, and the devil is an expert at reminding us of the sins we have committed, and he sneakily suggests that God has forsaken us because of our sin, and that we deserve exactly what we are getting.
This is why we must never let our feelings be the guide for our knowledge of God’s goodness and the certainty of our salvation. If we stay hooked on the feelings that come from our experiences, whether good or bad, we will never have any peace in our hearts. Physical, psychological, and emotional feelings simply are not a reliable guide for giving us confidence that God is good, that we are right with God, and that He wants to hear our prayers. As we suffer under the fear of God’s wrath and the fear of Him abandoning us, fleeting feelings must not be our guide. Instead, we need to hear the objective certainty of God’s Word, the unshakeable fact of the full forgiveness of sins we have in Christ.
Embracing this truth then leads us to repentance and a new life in Jesus, who said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47), and “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Prayer (LSB 421):
1. Jesus, grant that balm and healing
    In Your holy wounds I find,
Ev’ry hour that I am feeling
    Pains of body and of mind.
Should some evil thought within
Tempt my treach’rous heart to sin,
    Show the peril, and from sinning
    Keep me from its first beginning.
2. Should some lust or sharp temptation
    Fascinate my sinful mind,
Draw me to Your cross and passion,
    And new courage I shall find.
Or should Satan press me hard,
Let me then be on my guard,
    Saying, “Christ for me was wounded,”
    That the tempter flee confounded.
3. If the world my heart entices
    With the broad and easy road,
With seductive, sinful vices,
    Let me weigh the awful load
You were willing to endure.
Help me flee all thoughts impure
    And to master each temptation,
    Calm in prayer and meditation.
4. Ev’ry wound that pains or grieves me
    By Your wounds, Lord, is made whole;
When I’m faint, Your cross revives me,
    Granting new life to my soul.
Yes, Your comfort renders sweet
Ev’ry bitter cup I meet;
    For Your all-atoning passion
    Has procured my soul’s salvation.
5. O my God, my rock and tower,
    Grant that in Your death I trust,
Knowing death has lost its power
    Since You crushed it in the dust.
Savior, let Your agony
Ever help and comfort me;
    When I die be my protection,
    Light and life and resurrection. Amen.

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