Our culture is caught up in a heated debate about bathrooms and gender identity. It appears that the gender one is born with is not necessarily the gender one must identify with. Therefore, some suggest that anyone should be allowed to use any bathroom, dressing room, or locker room that is marked with the gender with which one identifies, even if it is not their birth gender.
If someone identifies with a gender other than the one born with, does that person’s feelings dictate their choices? What happens to the facts? Do we discard chromosomes and DNA? It appears that we have decided that feelings trump facts and therefore rather than conform to facts, we conform to feelings.
It’s interesting that we have also incorporated the word “feel” as a synonym for “think” as well. People regularly say things like, “I feel that this is a bizarre political campaign year.” As opposed to, “I think this is a bizarre political campaign year.” (Yes, that bears stating twice!)
Do we really believe that we can or should feel our thoughts rather than think them? Is this important? Yes, I think it is; actually, I have decided that it is very important.
I believe that facts, and the way we think, are especially relevant when it comes to our spiritual life, and our eternal life. We must understand the facts of salvation because it is all too easy to identify as a Christian, feel like a Christian, and attend or even be a member of a church without actually being a Christian.
For example, for those of us who were born into Christian homes and have known about Jesus all of our lives we probably identify as Christian. We celebrate Christian holidays, we have Bibles on our bookshelves, we know some Bible stories, and we pray. However, this heritage, as wonderful as it is does not make us a Christian.
Perhaps we love going to church and as soon as the Worship Pastor gets going, our tears start flowing and we feel deep emotions. We feel like Bible study is the best place to be and we enjoy our church relationships. We feel like we belong here; we feel like Christians. However, feelings don’t make us Christians.
For many of us, we’ve gone to church since we were born. We were dedicated or baptized. We sing in the choir, teach Sunday School, have leadership positions and serve on multiple committees. When the church doors are open, we’re walking through them. Nevertheless, going to church doesn’t make us Christians.
It seems the Lord anticipated this change in our thought process – when we would be guided by what we identify with, our feelings and our actions rather than facts – and therefore he gave us some guidelines regarding the reality of our spiritual condition. There are some facts we need to seriously think about.
For a fact, we are born sinners. We have a sin nature that condemns us. The fact that we die is proof of our sin (the wages of sin is death). Another fact: because we have a sin nature, sinning is natural for us and so we commit sins.
“Death reigned… even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.” – Romans 5:14 NIV
“Surely I was sinful at birth…” — Psalm 51:5 NIV
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” — Romans 7:15 NIV
When we choose to live by feelings rather than facts, we might say, “I don’t feel like a sinner.” That doesn’t change the truth or the facts. We may not feel like a sinner in this moment, but we know in our heart of hearts that we are sinners.
We could say, “I don’t identify as a sinner.” That is simply deceiving ourselves. We know we have sinned; we’ve lied, taken things that didn’t belong to us, cheated, you name it, but the facts remain: we are sinners.
We could say, “From now on I choose to act like a Christian. No more sinning for me.” Good luck with that. We can’t change our sin nature.
We cannot change the way we were born; we are what we are, and spiritually, we are not born as Christians, we are born sinners. That is fact. It is what it is. Therefore, in order for us to become Christians, something radical must happen: we must be born again as Christians.
“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” — John 3:3 NIV
How do we accomplish this? We must believe in Jesus. This is more than just believing that he exists. We must believe that he is who he claims to be in the Bible; we must believe in the whole Gospel. We must believe that Jesus, the eternal Word, who existed as God and was with God, stepped out of heaven, took on humanity, became a man, was fully God and fully man, lived a perfect life, was crucified in our place on our behalf, and was resurrected on the third day. We must believe that this same Jesus now reigns, exalted in heaven, interceding on our behalf.
When we accept these facts, (the Gospel) as truth, we must confess that we are in fact sinners who need a Savior, and that Jesus is the only Savior. We must invite him to live within us, surrendering our lives to him for his use. This is when we are born again as Christians.
This is radical change. You will never be who you were before. You will change because you are a new creation, regenerated in that moment when you became a Christian. It is not an outward change that affects your heart. It is a heart change that affects your outward behavior.
We cannot will ourselves to be Christians. We cannot do surgery to cut away the sin. It is a new birth into a new life. And God challenges us to make sure this has happened.
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:10-11 NIV
We confirm our calling by knowing the facts, and by self-evaluation. Am I changing? Is my life bearing eternal fruit? Is God changing me? Am I reflecting his character and attributes more and more. Do I loathe sin? Am I sinning less and less as I daily choose to die to my selfish desires and live as God leads me?
There is a grave danger in trusting in feelings rather than living by facts. We can get so close to God through our feelings that we can taste him. But our feelings don’t save us, nor do they enable us to persevere.
“It is impossible for those who have tasted of the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted of the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.” — Hebrews 6:4-5 NIV
How can you make your calling and election sure? Start with the moment you first received Jesus as your Savior. Do you recall when that day was? If not, are you sure it happened? Rather than presume, why not pray today?
Have you personally confessed that you are a sinner? Have you personally prayed and asked God to save you? Have you personally thanked Jesus for dying in your place? Have you personally asked Jesus to live within you? Have you surrendered your life to him?
No one can pray this for you, not your mother or dad, your Sunday School or VBS teacher, not your pastor or friend. You must make the decision based on facts. You must pray. Oh yes, feelings will come, you will probably be flooded with emotion, but those feelings will be in response to your decision, not in place of it.
What will determine your eternity: feelings or facts?