Handcuffed Emotions—Straight as a Gun Barrel but Just as Empty

*Excerpted from my series on revival and my new book, “Oh God, Would You Rend the Heavens? Understanding and Contending for a Genuine Spiritual Awakening.” More here

In my last article, I asked: Are you alive spiritually? Are you hungry for more of God’s presence? Or are you divisive and combative over the topic of the power of the Spirit? How our lack of passion must grieve the heart of God.

Don’t misunderstand. We need sound doctrine. Our motto at Westside Christian Fellowship is “Times Change, Truth Does Not,” but we also desperately need the power of the Spirit. It’s possible to be “Bible taught,” but not “Spirit-led”—straight as a gun barrel theologically but just as empty. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Experiencing God doesn’t invalidate theology; it confirms it.

Have you received this unction, this baptism of fire that John spoke of in Matthew 3:11? Are you truly desperate for more of God? A. W. Tozer insightfully said, “If the Lord’s people were only half as eager to be filled with the Spirit as they are to prove that they cannot be filled, the church would be crowded out.” I sincerely believe that the greatest need in the church today is to confess our sins, obey the Word, and to be filled with the Spirit.

God Put a Round in Oswald’s Chamber

Oswald Chambers, regarding the time before he received a mighty downpour of the Spirit, admitted, “God used me during those years . . . but I had no conscious communion with Him. The Bible was the dullest, most uninteresting book in existence.” Oswald was straight as a gun barrel but just as empty. A few years later he wrote, “If the four previous years had been hell on earth, these five years have truly been heaven on earth. Glory be to God, the last aching abyss of the human heart is filled to overflowing with the love of God.” God put a round in Oswald’s chamber and pulled the trigger. Heaven was rent; the downpour came to his parched soul.

Now, the decision is yours. Don’t extinguish the flames of revival by mocking the work of the Spirit. Fully surrender your life to Him today. Christian history records countless testimonies of those who received a mighty filling of the Spirit years after conversion. 

Don’t Handcuff My Emotions 

Sadly, many conservatives chastise things like emotional and extended worship, and avoid it like a plague. To them, lengthy worship is brainwashing, and weeping at the altar is too emotional. Is it wrong when prodigals come home and can’t contain their emotions? Should we be embarrassed when addicts are weeping because the Savior set them free at the altar? When was the last time you wept over the condition of our churches, families, and nation? If you never have, then you fill in the blank.

Let me be brutally honest: many who show contempt for profoundly deep and moving experiences with God have never experienced them for themselves. If they avoid prayer meetings, complain about extended and emotional worship, never miss a meal for God, are unaffected by the depravity around them, and are too mature to go to the altar, are these people truly filled with God’s Spirit? Granted, there are seasons when we aren’t involved in a lot of things, but excuses should not hide our lack of hunger for God. 

Do we really believe Jesus would tell us to sit down and be quiet during worship? Would He want us standing like dead men in a cemetery? Not a chance! Our hearts should be deeply engaged. Jesus may rebuke silly trends and sappy worship songs with no theological bearing, but would He handcuff our emotions? I don’t think so.  Granted, I am not talking about becoming emotional for the sake of emotions—we can’t fake a move of the Spirit. But there should be a yearning and a desire to worship God reflected in our actions. If you disagree, you’d be hard-pressed to find any Scriptures to support your view.

How to Prevent Deception

Emotions can be deceptive, so we must be careful. George D. Watson notes, “The true saints of God . . . have in all generations had to walk between the two extremes of cold formality on the one side, and wild, ranting fanaticism on the other. Dead formality and the false fire of fanaticism are both Satan’s counterfeits, and he does not care into which extreme the soul plunges.”

On this point, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us that “we should never interpret Scripture in the light of our experiences, but rather interpret our experiences in the penetrating light of Scripture.” We can prevent deception by making truth the engine of the train and emotions the caboose. Emotions don’t lead; they follow. But when God’s Spirit is truly moving, our emotions will be engaged. 

When our experience lines up with Scripture, the emotions that follow can be good and God-given. We are in good company—God’s company. Don’t be embarrassed by the power of the Spirit; embrace it today.

Shane Idleman

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Leona Valley, Ca. His sermons, books, articles, and radio program have sparked change in the lives of many.

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