Should a Christian Trust His Inner Feelings?
Pastor George C. Bruns
Recently I was introduced to a gentleman who said he was a fellow believer and that he was studying for the ministry. Our meeting went something like this....
He began to tell me about the various friends that he had in different denominations and the good fellowship that he had with them.
I asked him what he thought of the ecumenical movement and he asked me what I meant. I began to explain to him the doctrine of
separation when he interrupted me and said that he had just gotten a word from the Holy Spirit how that too many Christians were not loving each other enough and that he believed this message was somehow meant for me. I asked if he knew the biblical definition of love and he began to quote 1 Corinthians 13. I quoted the Gospel of John 14:15, reminding him that loving a brother does not
mean one has to condone or encourage the brother's error, but rather we are to lovingly reprove error (Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:1-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15; 1 John 3:18; etc.).
I then asked him how he knew that what he had been given to say to me came from the Holy Spirit and not from some other source? He said he had come to know it was from God because of the years of experience and closeness he has had with God through prayer and meditation. I thought to myself, "How spiritual that sounds and how convenient it must be to have the Holy Spirit on your side in an argument giving you all the right things to say. You can never lose. Your position always has the seal of God on it." He believed he had just won the argument. Was he right? Do some people because they are more spiritual than others have some direct pipeline to God? I, too, am a born again believer. I, also, pray and meditate on God's Word. If I were to keep real still and listen real hard would God give me a word, too? What sayeth the Scriptures?
I have been studying the Scriptures now for the past twenty-three years and I have never run across a verse in the New Testament that tells believers to listen to an inner voice, feeling, prompting, etc. I know that God spoke to some people in the Old Testament using a "still small voice", but that was before His written Word was completed and available for referencing. Now, I'm not saying that we should not be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading but, the Holy Spirit will never lead us in a direction that is in direct opposition to God's written Holy Word.
The following quote comes from a source that I do not fully endorse, but as far as this subject is concerned he is correct.
"...someone might point to Romans 8:14. This verse says, 'Those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God.' In the context of the chapter,
however, the reference to being 'led by the Spirit' does not relate to inward "voices" or any such experience, but to mortifying known sin and not living after the flesh! The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit will lead us, but we are never told He will do this by some inner urge. It is interesting in this connection that when Jesus told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit would lead them into all truth, He said, 'He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrence all that I said to you' (John 14:26). Here the leading is bringing to mind Jesus' statements. The mind of each disciple is the instrument the Spirit will use, not some non-rational, mystical factor." (Arthur L. Johnson, Faith Misguided: Exposing the Dangers of Mysticism.)
Actually, the Bible warns us against listening to our hearts,
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
Even the great Apostle Peter was once fooled by his inward feelings when he had a religious experience and failed to qualify it by the Scriptures.
"Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly
devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.?" (2 Peter 1:15-21)
Peter was referring to a time when he had seen a glimpse of the glorified Christ, along with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5;
Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:38-36). What Peter wanted to do in response to what he saw was not biblically correct and was told so by God, the Father. Peter had been
moved by the wrong inner impulses!
Inner feelings are too subjective to be of any real spiritual value. The source of your feeling may be of the flesh, i.e., indigestion, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalance, etc., or just a plain human emotion like pride, jealousy, greed or envy. Even if what you are sensing is spiritual the only way you can know if the feeling is from God rather than the Devil or one of his demons is to check it out against the Bible.
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)
Now, that's a message I felt led to give you.