In a couple of his sermons at the Resolved conferences, Pastor Rick Holland has spoken about three questions he asks himself when thinking through various situations. They are as follows:
1. What do I feel?
Our feelings can often be misleading. They come from a visceral and unrestrained part of ourselves that, if left unchecked, have the potential to lead us into sinful thoughts and actions. When we feel angry or wronged, our feelings can lead us to desire vengeance. Our feelings can cause us to manipulate people, or to belittle other people. They can certainly be a tool for good, but it is important not to base our actions solely on how we feel. To paraphrase Holland in paraphrasing Paul, the Christian life is one of thinking (2 Corinthians 11:1-4). Do a quick assessment of feelings and move on to the next two questions.
2. What do I think?
In times of distress, what we think can easily be influenced by what we feel, which is why Pastor Holland presses onward toward the third question. The book of Galatians is filled with forceful rebukes by Paul because the Galatians have begun to believe in a gospel that necessitates works (1:6, 3:1, 5:7). They were swayed because they did not hold firm to what they believed; instead, they allowed their feelings and thoughts to be directed by their circumstances. This is why Rick moves quickly through this question, as well–the most important thing we need to think about is what we know.
3. What do I know?
We need to take stock of our beliefs, reassure ourselves of them, and act according to them. This will influence what we think, which will in turn control what we feel. It may not change how we feel, but it will ensure that our emotions and our thoughts do not get out of control and cause us to sin. The apostle Paul instructs us, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). For the Christian, who constantly struggles with sin and its deceitful temptations, it is important to set our minds on truth and to let that truth affect everything we do. Our knowledge of the truth needs to guide our thoughts and emotions. The next time you are tested or tempted, ask yourself these three questions. Fixate yourself on the cross and the supreme truth revealed there. Be led in thought and deed by what you have learned to be true.
Adapted and expanded from Rick Holland’s sermon “Pure and Simple Devotion to Christ,” from Resolved 2012, Session 8 beginning at 37:20; also seen in “A Faith to Imitate” from Resolved 2006, Session 6 beginning at 26:30. Rick Holland is the former college pastor of Grace Community Church. He is now the senior pastor of Mission Road Bible Church.