THE HOLY SPIRIT AND EMOTIONS                                                              part five


Spirituality is a life normally dominated by primary emotions—primary in the sense that these are what Christian existence is founded upon. Note how each term of the fruit of the Spirit carries an emotional connotation.

But the fruit of the Spirit is Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, good goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control Gal.5:22,23.

The work of the Spirit of God in the fruit that he produces is in stark contrast to the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21): “…hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, … and similar things. The contrast to the fruit of the Spirit may be negative and sinful but it is also deeply emotional. The result is that the fruit of the Spirit replaces an emotionally powerful set of opposites. The work of the Spirit is obviously in the arena of the emotions.

This evidence of the emotional impact of the Spirit of God is also found in Eph 5:18 where Paul tells the believers in Ephesus to not get drunk with wine resulting in dissipation and instead to allow the deficits to be filled up by spiritual qualities. These result in singing and gratitude and mutual submission. Both of those experiences must be profoundly emotional.

Filling emphasizes applying the resources of the Spirit of God to our individual weaknesses. In Eph 5:18 the condition of drunkenness must be changed to joy and a disciplined life through the filling of the Spirit.

Dress up

Paul admonishes us to: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Romans 13:14.

We now turn our attention to scripture to consider more specifically the outworking of this ministry of the Spirit looking generally at Pauline teaching and concluding with a more detailed examination of Col 3:1-12. This section is important because it underscores the reality of many factors within our lives and the entire Trinity is involved in the Spirit’s positive impact upon our emotions.

Management of our Emotions

  1. The management of our emotions involves our imagination (how we reckon; Rom 6:11)
  2. our mind (how we set our perspective; Rom 8:5-7)
  3. and our ego or self (how we relate to God and people). The terms fall naturally into that order because how we relate to people and to God is based on how we imagine the world to be and God to be, and how we analyze what life presents to us.

Management of our emotions is a by-product of several such factors. In New Testament terms the “by-product” nature of emotions is illuminated using fruit and tree imagery. Matthew 7:15-20 and Gal 5:22 underscore the fact that character, the proper use of emotions and our inner life, is a product of a healthy set of spiritual processes or a healthy tree. Seemingly the healthy tree is the identity, perspective, and relationships of the righteous person. This makes the entire process more holistic and fits the biblical and psychological realities well.

What we must do to gain and maintain spiritual health.

  1. We must recognize or differentiate what is going on within our emotional life and in the management of our appetites (Gal 5:16-24). This gives us information as to where we are starting from, either with spirituality or carnality.
  2. We reckon or decide after thinking about it for a while on how God the Father views us, we control our imagination. This reckoning becomes the basis of our relationship to God as a Father.
  3. We must set our minds on our relationships above; we control our thinking (Rom 8:1-6; Col 3:1-3). The terms used in both Rom 8 and Col 3 refer to perspective as the way that we look at something.
  4. By reckoning we relate to God personally instead of to our appetites (Rom 6:11-12). The focus of a person’s inner life can either be the God on the outside or the appetites on the inside. Sadly, our appetites many times have far more impact on many of us than God does. The focus of our inner person must be on God the Father, and our identity before him as found in Christ, and not in our appetites. So, no matter the level of pressure from our inward desires, we must freely approach and share ourselves with God.
  5. By reckoning we control our memories (Phil 4:8-9). Believers are to take the positive blessings God brings into our lives and use them as our personal definition and assumption as to what reality is. Oftentimes the fearful and anxious person selectively takes from experience only those things that can be linked to the past trauma and dread. One can just as legitimately take the positive, noble, and happy experiences and have them as the definition of the core of reality.
  6. As a result, we experience the primary emotions. Love, joy, and peace can appear and become the stabilizing force in our personality and relationships.

Probably the clearest example of the interplay between emotions and our ability to picture God’s view of our identity with Christ, manage a perspective, and relate to God and people is Col 3:1-12. What is of great importance is to notice the sequence of transitional words and phrases that show that the sections of the passage are interconnected and interdependent.

Each new section’s application is dependent upon the practice of the preceding portion’s principles, with the result that the commands of the third and fourth sections are based upon the practice of all the preceding parts. So, the combined effect of practicing verses 1-11 allows for the compassion of verse 12.


The entire ethic starts with a picture of the believer’s identity with Christ. At the same time, we are to pursue a perspective that is built around heavenly realities and relationships.

Verses 1-4. The believer is encouraged to seek the things above;

  1. those things are peace (1:20),
  2. reconciliation (1:22),
  3. our completeness ( 2:10),
  4. our identification with Christ before God and holding fast to the Head –read vs. prep for vs. (2:19).

This is very similar to the statement that every variety of spiritual blessings exists for the believer before the Father in heaven. We are to set our perspective around these realities because we have been identified with Christ.

This is an identity hidden from the world, but the important reality is that the hiding is God’s choice. The all-important one, God, not only intimately knows this identity, he is also the one who has chosen to hide our identity in relationship to him. At the proper time when Christ is revealed to the world, so will our identification be revealed (v. Col. 3: 4). What should control our perspective is the picture that God has of us. In Greek the commands of this section emphasize that these should be a continual part of the believer’s life. We should not allow this exercise to slack, but instead pursue God as defined by these realities they should be continual with us. As we do this, a door will be opened to the management of our inner life.

Verses 5-7. As the relationship to the Father is pursued, we can deal with the moods and desires that are an ever-present problem on this earth. We can put them to death as they course through our members. This can only be done though as the previous relationships are sustained and used. We do this by taking the mood or appetite into the Father’s presence and relating the feelings within to him. In doing this we can transition from unbridled appetite to self-control as the person of the Holy Spirit makes this adjustment.

We can go from great anxiety to great peace. Our identity in Christ gives us permission to be richly personal concerning our internal struggle: seeking the things above deeply affects the way we perceive things and therefore changes the way we feel; setting our perspective properly also has a deeply emotional result.

Verses 8-11. As we deal with compulsions from within through a living relationship with God, we find the ability to deal with our relationships without. Many of our external relationships are simply lived in reaction to what is going on within. As the Proverb says, with all that we guard, we must guard the heart, for from it are the goings-fourth of life (Prov 4:23).

Jesus observed that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34) (Col. 3:12). All three passages—Proverbs, Matthew, and Colossiansare saying the same thing: address what is going on within and it will become the basis for changing how we are acting with people without.

Verse 12.  As the three previous practices are learned, the heart finds peace, joy, and love more and more present. With those emotions becoming the environment of the heart, the believer is free to look at people in a new way, sympathetically, and relate to them in a new way as a servant for their good. Without addressing the turmoil internally, the believer would never notice the needs and problems of the people we must live among. As we manage our inner lives, we are given the opportunity to become other-directed people.

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