Emotional Decision Making

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Genesis 37:32-35

I.         Repeatedly I find people making decisions based on their feelings.

            A.        Usually I get contacted because those choices have gone wrong and the person wants to know why.

            B.        But I can’t help but notice that this isn’t just a problem in moral choices. The news is filled with people appealing to people’s emotions instead of true analysis of facts.

                        1.         I’ve been jotting down notes for this lesson for several days, so I was surprised to hear on the radio a local commentator who actually quoted Jeremiah 17:9 about the heart being deceitful and then applying it to people who want to make policy decisions based on emotions instead of facts.

                        2.         The issue has many applications in our daily lives.

            C.        The quote from Jeremiah proves that emotional decision making has long been a problem, but I’ve been puzzling why it is so widespread today.

                        1.         One thought is that a fad arose in conflict resolution.

                                    a.         No one likes conflict, so people have been encouraged to say things like:

                                                (1)       This makes me feel bad

                                    b.         “Affirm the relationship before clearly defining the problem. For example, "Our relationship is important to me. But when you don't return my calls, I feel rejected and unimportant." Avoid blaming the other person and saying, "You make me feel…" Instead, say, "When you do 'A', I feel 'B'." [Focus on the Family].

                                                (1)       The idea is to remain connected and not blame the other person.

                                                (2)       But notice the unintended consequence: It is all about my feelings and not what is right or wrong.

                                                (3)       I’m not just blaming Focus on the Family. This fad has been popular for a while and they just picked it up.

                        2.         It is taught in schools, work places, governments. Is any wonder that reasoning skills are disappearing as people appeal to emotions?

                        3.         Pentecostalism is an emotional based religion.

                                    a.         People believe they are being led by God directly.

                                    b.         “I feel that God wants me to ...”

                                    c.         But when has God ever stated that He communicates His will through our feelings?

II.        Feelings are not to be trusted

            A.        It is through wisdom, not feelings that we are delivered - Proverbs 28:26

                        1.         Feelings change, often rapidly

                        2.         Truth is solid and unchanging

            B.        Feelings are deceitful and tend toward sin - Jeremiah 17:9-10

                        1.         Jacob was misled by his feeling to make a false conclusion - Genesis 37:32-35

                        2.         Perhaps you’ve noticed but sexual sins are being promoted through feelings.

                        3.         The desires of the body doesn’t care about rules

                                    a.         If you’re hungry, you want to eat – whether it is dinner time or not

                                    b.         That piece of pumpkin pie looks awfully good, even though you’ve just ate twice what you normally eat at a Thanksgiving meal.

                                    c.         Desires don’t care about facts, reasonableness, etc. - Ephesians 2:3

                                    d.         But it is our minds, not our hearts that should control - Galatians 5:24-25

            C.        Feelings give rise to laziness.

                        1.         Matt Walsh recently told a story about how he decided he was going to get out of homework. “Dad, I don’t want to do my homework because it makes me feel bad.” His dad’s answer? “Son, do your homework, study more and you’ll feel better about it. But meanwhile, it doesn’t matter how you feel.”

                        2.         God tells us the same thing. So many Christians stop serving God because they don’t feel like doing the work it takes - Hebrews 12:5-14

                        3.         It isn’t about your feelings. It is what needs to be done.

III.       The real problem is that feelings put you in the driver seat of determining what is right or wrong.

            A.        Your heart reveals the motivation, your mind your reasoning, and then God judges you according to your action - I Corinthians 4:5

            B.        Yet, I’ve talked to people who have lusted after another person, committed fornication, and then felt good about the sin they did! - Proverbs 30:12

            C.        What seems right isn’t necessarily so - Proverbs 14:12

            D.        Sins come from you and your own desires - James 1:13-14

            E.        Paul makes what at first appears to be an odd statement - Ephesians 5:5

                        1.         A man who is a fornicator, unclean (i.e. lustful, having a dirty mind), or greedy is an idolater.

                        2.         Why does Paul call those who commit these sins idolaters?

                        3.         The reason is that such people put their personal desires ahead of God and make those desires their god.

                        4.         “Gods” tell people what is right and wrong.

IV.      Consider Abraham - Hebrews 11:8-10

            A.        Abraham demonstrated faith by leaving his family at the age of 75 to go somewhere he never been. - Genesis 12:1-4

            B.        At the age of 99 he accepted circumcision – a painful surgery at the time before painkillers - Genesis 17:1, 9-14, 24-27

            C.        He offered up his promised son - Hebrews 11:17-19

            D.        Notice that Abraham’s feelings went counter to what he did. Abraham saw evidence that God was trustworthy, so he placed his faith in Him?

            E.        Trust in the Lord, not ourselves - Proverbs 3:5-8

V.        I don’t feel like I’m saved

            A.        Usually it is because you become trapped in sin, so you doubt your commitment

            B.        But what do we when we don’t feel like going to school or to work?

                        1.         Logic tells us we have to go anyway, so we muscle through

            C.        It is no different when serving God. It isn’t about my feelings but about what is right - Galatians 2:20

            D.        There are going to be days when you don’t feel like doing what you know is right, so you muscle your way though the low points. We call it self-discipline.

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