Daniel 2: 46- 47 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.”
When Daniel reveals the dream and its interpretation to King Nebuchadnezzar, the King is elate. He calls for all the pious things to be done. Bring out the incense. Bring out the offerings. He knows Daniel is a man of faith, a man of religion and so what would be more appropriate than to bring out all the religious stuff. It reminds me a bit of when people find out I am a pastor. I am out at the bass pro store and I strike up a conversation with one of the men there. Before you know it he is just talking about fishing and the whole time he is weaving in profanity like its nothing. He is like how Ralphie from A Christmas Story movie describes his dad "He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master." A women walks by and he comments on her. And then the conversation will come around to "so what do you do?" "I am a pastor." "Oh really, I give to this charity and I try to help at school fundraiser." Before you know it he has given you a list of everything good thing he has done for the last year like he’s filling out his tax forms for a write off. And I’m like "do you want me to give you a receipt for that." He even start’s dropping in thees and thous into his language. "Oh I didn’t know we were going to start talking in King James." I kid a bit but it is interesting how people begin to change as soon as they find out that you are a pastor. They bring out all the religious talk. That's what happens here with Daniel.Daniel has revealed this dream to King Nebuchadnezzar by the power of God, and now King Nebuchadnezzar realizes its time to start with the religious fervor. In pure emotional euphoria at having this dream interpreted, He proclaims to Daniel, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” He begins to speak the praise of God. This pagan King has the praises of God on his mouth in this moment of emotion but is it real praise? Is this genuine heartfelt praise from a broken and contrite heart or this someone caught up in the emotions of the moment. Is this someone praising God or feigning praise?
It is really easy to get caught up of the emotions of times when things seem to be going well or when you get what you want. Its really easy to be carried away by the moment instead of being carried away with the Holy Spirit. It is really easy to have some kind of mountain top experience and to mistake that for what it means to be repentant and have true lasting faith. I am sure we have all had times when perhaps the music or something spoke to us in a worship service and we “felt” like we are closer to God. At that time we cannot but help praise God. And then perhaps we make vows or promises about all the things we are going to change and then we leave and the high is over and we are right back into the grind.
I can remember going to church camps growing up. Yeah those church camps. I benefited greatly from it in some mighty ways. God used the camp to help spark in me a desire to read scripture. I am not belittling church camp in and of themselves. But the camp I went to always had this bonfire at the end of it. And it was a wonder that the bonefire ever stayed lit because of all the waterworks from the boohoo fest. People would be crying and hugging each other. And what would really get the water works going were two songs “thank you for giving to the Lord.” I will admit I cried. And then the other was “friends” by Michael W Smith. You know, “Friends are Friends forever. And a Church camp’s not too long to live as friends.” We would make promises and leave the camp on such an emotional high. But I would tell you that within a few weeks when school started many of the people crying and making promises were already back to acting like pagans.
We are not called to be Spocks where our emotions are never engaged. The Christian faith is not just about head knowledge. God wants us to love him with all our hearts, all our soul and all our might. He wants us to feel love for him. He wants our emotions to be geared towards him. But the Christian life is not found in emotional highs. It is not found only on the mountain peaks. The Christian life is found when you walk through the valleys. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Too many Christians are seeking to go from mountain top to mountain top experience. They want a worship service for example that hits all their feels. And I know what you are thinking! "Yeah, that’s all those people going to the churches with fog machines and light shows." But don’t you think for a moment you and I are not capable of this. We might just be more sophisticated. We might want our liturgy to be of a higher class because it just gives us the right feels. We have great moments where we are so ready to praise God because maybe we just did abortion ministry or we were at the nursing home but on Tuesday evening after a few days removed from the worship on Sunday and the ministry of the weekend are we struggling to praise God.
Now we are human beings and we do have moments where God’s glory and grace are seen by us more clearly. We do have moments where are sin is made more aware to us than other times. We do have times where God seems to be working around us in ways that are more visible than other times. God does give us sometimes in our very hearts unspeakable joys. There are times when the lyrics of the music or the sermons speak to us and move us. We need these times and God gives them to us as we need them. But we aren’t to be chasing these times as if this is what the Christian life is all about. We are not measure our faith by how we feel.
Listen, your faith is not to be built on a certain feeling but upon the sure promises of God that cannot fail. Your feelings can fail. You can lose that lovin feelin but your salvation when established on the firm truth of Jesus Christ’s work in his life and on the cross cannot be lost. Your hope is not in how you feel but in how Christ felt the nails pierce his hands and feet on the cross. You’re forgiveness is not bound to you feeling a certain feeling of sorrow. Repentance is not bound to how bad you feel about what you have done. Certainly, we are to hate our sin and to despise what we have done to offend God. We are to come into agreement with God about how wicked our sin is but some of you I know will hold on to your sin and say I just haven’t felt bad about it long enough for God to really forgive me. I can’t be forgiven because I just havent felt like I have been forgiven yet and so let me hold on to this and stew over this. Now I am not saying you should be flippant but repentance is not about you paying for your sin by how long you have can have worldly sorrow over them. There is difference between godly grief and worldly sorrow.
When King Saul sinned by not obeying the Lord’s command to completely destroy the Amalekites and was confronted by Samuel, he eventually admitted his sin but first, he denied that he was sinning. He tried to say that he obeyed God. And then he made excuses and shifted black to the people by saying it was their idea and besides he was doing it to offer sacrifice. When Samuel said “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice," Saul finally, because he was busted, admitted he had sinned. He had worldly sorrow for his sin. He made a great show of it and then at the same time asked Samuel to still honor him with the elders. He needed to save face. He needed to keep up his public persona. His sorrow was selfish and self-centered.
Now contrast this with King David. When David sinned, his attitude was not about saving face or honor. He was undone. He said “I have sinned against the Lord!” He cried out to the Lord to forgive him and he fasted and prayed. He did not care what others thought but he cared about what God thought. And then when he finished fasting, he got up and praised God. He did not stew in it forever. His sorrow was not selfish and it was not worldly.
Notice what he didn’t do, he didn’t spend time trying to figure out if he felt a certain way. He didn’t keep checking in within himself to see if he had a certain feeling. The feelings came naturally because he knew that his sin was grievous against God. There was no need to make it about his emotions. That followed.
True repentance is not about you feeling a feeling. It is about you coming into agreement with God about your sin and seeing it for how wicked and sinful it is and then pleading with God for forgiveness. And then trusting by faith not by your feelings but by faith that he forgives you. And then praising him for his forgiveness.
Doug Wilson says about the difference between wordly sorrow and godly sorrow is that “One dissipates strength and the other restores it. One kind of sorrow rakes you over the coals, and the other is the word that speaks comfort. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Listen, You can feel sorry today, feel sorry tomorrow, and you can die feeling sorry. Christ did not Christ come just to give you a feeling. He came to forgive your sins and to set your free.
As I said earlier some people chase feelings in the worship. It is all about how it makes them feel. And therefore they haven’t worshiped if they didn’t feel a certain way. People go to great lengths to get this feeling. We got to have the right music playing. Maybe if I lift my hands at the right time I can drum up in me the right emotions. That isn’t worship of God that is worship of you. God doesn’t want drummed up emotions by the mood set with music. That is what pagans do. Notice in chapter 3 of Daniel what happens at the dedication to the statue. There is every type of music played. This was to drum up within the people emotion. While this is in one sense internal because it involves powerful emotions, in the true sense it is rote external worship that God does not care about. It is worship of self.
The point I am making is not that emotion is an unimportant part of worship but that it is not the focus. Rather it accompanies the focus which is the glory of God. The truths of God are what should move us to experience all the range of emotions, fear of God, sorrow for sin, joy at salvation, hope at his promises, gladness for who he is. Therefore, we don’t raise our hands in worship and squeeze our eyes real tight and work something up within us. That’s worthless. Instead we focus our minds on the truths of God. And we seek to obey him in worship. We know God’s word says that God desire’s men everywhere to pray with holy hands uplifted. We lift up our hands because we desire to obey him. We praise him because we love him not because we are tossed to and fro by emotions. Our worship is built on truth. Our emotions will be appropriate as we grasp and treasure the truths of God.