In Reflect, Thaddeus Williams describes how Western culture has progressed through various ages. We have progressed from the Age of Faith to the Age of Reason and now to what might be called the “Age of Feelings”. Some might prefer to call it an “Age of Authenticity” to give it a more noble label. But the presumption among many is that it is always virtuous to live by our feelings. On the contrary, ancient philosophers such as Plato realized that not every feeling was virtuous, but that there should be a “just distaste for the ugly” and a “delighted praise to beauty”. So are we to say that there is no value in feelings? Do we just discount any intuition or feeling, and merely live by cold, hard logic. Obviously not, and we can see how much of this fits with Phil 3:17-4:1?
The key is what drives our feelings, including their starting and ending point. Paul speaks of the dangers of many sensualist false teachers whose “god was their belly” and whose “minds were set on earthly things”. They were ones who were clearly living by whatever felt right, ruled by pleasure seeking, but doing it in the name of freedom. They also had no caution to consider where this lifestyle would lead in the end. 1 John 2 reminds us of the danger of pride and lust of the eyes and flesh, and Paul was doing the same in this passage. A friend just this week told me about a heroin addict whom he led to the Lord. The man was sober for about 30 days, but then sadly returned to addiction that had gripped him for so long and was found dead. We must all be wary of the things that tempt us to live like “god was their belly.”
Furthermore, caught between the crosshairs of Judaizers on one side and the Sensualists on the other, what were the Philippians (and we) to do? Was it to somehow balance out the swing of the pendulum and land in the middle? No. As Martin Luther King said, our hope is to be “transformed nonconformists”. We can’t just tweak our behaviors, but we must truly live as new behaviors in Christ.
Rev. Darol Timberlake, Assistant Pastor