Many people assume that because they feel or believe something, it must be true. Some may have experiences that seem to validate their beliefs. But is this a trustworthy way to determine what is true?
- Can we trust our feelings? Our sins are not just about wrong behavior. Jesus taught that a person’s true corruption comes from the heart, making feelings an unreliable guide to important decisions. Thus the Bible cautions us about trusting our feelings.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it.”
- Can we trust our beliefs? Some people think they can trust their beliefs simply because they feel strongly about them. Yet in the Bible, the most strongly convinced of their beliefs were the Pharisees, They could not even recognize their own Messiah when he came.
John 8:43-45 (ESV) Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires…. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
Conviction, no matter how strong, isn’t an adequate test of ultimate truth.
- Can we trust our experiences? When a belief is backed up by a real experience, isn’t it more likely to be truth? Not necessarily. We all interpret our experiences based on the presuppositions. An experience can be real, but we can be wrong in the conclusions we draw about the experience.
- Examine your feelings, beliefs, and experiences. Our thoughts, feelings, and desires are important. But we shouldn’t place too much weight on subjective means to determine truth. Instead, the Bible tells us to evaluate everything.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 (ESV) Test everything. Hold fast to what is good.
We all need to examine our beliefs and experiences by objective means. To learn truth, Jesus says, we must abide in his word.
John 8:31-32 (ESV) Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This explains why Christians are eager to submit our feelings, beliefs, and experiences to the Bible.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Can you think of a time when your feelings led you astray? What happened?
- Is it good to be strongly convinced about things? Explain.
- Why are sincerity or strength of conviction inadequate tests of truth? Why is it hard for someone who is strongly convinced to consider alternative ideas?
- Can you give an example of how one personal experience can be interpreted in two (or more) different ways?
- In what ways are our feelings, convictions, and experiences valuable, if not for determining the final truth?
- Read John 8:31-32. According to Jesus, how can people know the truth? What does it mean to “abide in” Jesus’ word?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.