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Sabbath School Lessons on The Bible and Human Emotions
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 1: Emotions *
Introduction: Does the Bible seem to be a good place to learn about
human emotions? Consider Galatians 5:22-23 which says that the
"fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and
self-control." How many of those fruits are either emotions or
closely connected to emotion? Anyone who has read Robert Whitaker's
book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, has serious doubts about consulting
science to cure emotional and mental problems. His book describes
the fact that in the United States we have a huge increase in the
number of emotionally impaired people which began with the
development of drugs to treat mental problems. His thesis is that
using the current drugs is like throwing rocks into a sophisticated
machine. Drugs simply make the problem worse. Whether or not science
has the answers I am not qualified to say, but let's jump into our
series of studies to see what answers are in the Bible!
- Your Role in Positive Emotions
- Read Galatians 5:16-17. Do you suffer from emotional
conflict? Are your emotions sometimes out of control or
not what you would want them to be?
- What kind of conflict does Paul teach us is the
experience of every human?(Paul tells us that our
sinful nature wants to do one thing and the Holy
Spirit wants us to do another. The two are in
conflict so that we find ourselves doing what we do
not want to do.)
- What is the key to right living? (Living a life led
by the Holy Spirit.)
- Read Galatians 5:19-21. In this list of what Paul calls
"acts of the sinful nature," do you find any emotions?
- What does this mixture suggest?(It suggests that
negative emotions are part of our natural, sinful
nature. We get these without requesting them!
Second, it suggests that negative emotions have some
sort of connection with negative actions.)
- Read Galatians 5:22-25. We discussed in the introduction
that these are emotions or are closely connected with
emotions. Are these positive emotions, emotions that you
would like to be a part of your life?
- How do we obtain these emotions? Or, are they
completely beyond the power of choice? (Choice is a
factor. First, it is a factor in our choice to "live
by the Spirit." Second, Paul tells us that we can
"crucify" our sinful nature.)
- How many of you have difficulty living by the Spirit
and crucifying your sinful nature? (If you are like
me, your hand is raised. I'm not sure that success
is easy, but I am sure that the Bible teaches us
that choice is a factor in our human emotions.)
- Read Colossians 3:5-10. How many negative emotions do we
find listed in these verses? (Several.)
- What influence do we have over these negative
emotions? (Paul tells us to "rid" ourselves of
- Read Colossians 3:12-14. Again, we see some positive
emotions and the suggestion that we have an influence
over our emotions. What specific actions do these verses
suggest that we can take? ("Bear" and "forgive.")
- Are these choices?
- Notice that Paul says "love" will bind us in perfect
unity. Can we choose to love? Or, is that an
- Let's assume you do not love someone, but you
want to pretend to love them. How would you do
it? (You would be nice to that person. You
would be generous. You would treat that person
as you would want to be treated. That sounds
like "bear" and "forgive," doesn't it?)
- Is this a Biblical prescription for
treating emotional problems? (If you are
like me, some of my happiest times are
when I help someone and they appreciate
it. Being kind and loving to others is jet
fuel for positive emotions. Being kind and
considerate is a decision. It is not
outside the realm of free choice.)
- A Biblical Example
- Read 2 Samuel 13:1-2. Is Amnon suffering from an
emotional problem? (Yes. It made him physically ill.)
- Read Leviticus 18:11. What does it say about Amnon's
desires? (That he could not marry Tamar.)
- Read 2 Samuel 13:3-6. Does Amnon have a choice to make
here about feeding his negative emotions?
- Is there a parallel here to your life? Do you
wrestle with negative emotions that you feed by your
- Read 2 Samuel 13:9-11. Up to this point what bad choices
has Amnon made? (He has lied to get Tamar into his
bedroom. He has sent everyone out so he is alone with
her. Now he seems to be forcing her to have sex with
- Read 2 Samuel 13:12-14. Is this sin an accident? Has
Amnon been fully warned of the nature of his sin? (Amnon
has been running all sorts of "red lights" to come to
this low point. He has let his unchecked emotions become
- Re-read Colossians 3:5. What could Amnon have been
doing instead? (Paul says that the emotions which
led up to this are subject to our choice. We have
the ability to "put to death" these emotions.)
- Read 2 Samuel 13:15. Is Amnon suffering from emotional
- To what extent can we now see that these problems
are connected to his bad decisions?
- Read 2 Samuel 13:17-20. Is Tamar suffering from emotional
- Is there anything that she could have done
differently to avoid her current emotional problems?
- What do the situations of Amnon and Tamar teach
us about emotional difficulties? (Some are the
results of our poor choices, and some come
through no fault of our own.)
- Read 2 Samuel 13:21-22 and 2 Samuel 13:28-29. Is Absalom
suffering from an emotional problem?
- Is this his fault?
- What could Absalom have done to avoid letting his
emotional problem get to the point of murder?
( Galatians 5:20 tells us that hatred is part of our
sinful nature, and living by the Spirit is a cure
for our sinful nature.)
- Jesus' Commentary on Emotions
- Read John 16:20. In our Bible study we have seen a
connection between good emotions and living a life led by
the Holy Spirit. What does this text suggest about that
connection? (The world, which presumably does not live by
the Spirit, is rejoicing while those led by the Spirit
- Scan the context of John 16:20. What light does it
bring to Jesus' statement? (The reason for grief is
that Jesus will soon be arrested and crucified.)
- What does this suggest about the Christian and
human emotions? (That circumstances outside our
control will cause us grief - while the world
rejoices in evil.)
- Read John 16:21-22. What is the ultimate hope for our
emotional difficulties? (They are temporary. They are
worth-while in light of the fact that Jesus is coming
again to bring joy!)
- Read Matthew 26:36-38. What emotion is Jesus suffering?
- When we consider that Jesus suffered negative
emotions, what should we conclude about emotional
problems and sin? (Emotional difficulties seem much
like many other difficulties. In general, living a
Spirit-led life brings positive emotions. Living a
life led by our human nature brings negative
emotions. However, we live in an evil world with
evil people - and they can cause us to suffer
emotionally. Not until the return of Jesus will our
problems, including our emotional problems, be
- Friend, will you determine today to improve your
emotional health by asking the Holy Spirit to lead in
your life? Why not ask right now?
- Next week: Divine Provision for Anxiety.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.