The way many believers classify things like their eternal salvation is now more likely to involve feelings rather than faith. If someone "feels saved" they will experience a satisfaction with that sensation and try their utmost to hang on to it. But if they encounter feelings that suggest they are NOT saved, they are just as likely to be plunged into despair.
The same barometer is used for prayer. "Pastor Paul." someone will say to me, "I don't feel like God is hearing my prayers." Or someone else asks, "I'm feeling unfulfilled in my marriage. What should I do?" Still another prays for forgiveness but still feels guilt.
In each of these instances feelings are exalted as the single most important means of measuring truth and reality. My marriage is defined by how much I feel in love with my spouse. My ministry is defined by much I feel fulfilled and my relationship with God is defined by how much I feel accepted and loved.
As a pastor my job is to continually point believers back to the authority of the Word, and that is exactly what I do. For the one who feels unforgiven, I tell them to read 1 John 1:9 which contains a wonderful promise of forgiveness to those who confess their sins. We read the passage together and I highlight key words in an attempt to make it more understandable. But after finishing my exhortation based on that Scripture the individual looks at me and says in a pained voice: "Yeah, I see that...but I still don't feel forgiven."
What I've just witnessed is a believer exalting their feelings over and above the authority of God's Word. They know what the Word says, but they choose to believe their feelings instead. Feelings become the final, authoritative guide to judging what is real and what is not.
It's hard for me to overstate the danger this kind of thinking invites. To elevate the heart of man as the means of determining what is true or false is the height of foolishness. Believers forget that their own hearts have been revealed in Scripture as unreliable—purposely deceitful and entirely beyond understanding.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
In light of this passage from Jeremiah, believers need to repent of this modern form of idolatry and return to the only One who can truly be the guide of all truth, and that is God, Himself. The challenge will be turning a deaf ear to the voice that once guided their every thought and decision and returning to the Lord who created them and Who knows what is best—even when feelings tell them otherwise.