2. Sentimentalism

By John Thiel, Removing Delusions and Fallacies Series, mp3

Scripture reading: Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

With the Word of God in hand, we may draw nearer, step by step, in consecrated love to Jesus Christ. Let those who have been deluded give up all their fallacies. The love of Jesus will not endure such rivals. As the Spirit of God becomes better known, the Bible will be received as the only foundation of faith. {20MR 307.5}

It is our purpose to examine the truths by which we can see where we may have been deluded, where we hold notions and fallacies that must be given up. Is this a challenge? Is it difficult to be challenged in reference to our delusions? What is a delusion? The dictionary tells us it is “an illusion, a misbelief, a misconception.” How challenging is it that we have to give them up? If I am deluded somewhere, do I acknowledge that it is a delusion? Do I really believe that I am deluded? No, nobody believes that. I think that what I think is right. When we are under a delusion we believe it to be correct, even though it is a delusion, a misbelief, a misconception.

We are told that we are to give up our fallacies. What is a fallacy? It is a false, misleading notion. Some people build their dependence upon notions. What is a notion? An unsubstantiated belief and opinion. It is my opinion, my belief; but it has no substantiation for it. It is just simply that this is what I am holding onto, and it is because I am really strong in my opinion – I really believe I am right. So I cannot say that this is a delusion, because I believe it is right. This is the challenge that we are facing in this series. We want to examine very closely what we must give up. This is the delusional way of thinking:

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man,

It seems right, it feels right; but it is a delusion. And because it is a delusion, what does the Scripture say about what happens when we come to the end of these delusions?

Proverbs 14:12 …but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.

It doesn’t lead to life; it leads to death. What a challenge we are facing here. My delusions, fallacies and notions must be given up. They lead to death, but I don’t want to end up in death, so I must give up what seems right to me.

Let those who have been deluded give up all their fallacies. … As the Spirit of God becomes better known, the Bible will be received as the only foundation of faith. God’s people will receive the Word as the leaves of the tree of life, {20MR 307.5}

To receive the word, to let the word unravel my delusions – this is what we need to do. But how can I put something away when I really believe it to be true? I need the word. Don’t trust your own understanding. Come with a mind that realises that your own way, your own opinion, your own thoughts can be a delusion. What am I meant to do?

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

This is the answer to face the challenge of giving up my fallacies, notions, and delusions.

Proverbs 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes:

These are very powerful exercises of mind that will help me to put away anything that I discover from God’s word as something that I have been deluded in. And I thank God in my own experience that I have discovered many delusions in my own life. By placing myself under the direct, simple Bible reading I have been able to change my directions, and I pray that as we continue to study we will continue to discover all the aspects of our lives that are not in harmony with God’s will.

Sentimental Religion

Today we want to explore the delusion of sentimentalism, the delusion of a sentimental religion. We want to receive a biblical directive by which we can identify how sentimentalism, a sentimental religion, manifests itself. What does the Bible show as a manifestation of a sentimental religion? God is here telling the prophet Ezekiel, When you go and preach to the people, this is My view of their acceptance of your message:

Ezekiel 33:31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee [as] my people, and they hear thy words,

So here they come to church, they sit in the pews, they come to hear the words; but what?

Ezekiel 33:31 …but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, [but] their heart goeth after their covetousness.

Is this a revelation of sentimental religion? Oh, I love the Lord. My lips express this. And as we picture the Lord’s kindness to us, our hearts are touched, and we give Him emotional expressions; but what do we do in our hearts? After we have spent time worshipping and listening to God’s words, we go home and we go back to our earthly covetousness. Our heart goes after our covetousness. After what? That which I regard as of value to me outside of my faith to God. I am enjoying a certain lifestyle, a certain way of living, and if God says something and it cuts across my comfort zone, and He tells me, “Come this way, I want you to love Me more than these;” we say, “Oh, I love you so much, but I love this too. I still want to hold on to this.” So my religion is emotional towards God, but not in love with Him enough to obey Him precisely.

Indeed, when we come into true Christianity we see Jesus dying for us, and we say to Him, Oh, Lord! There are many people who become very excited about the suffering of Jesus on the cross, the lashes He received, the crown of thorns, His death. As Sr. White writes, there are many people who see the death of Jesus in a very similar way to the death of martyrs; but there is much more to the death of Jesus than just the death of a martyr. So people cry about Jesus dying on the cross; and they will one day come to Jesus and say, Lord, haven’t we done all sorts of things in Your name? Notice the way Jesus addresses sentimental religion in contrast to the genuine one:

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

They come with their lips, they give love-service, but their hearts go after their covetousness. They do not do the words of what the preacher is telling them to do.

Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Here is an emotional/sentimental religion. It is a very loving expression to God that may come from a surface love, but love is manifested in action, not in words or emotion.

To talk of Christ without the Word leads to sentimentalism. {20MR 307.5}

There are a lot of things in God’s word that are passed over without going into the depth of them, and only the surface of the word is received so that we talk of Jesus without the word’s depth and meaning. And what will this lead to? It will lead to sentimentalism. This is how sentimentalism is revealed to us here. It is talking of Jesus, calling Him Lord, but with something missing. To have an emotional/sentimental religion means that we can read certain things of God and be very fascinated with them

The highest qualification of the mind will not, cannot, supply the place of true simplicity, of genuine piety. {OHC 203.2}

My mind may be very elevated, but it is not the true simplicity of genuine piety.

The Bible may be studied as a branch of human science would be; but its beauty, the evidence of its power to save the soul that believes, is a lesson that is never thus learned. {Ibid.}

Here is a religion that does read the Bible, but that studies it as a science, a theory, and its beauty, the evidence of its power, may be missed.

If the practice of the Word is not brought into the life, then the sword of the Spirit has not wounded the natural heart. It has been shielded in poetic fancy. {Ibid.}

You can read the Bible and your heart can be blocked by a wonderful, emotional appreciation of the surface meaning of those words, and it is called poetic fancy. It is a fancy that makes you feel, I am actually loving this! This is beautiful. We love the beautiful prose, the beautiful poetic language of the Bible. The King James Bible was written under the Shakespearean period, and it is very poetic. Therefore many people find it very interesting to read the Bible as a science, but the power of the word is not brought in to wound the natural heart. They don’t permit this; they have a shield there – it is poetic fancy.

Sentimentalism has so wrapped [the heart] about that the heart has not sufficiently felt the keenness of its edge, piercing and cutting away the sinful shrines where self is worshipped. {Ibid.}

Covetousness – sinful shrines that are worshipped. So the word of God is a beautiful, poetic flow of words, but it doesn’t penetrate the heart. This is the manifestation of sentimentalism in Christianity. Let us ponder upon this so we can really understand where we are situated.

Many are questioning and troubled. {2SM 21.2}


This is because they have not faith in God. With some, religious exercises mean little more than a good time. {Ibid.}

It’s lovely to have religious exercises, isn’t it? To come to church and feel that I’m having a wonderful time at church. And that is where it stays.

When their feelings are aroused, they think they are greatly blessed. Some do not think they are blessed unless they are stirred and excited. The intoxication of excitement is the object they are seeking; and if they do not obtain this, they suppose they are all wrong, or that someone else is all wrong. {Ibid.}

We come to church, we listen to the preacher; and he doesn’t excite me, so I think he is wrong. This is sentimental expectations.

People should not be educated to think that religion of an emotional order, bordering on fanaticism, is the only pure religion. Under the influence of such religion the minister is expected to use all his nervous energy in preaching the gospel. {2SM 21.3}

You know how the preachers preach today with their excitable way, to make people think, “Oh! Isn’t he on fire!” and they think this is the way a preacher should preach.

He must pour forth with abundance the strong current of the water of life. He must bring stimulating draughts that will be acceptable to human appetite. There are those who, unless their decaying emotions are stimulated, think they can be careless and inattentive. {Ibid.}

So the sermon isn’t exciting me, therefore I don’t have to listen carefully anymore. Have you ever been in that situation? “Oh, [yawning]… the subject is a bit heavy, I can’t really concentrate, it requires real close attention; ahh… this preacher is boring me.” Have you ever been bored in the sermon? Some people have, I know. And they come to me afterwards and say, You could have said all that in a real short time, but you went on and on. This is a manifestation of sentimentalism – we expect to be satisfied in the preaching of the word.

We need to ponder very carefully upon this. We think, “I need my feelings to be aroused in the message!” and if the preacher can really preach with a spirit of attraction, then I think that was a good meeting. But if he is just a preacher who simply preaches the word without much of that excitability, then we think there is something missing. Examine yourselves in the light of what sentimentalism is. We are told in the word of God that we should take a close examination of ourselves to see whether the deep-seated love for Jesus is really there.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

I am to examine very closely what is really deep inside of me. What am I doing with the word? Am I finding it a wonderful prose? a wonderful display of poetry that I can enjoy myself with for a period of time and then go home and now get on with my other life? Examine. Examine to see and know your own selves. Is Jesus Christ really in me?

Psalm 26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.

So we are to examine ourselves, and then, because we may be under a delusion about ourselves, we now come in prayer to God and say, Lord, You examine me, and prove me. Try my reins, try my heart. And if I pray that prayer I will get a clear indication of whether I am deluded about myself or whether I am really on the right line of godliness.

These kinds of things lead us to examine and to ask, “Lord, is there something in me that I am deluded about towards You? Am I so deluded that I can enjoy myself on the word of God and yet not actually have the real, genuine article?” How delusional can it be? What is the delusional state of existence that is described in the Laodicean period? Are we in this period? To the church of Laodicea the Lord is saying that they are deluded. What is the delusion?

Revelation 3:17 …thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Is this a delusional state? How deluded are Laodicean people? As we know that this is the period we are living in, this is why we need to examine ourselves very closely. “We are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that those words mean that we know it all; we know all the doctrines, all the truth. We have been given the platform of truth, and if we study it closely like a science, we indeed may know it all. And we can be so efficient in the doctrines of original Adventism that we think we are right; but it is actually sentimentalism.

Man must not only read the Word of God, supposing that a casual knowledge of this Word will bring about in him a reformation of character. This work only the One who is the way, the truth, and the life can accomplish. Firmly may certain doctrines of truth be held. Again and again they may be reiterated, till the holders come to think that they are indeed in possession of the great blessings which these doctrines represent. But the greatest, most powerful truths may be held, and yet kept in the outer court, exerting little influence to make the daily life wholesome and fragrant. The soul is not sanctified through the truth that is not practiced. {Ev 290.1}

This is the delusion. You can even be on the platform of truth according to the outer court, the intellectual side of us; but the truth has not entered into the inner court. And these people can debate and can argue doctrine really well; but is their life sanctified? Are they fragrant? Is their daily life wholesome? Now we are getting right down in the examination to understand what this sentimentalism can actually be in reality in our lives, even though we are pretty studious kind of people. My life must be fragrant. My daily life must be wholesome. And as I continue along this way where the truth cuts me to the core and causes me to break on the Rock Christ Jesus, and then as my change of character is taking place, this is the opposite to sentimentalism.

Human Moralists

Many who call themselves Christians are mere human moralists. They have refused the gift which alone could enable them to honor Christ by representing Him to the world. The work of the Holy Spirit is to them a strange work. They are not doers of the word. The heavenly principles that distinguish those who are one with Christ from those who are one with the world have become almost indistinguishable. {COL 315.3}

That is how you get so many people who claim to be Seventh-day Adventists but whom you can’t discern from the other religious world.

The line of demarcation is indistinct. The people are subordinating themselves to the world, to its practices, its customs, its selfishness. The church has gone over to the world in transgression of the law, when the world should have come over to the church in obedience to the law. Daily the church is being converted to the world. {Ibid.}

So we become mere human moralists. We moralise, and we get a thrill out of moralising. That means we can argue the law, all the doctrines, all the practices, and we know what is right and what is wrong – and that is where we stay, moralising.

All these expect to be saved by Christ’s death, while they refuse to live His self-sacrificing life. They extol the riches of free grace, {COL 316.1}

They rejoice in free grace. “God is saving me,” they say, “I am saved in Him. Wonderful!” They extol that free grace,

…and attempt to cover themselves with an appearance of righteousness, hoping to screen their defects of character; but their efforts will be of no avail in the day of God. {Ibid.}

Can you see? Sentimental religion is a very delusional experience. It is a delusion. As we have seen to some degree, this delusion of religion is one where I rely even upon my knowledge of the doctrine, and yet don’t actually let that doctrine alter my life. Maybe I have altered it to some degree, but in a shallow way I am still worshipping at some shrines of my own pleasure, which doesn’t fit into the pleasure that this message of the last days is meant to do for us. You think about it closely. Examine closely. Are there things that hold me back from doing the things that I know I should be doing, because this is a pleasure that I know I don’t want to give up? Whatever it is.

Delusions of the Flesh

As we come to the time of Jacob’s trouble, even our earthliness must be removed. Is there some earthliness in me that I must actually address in connection with this subject of sentimentalism? Am I sentimentally bound to certain things, am I attached to my pleasures in this world that I must give up to be ready for Jesus to come? Inspiration tells us we must give up our delusions, notions, and fallacies.

There is no safety in a state of stupor or calm indifference. There is no safety in placing our affections upon the earth or earthly things. We want to work for our best interest, not only for time but for eternity. We should act like sensible men and women, working not from impulse, nor from passion, but from an exalted sense of duty. {RH, August 18, 1885 par. 2}

These are important words. I must work from an exalted sense of duty, which comes from my affectionate bond with God.

We do not want a sensational nor an emotional religion, but one that leads to the performance of sacred duties, and that brings us into daily communion with God,–a religion that enlists in his service all our powers and all that we possess; one that leads us to do his will, and not our own; to forsake our carnal inclinations, and be led by the divine mind. {Ibid.}

Carnal inclinations – I may be deluded that I am following God’s inclinations when really I am interpreting those inclinations to fit into my carnal inclinations. This is what happens – what I think is translated into what God thinks, and I am deluded that that this is what God thinks. This gets very heavy for me because I know how many times I have done that in the past; and I have had to correct my view. This is the seriousness of the hour – we need to put away the sensational or emotional religion; and we can understand what this means by embracing our duties and discarding those things that are the froth and bubble that don’t belong to those duties.

The deluded state we have just explored is that, I think I have it all together because I believe in Jesus and I believe the platform of truth (in theory). I even call Him “Lord”, and I feel a sense of security in my senses and rely upon my sentimental heart. Now as I discover all this, I wonder, “Where am I, Lord? But I love you, don’t I?” Are you somewhere in a state of confusion after this research? Remember, what we are looking at here is a sensational, emotional religion in contrast to a religion of doing God’s will. As you discover that you have actually relied here and there on your emotions and not on a plain “Thus saith the Lord”, that you have excused yourself from obedience by indulging your emotions, don’t swing now into despair. It is possible that after such a message as this some of us might think, “I’m lost. I’ve got this sensational, emotional religion.” But let us embrace the word and act on it. Put away the delusion of feeling. Build and act on the word.

Hope in God

What is the word telling me to do when I discover that I have been somewhat affected by sentimentalism? These are the words which God speaks to someone who is convicted and feels hopeless:

Hope in God, trust in Him, and rest in His promises, whether you feel happy or not. {OHC 119.6}

My sentimental religion tells me that when I feel happy then I’m with God, but when I feel sad and broken up I’m not with God. Well, that is not the word. The word tells me that I am to hope in God and trust in Him, whether I feel happy or not.

A good emotion is no evidence that you are a child of God, neither are disturbed, troubled, perplexing feelings an evidence that you are not a child of God. {Ibid.}

Emotional religion can actually destroy you. If you lean upon your own understanding it will seem right to you, but the end of it are the ways of death. One day it’s going to come home strong, and because I have this emotional religion, I will think, I’m condemned! because I don’t feel accepted and because I don’t feel right. Therefore many people commit suicide, or leave their faith and just muddle on in this world. There was one person whom God spoke to before Sr. White became a prophet; it was Hazen Foss. God had come to him and shown him what he should do; and then, when he had refused to follow the instruction of the vision he had received, he then gave up. He gave up entirely, and Sr. White took his place.

Hope in God, trust in Him, and rest in His promises, whether you feel happy or not. A good emotion is no evidence that you are a child of God, neither are disturbed, troubled, perplexing feelings an evidence that you are not a child of God. Come to the Scriptures and intelligently take God at His word. Comply with the conditions and believe He will accept you as His child. Be not faithless, but believing. {Ibid.}

So whether you feel that you have been lost or not, that does not mean you have to be lost. You can decide that you are now going to take hold of God and remove those delusions of sentimentalism.

Before concluding, I just wish to put a balancing thought to all this. After having seen all this material about sentimentalism, we ask the question, Is it wrong, as a Christian, to have a sentiment, to have affections? We don’t want to go away now and think it’s wrong for me to be emotional. In the reading of the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy there are some people who come to wrong conclusions; they read certain statements of Sr. White and then swing in a wrong direction, thinking that emotional religion is altogether wrong. Is it right to be emotional in God’s word?

Many who profess to be Christians become excited over worldly enterprises, and their interest is awakened for new and exciting amusements, while they are coldhearted, and appear as if frozen, in the cause of God. Here is a theme, poor formalist, which is of sufficient importance to excite you. Eternal interests are here involved. Upon this theme it is sin to be calm and unimpassioned. The scenes of Calvary call for the deepest emotion. Upon this subject you will be excusable if you manifest enthusiasm. That Christ, so excellent, so innocent, should suffer such a painful death, bearing the weight of the sins of the world, our thoughts and imaginations can never fully comprehend. The length, the breadth, the height, the depth, of such amazing love we cannot fathom. The contemplation of the matchless depths of a Saviour’s love should fill the mind, touch and melt the soul, refine and elevate the affections, and completely transform the whole character. The language of the apostle is: “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” We also may look toward Calvary and exclaim: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” {2T 212.3}

To talk of Christ without the word leads to sentimentalism; but if we talk of Christ, and of all that is revealed of Him in the word, it is a sin not to be sentimental. It is a sin to be unimpassioned, to be cold and frozen. We get excited about other things in the world? This is something to get really excited about. Here is an important, balancing understanding from the revelation of God’s word. We had been previously studying our affectionate responses to God (Godly Affections That Motivate Series), and those studies are still relevant and applicable to this. I must not rely upon my emotions; I must rely upon the word. And if I rely upon the word in all its dimensions I will be affected emotionally; I will not be cold, cool and collected. I will be impassioned about Christ, and I will change my life according to the word. This is the correct balance.

May God help us as we examine ourselves to be sure that we have the genuine article and not sentimentalism.


Posted on 12/11/2017, in Divine Service Sermons, Removing Delusions and Fallacies (Series) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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