Random Blog Clay Feet: December 01, 2007
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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Gospel for the Heart

The verses through the end of chapter 9 and the beginning of chapter 10 of Romans are to me an increasingly clear description of living in relation to God from the heart verses living a religious life while suppressing the heart. I know that this may sound more like me jumping onto my favorite subject and trying to make everything fit or support it, but I don't think that is the case. I really do believe very deeply that the principles that I have been learning from all different sources over the past few years have been coordinated by God's Spirit to reveal this most important reality. There is a dramatic difference between living from our heart, properly engaging our right brain and relating properly to our emotions and our spirit, or living a life focused on external conformity to religious structures, formalities, restrictions and doctrines.

I have been discussing this recently with others and continue to see more insights in this. I believe that it is a mistake to claim that the “mind” and the “heart” are the same thing when referenced in inspired literature. They are not one and the same even though they may be located in very close proximity inside our cranial bones. And while it is very important to restore the proper function of our right brain, what is usually referred to as our heart, it is also not our true design to live controlled by our emotions and simply allowing our feelings to dictate our decisions and plans.

There is much controversy swirling around this subject and most of it seems to take one extreme or the other and paint everyone else as believing the extreme opposite. I believe that God originally created us to have our brains in perfect balance and cooperative relationship. The two sides of the brain have radically different functions and cannot replace the role of the other by being over-dominant. I believe that one of the most noticeable effects of sin is the imbalance and extremes that are seen in the operation of the brain and the problems that that causes.

I also observe that the cooperation and inter-dependence that is seen in a properly functioning brain may be illustrative (or the other way around) of a properly related marriage. When two people who are often leaning in opposite directions as far as personality and emotion/intellect preference get married, they have to learn to not only respect each other's strengths and abilities but they also have to learn to trust those abilities and realize that they do not have everything needed to be a complete whole. Humans were created in the image of God male AND female as a complete unit called human. When they are not united as one in marriage to a person of the opposite gender and learning to integrate their very different abilities and gifts, they cannot be a reflection of the more complete image of God as the unified experience of those who are in a healthy marriage.

I do not say this to in any way make married people seem better or more valuable than unmarried people. I say it to explain what the Bible teaches about the nature of our being created in the image of God. As individual people, male or female, it is completely outside our ability to reflect as fully the image of God as He desires to reveal about Himself in a healthy, dynamic, inter-dependent marriage seeking to reflect His likeness.

I believe that this principle plays out at many different levels, not just in the marriage relationship. As I said before, I believe that the marriage relationship is very similar to a properly functioning brain that has two very different sides that need to learn to relate to each other properly. In addition to the two sides of the brain and marriage there is also the unity that God seeks to bring about in the body of Christ. This is really the ultimate goal that God is working to achieve in the salvation process.

Many of the assumptions and doctrines in Christianity today are reflective of twisted views of that proper relationship and the resulting tensions and difficulties and unnecessary pain caused by these narrow views have caused very serious problems ever since Eve accepted the first lie about God. Typically we have looked at the unbalanced state of affairs throughout history and have used the cultural and Biblical descriptions of this imbalance to justify our own bigoted ideas of dominance and submission, thereby extending their ill effects for yet another generation. The tensions and wars over gender and what healthy roles and relationships are supposed to look like are also reflective of the internal tension between the two halves of our brains and the prejudiced ideas and teachings that we promote in religion as well as in society.

Anywhere you find a religion that is left-brain dominant with much emphasis on intellect over emotions and heart issues, you will also find typically a pattern of male dominance and a strong emphasis on female “submission” with a very biased redefinition of the real meaning of that word. And likewise, it is also possible that where you find a religion or culture with over-emphasis on emotionalism and feelings at the expense of objective truth, you may find more dominant involvement by females with strong influence and the same entrenched bigotry by supporters toward the other extreme as found in the intellectual religions.

As I said before, I believe that God designed the two sides of our brain to be very different. As such, they can only function as originally designed if they properly respect each other and relate to each other's strengths in full cooperation and perfect balance. The resulting health and happiness and peace that is seen as a result is not unlike that observed in very positive and dynamic marriages (which are so rare as to be almost of questionable existence by many).

In this section of Romans I am seeing this issue of imbalance addressed in the religious context by Paul who has been trying to get across the truth in different ways of the need for us to relate to God with our heart. The Christian religion has been perverted to almost exclusively favor left-brain dominance. As a result it has also promoted male dominance which is the natural effect of such thinking. And while God has often looked past the symptom of gender imbalance in favor of first dealing with the mind/heart imbalance, I believe we can see in Jesus' life the example of God's desire for His church, His family who are learning to look, feel and act like Him, to properly relate in this arena. But first He has to address the deeper, causitive problem of the extreme imbalance of a left-brain, intellectual-oriented, externally focused, behavior and performance obsessed concept of religion that most of us believe is what is expected from us. This is one of the main problems that I see being addressed in the book of Romans.

However, Paul has made it clear all throughout this book that it is not just religious addicts and left-brain junkies who are emotionally alienated from their loving Creator. Repeatedly he has addressed first one group and then the other as he points out the various problems and symptoms of both the openly God-rejecting “unbelievers” and the religious junkies. Both groups have very confused and misinformed ideas of what it looks like to live in right relationship to God and to those around them. Both have been infected with many lies and viruses that have deeply corrupted their internal “files” the beliefs that they hold deep in their hearts. And while the external choices they have made as a result of those internal lies may look very different, the real cause of all this dysfunction are lies about God and about ourselves that in both cases are nearly identical.

This is why Paul addresses both groups in this book. At the heart level everyone has very messed up ideas about God and about our own worth in His eyes. When it is more clearly seen what these root lies are and that they are embedded much more in the heart side of our being than the intellectual side, then the solution of salvation begins to make much more sense. For salvation is not a formula as many of us have been led to believe. Salvation is not a legal maneuver or slight of hand by which Jesus manages to get sinners into paradise. Salvation is not even a solution for a tension between the vengeful desires of an angry God-Father and a loving Son who is trying to placate and appease His wrath. Salvation is something radically different than nearly anyone as assumed or dared to believe.

In the book of Romans Paul is strenuously trying to get people to understand the truth about salvation, both classes of sinners. He makes this clear very early on the the book when he states unequivocally that the gospel – the good news, the real truth about God – is the real power that brings about what is known as salvation. Salvation is literally the results that naturally begin to appear in the lives of everyone who believes the good news and believes and embraces the truth that God is much better than anyone had ever dared to imagine. Salvation, as I have noted before, comes from the word which means to heal, to restore to an unbroken condition. It is the bringing back of humans to the original design and function of joy and intimacy for which they were created. And this happens as a result of experiencing the transformational power of the real truth about God IN THE HEART.

Intellectual religion has created a substitute for heart spirituality by attempting to achieve the external attributes of salvation while failing to engage the heart and emotions and spirit which were designed to be the real cause of those results. That is very much like trying to pin fake fruit and fake leaves on a tree and claiming success in agriculture. And while that is patently absurd to us in the physical realm we continue to hammer away at our silly attempts to approximate the fruits of the Spirit by using only our left brain and suppressing of the dysfunctional emotions that continue to warn us of unresolved problems in our right brain and heart. Religion as we commonly know it is very afraid and incapable of dealing with real heart issues and so we usually ignore, deny, repress or scorn these symptoms and apply more force and discipline or other formulas to try to deal with these natural symptoms.

God does not desire us to live with unresolved pain and internal conflicts, particularly from embedded lies in the right side of our brain which cause the most problems. He has provided ways for us to unmask those lies buried in past memories and receive complete healing, not intellectually but experientially at the heart and emotional level. In fact, every time we feel stirred up emotionally it is an open door through which we may enter into a healing opportunity and allow God to bring truth and light into a dark area of our past. Those who are willing to allow God to do this and participate in this process are finding amazing freedom from compulsive behaviors, complete peace and calm in formerly devastating and paralyzing memories, and freedom that is permanent. This freedom results in what some call maintenance-free victory where they no longer need to struggle against temptations associated with the effects of that memory. This is truly the freedom that the Son of God is eager to bring into our lives when we are willing to admit that the real problems preventing us from experiencing closeness to God (righteousness) lie in our heart/right brain and have to be dealt with very differently than intellectual lies that are found in our left brain.

Paul's deep passion, the intense desire of his heart was to see his own church, the Jews who were so set on pleasing God through performance and external piety, come to a realization of their tragic mistake and turn to God with their hearts instead of reliance on their intellect. Paul says, For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. (Romans 10:2 NIV) I like the way that another translation renders it. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. (Romans 10:2 NRSV)

Did the Jews really lack knowledge about God? Come on, now, they had the most advanced “knowledge” about God in the whole world. But what I see here is not a reference to intellectual knowledge that was lacking but a heart knowledge, the kind of “knowing” that Adam had with his wife that made her pregnant. That kind of knowledge is an emotional intimacy, and right brain, heart bonding that can never be substituted on an intellectual level.

The very next verse reinforces this truth and refers us back to chapter one where Paul talks about the righteousness of God in relation to the power of the gospel. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God's righteousness. (Romans 10:3 NRSV)

Here it becomes even more clear upon taking a closer look again at Romans chapter 1 that both religious zealots and God-rejecting enthusiasts are motivated by the same root lies about God. Neither class is willing to believe the truth about the goodness of God or submit to the transformational power that that “knowledge” will have in their heart. The first class go about attempting to satisfy the cravings through increasing levels of rebellion and open sin and the second class go about trying to impress God and those around them with as counterfeit righteousness they try to fabricate with their formulas and performance.

When anyone is willing to accept that it is their heart that needs healing truth, that the real wall between humans and God is not just wrong information but embedded lies about God and themselves buried deep under their emotions in the right brain, then they will see that no amount of law-keeping or achievements on their part will have any use in restoring their hearts into relationship with their Creator. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4 NRSV)

Again, it is not intellectual belief that Paul is talking about here so much as a belief that comes about when we engage our heart, our right brain and our spirit at an emotional level parallel to a proper intellectual understanding of the truth about God. It is embracing at the heart level the revelation about God as revealed not only in the life and death of Jesus but in a current revelation by His Spirit to us of the deep compassion and love that Jesus feels for us right now. When we experience that kind of bonding and healing in the presence of Jesus it will be the end of our focus on the law as a means of trying to get right with God. We will enjoy the righteousness that comes naturally as a result of experiencing the power that enters into our hearts upon believing the gospel, the truly good news about how God feels about us.

For I have no feeling of shame about the good news, because it is the power of God giving salvation to everyone who has faith... (Romans 1:16 BBE)

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