Random Blog Clay Feet: December 03, 2007
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Monday, December 03, 2007

Real Righteousness

For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:3)

As I read this verse I asked God what it means to subject myself to the righteousness of God. Several things came to my attention from looking at the context.

First of all the beginning of this verse says that I first need to know about God's righteousness. That would make a lot of sense. How can I submit to something I know nothing about? I need to look around in Romans particularly and see what is explained about the truth of God's righteousness.

Secondly I need to avoid seeking to establish my own righteousness. That would be a very easy detour to get off on in seeking to understand God's righteousness. While trying to figure out what composes the righteousness of God it is so easy to forget that I cannot duplicate it by working hard at becoming like Him. The Law is a description of the righteousness of God. But if I focus on the Law instead of on the attractiveness of God I will end up in the same pit as all the religious addicts of all ages and my view of God will become terribly distorted.

The real focus that I need to have for my attention is explained in the next verse. I need to focus on the same thing the Law focuses on instead of the Law itself. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4) In my last post I pointed out that the word “end” here comes from the word “telos” in the Greek. If this is related to the word telescope as I suspect it may well be, then the Law is an instrument by which the perfection and righteousness of God is amplified. But if I focus my attention on the perfection that is needed in the construction and workings of a telescope to successfully focus properly on a very distant object, I will never have the ability or proper motivation to achieve that level of perfection myself. For my eyes, no matter how much work I do to improve my health or strain my eyes, will never be able to view a distant star with the clarity that a telescope can produce. Therefore I will become sidetracked into all sorts of useless diversions offered by Satan promising me “better eyesight” to become as perfect as a telescope when that simply cannot happen.

But as I choose to accept the invitation of Jesus to enter into a trusting, intimate relationship at the heart level with Him, I come to find out that in His presence my faith and trust in God will deepen as I learn more and more how attractive and loving He is. I will see the Law as an amplifier to view God better, but I must be careful not to become fixated on the Law itself as the object of my attention. I must enter into a relationship of faith and love that is a natural response of my heart to the Person who came to earth as the close-up example of what God is really like and how He wants to relate to us.

This brings up the issue of the importance of engaging both sides of our brain in this endeavor. When I only focus on the Law, which is the external description of God's character, I am utilizing predominantly only the left side of my brain and am not engaging my heart and emotions as God intended for me to do. God did not design us to live in this unbalanced way and He deeply desires an intimate heart connection with each one of His children. Relating to Him only in the restrictive environment of the intellectual while failing to engage our emotions and heart and feelings in the relationship is an insult to the Creator who designed us for intimacy.

How many marriages fail because one or the other feels empty in their heart or only used for the selfish exploits of the the other party but does not feel cherished at the heart level? If we can see this in the marriage relationship (but much of the time we can't) why can't we see that God designed us and craves the same relationship of intimacy with us? The fact is, God gave us marriage as a training tool for us to practice the very intimacy that He wants to enjoy with us Himself at an even deeper and more fulfilling level of joy. Our marriage problems are simply reflective of our confused concepts of what God desires for us Himself.

Paul goes on here to further explain the differences between these two ways of relating to God. Verse 5 states that whoever practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. In other words, if I choose that method of trying to get right with God, which is the same as trying to align my life with all the principles of reality in the universe which God created, then I have committed myself to achieving absolute perfection and complete, undeviating compliance with every rule and principle, natural and spiritual, through the whole gamut of reality. The problem is, since there is no way to do this for beings who are corrupted with sin then I have taken on an impossible task. The only reason I would enter into this type of insane endeavor is because I have bought into the deceptions of the enemy who leads me to believe that I really can become like God without God's support. That's one of the first lies he presented to Eve in the garden and that is still deeply embedded in our minds.

Verses 6-11 of Romans 10 then reveals the only option by which we may successfully come into right relationship with God and be saved from our helpless condition. It talks repeatedly about the need to use our heart as well as our mind. In verse 10 our need to bring our heart, our right brain, into full partnership with our intellect really cannot get any clearer. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. (Romans 10:10 NRSV)

It seems clear to me in this verse that the heart, the right brain faculties of our being, must take the lead in our relationship with God. As our heart engages with the heart of God and we respond with a warming heart to the beauty and loveliness of God, then our left brain faculties can honestly connect and affirm through verbal expression what is going on at the heart level. This is called a testimony or confession. As this sequence takes place in the proper order the results are the evidence of the healing power of God in our lives, both emotionally and intellectually.

But anytime we try to reverse this process and attempt to achieve righteousness through the leading of our intellect without allowing our heart to take the lead we will find ourselves quickly being sucked back into the whirlpool of legalism, which is trying to achieve righteousness by focusing on formulas, rules and externals. That is like trying to craft a perfect testimony for a witness that uses all the right words and sounds most convincing but fails to have the first-hand experiential knowledge that is prerequisite for valid testimony.

True religion, what I prefer to call spirituality due to the vast distortions of the word “religion” today, is always of the heart, not a mind dominant exercise. I realize that this idea creates a great deal of controversy today, but then it always has. One of the most subtle aspects of sin is that it has deceived us into thinking that somehow we can figure this “righteousness” thing out with a little help from our Friend. But God says that unless you come to Him in the way we are designed and wired to function from creation, with our heart, we will always fail at forming a real saving relationship with Him. For He is not interested so much in what we know about truth but in how willing we are to allow Him into our deeper areas that are only accessed through our right brain and emotions.

Does that mean that what we believe intellectually makes no difference as I am sure some will accuse me of saying? No, that is not the point I am stressing, but for different reasons than what may first appear. The “facts” and doctrines that we fill our left brains with certainly have an effect on the directions that our heart moves. If we fill our minds with lies about God they will certainly affect our desires to get to know Him better negatively. Intellectual truth is important, but only because it is the raw material that is needed for the right brain to better use in its journey toward intimacy with God. It is the myriads of lies about God both intellectually and emotionally that keep us in confusion and doubt as to God's loving intentions toward us. But just pumping our minds (left brains) full of correct facts will not motivate the heart to change its opinions about God when the much deeper problem is the remaining lies that lay unseen and buried deep in our hearts and experiential memories that are completely unaccessible to our left brain logical abilities.

Salvation is much more a relation of the heart than it is a learning of didactic truths in the brain. I believe that an honest reading of this passage of Romans will make that more clear. Paul states in verses 9 and 10 that two distinct things are taking place which I see as parallel to the two sides of our being or brain. “Confessing” with our mouth requires a left brain function, for speech is supported from the left side of our brain. But believing, real believing at a deeper level than just acknowledgment of facts, requires a response of the heart or right brain that operates very differently than the left brain. But what I find very interesting here is that Paul states that righteousness proceeds from this kind of belief – a faith that can only be found in the response at the heart level to exposure to the beauty of God as revealed in the presence of Jesus.

For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." (Romans 10:11)

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