Random Blog Clay Feet: December 07, 2007
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Friday, December 07, 2007

Power in Humility

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)

This may seem like a stupid question, but what is the difference between God's righteousness and human righteousness? How many kinds of righteousness are there anyway? It looks to me like knowing the answer to the first question must be pretty important if we are interested in experiencing the salvation healing that we so desperately need. According to this verse at least part of entering that experience is subjecting ourselves to the righteousness of God. But how can we do that if we don't even know what it is? And what does it mean to subject yourself?

For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:10)

I can't help but think that real righteousness – the kind that is called God's righteousness – must be connected with the heart more than the other righteousness which is usually, if not always, nothing more than a poor imitation of heart-based righteousness fabricated by some other part of our makeup.

There are two basic parts of our brain made up of the left and the right sides. The significant differences between the two are that the left side is where our intellectual, externally-focused, more conscious part of our logical thinking takes place and the right side is where our emotions, feelings and deeper sense of identity lie. I find it significant that our right brain is hard-wired to our physical heart. In most of the references in the Bible to these two parts of our being, typically the left is referred to as our mind and the right is referred to as our heart.

Some people feel that making these distinctions is superfluous and unnecessary, that the Bibles references to mind and heart are talking about the same thing, but I don't believe that. While it may not be necessary to understand these differences clearly to be saved, I believe that the more we learn about how we function and how to relate to what is going on inside of our head the easier it will be for us to relate properly to God, to each other and even how to relate to much of what we see and feel going on inside ourselves. It also helps unpack much of what is given to us in Scripture by the One who designed us in the first place.

I have been seeking to learn and relate to these issues for several years now and the more I learn and try to put into practice what I am learning the clearer the Word of God is becoming to me. That is why it may seem to some that I am using certain assumptions or lenses through which to view the things I am studying. While it is important to lay aside many of our preconceived ideas when approaching the Word of God, everyone brings assumptions to their reading and studying of everything they look at – that is unavoidable. Assumptions are not always necessarily wrong. The real problem comes if we are unwilling to reexamine our assumptions when new “light” and insights become available.

I believe that using the left-right way of understanding our being, our brain processes, helps to get much deeper into the meanings of many things God is trying to reveal to us, both in the Word and through other means used by His Spirit. I believe that the malfunction caused by the entrance of sin into humanity was largely the imbalance and almost antagonistic relationship that we now observe between these two parts of our makeup. So it just makes sense that in the process of restoring us (salvation) to our original condition of mental and emotional balance that God is going to address this imbalance and guide us into ways by which we can be restored. That means “rehabilitating” the parts of our being that have been underused, repressed and marginalized while at the same time bringing under control and reigning in the parts that have become far too dominant and all-consuming of our attention.

The emphasis in this process will be different for each person. But in general it seems to me that organized religion has typically over-emphasized left-brain activities at the expense of right-brain heart work, at least in much of the religion that I am familiar with. Of course there are plenty of opportunities for people to become imbalanced the opposite direction by trying to satisfy their emotional cravings through all sorts of “feel-good” activities both religious and non-religious and ignoring the proper training of their intellect. Sin does not care which side is messed up – preferably both. But the process of salvation is God's means whereby both our minds and our hearts need to be healed of the deceptions and lies and distortions that sin has used to damage us.

I believe, given this context and mindset, that these verses in Romans are clear messages from God to us about restoring the proper balance that we need to have to come into right relationship, a saving relationship with God. This is the work that is described here as subjecting ourselves to the righteousness of God. (v. 3) I believe that the more we study and learn about the truth of God's righteousness the more we will see that His righteousness is all about characteristics of the heart and relationships. The externals, the behaviors and words and the way we relate to others, are really only symptomatic of the presence and identity of the true beliefs buried deep in our hearts.

It is in our heart that it is so easy to be deceived because we cannot easily see or measure the deceptions like we can in our cognitive areas of the brain. Our intellectual beliefs and doctrines mostly reside in our left brain. But our sense of identity, our feelings about our value largely reside in the mysterious recesses of our right brain. And while we may desperately wish it we not so, the beliefs we hold about ourselves and about God in our right brain, our heart, are the basis upon which most of our thinking and relating proceed from, especially our reactions to times of stress. While our profession of beliefs and correct doctrines may be emphatic and determined and well-informed by cognitive Biblical information, when it really comes down to a time of pressure it is the much deeper beliefs hidden in our right brain that determines our reactions to what we encounter from others.

This is why God is so urgent that we come to realize that it is the condition of our heart that determines whether we experience true righteousness or not. The things we have learned with our head may be all fine and correct and provable ad nasuem, but if we are not being renewed at the heart level on a continuous basis we will be caught by surprise when the times of testing come upon us. No amount of left brain “correct” information, memorization or self-discipline will replace the work needed to displace the deceptions buried all throughout our right brain and heart. And that work cannot be accomplished using left brain techniques that are so common in religion today.

In this passage I see clear indication of the need for our left brain in particular to be submitted, to humble itself under the higher authority of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And when we come to understand more clearly what that entails I think we will come to see that it means listening and relating to Jesus through the means of our heart as well as our intellect. When we insist that our intellectual beliefs and doctrines reinforced by our interpretations of Scripture are the standard of measurement for perceiving our condition in the eyes of God then we are failing to realize the true nature of the righteousness of God and are trying to establish our own righteousness. For God's righteousness is much more a condition of the heart than it is a description of externals.

When we come to realize that real righteousness is a state of the heart more than a set of cognitive beliefs, then we can begin to understand what it looks like to submit ourselves to the righteousness of God. It means getting our left brain-dominant thinking to submit to allowing the right brain to operate as God intends for it to do. That is where responsive faith is ignited in our soul as we engage our emotions and deeper senses of feeling and identity in our seeking of God's face. That is where we encourage the cultivation of our growing hunger for intimacy with His heart. Submitting to the righteousness of God not only involves getting correct information into our minds but involves coming into a realization of our true heart-beliefs that are distortions of truth implanted in us by the enemy of souls. As the light of God's presence at the heart level shines into our memories and exposes the lies embedded there we have opportunity to receive experiential truth into our heart that is transformational. These are not intellectual lies that can be changed by updating our minds with correct information but are heart-based lies that cannot be changed except by the presence of a real Saviour.

In essence, what I am seeing here in Romans 10 is God telling me that my left brain religion needs to come under submission to the heart-based authority (Lordship) of Jesus Christ (reigned in) and my right brain needs to be raised up to embrace the truth of God's power to bring life into places of death just like He did for Jesus. The death-producing lies about myself and about God that lie hidden in my right brain, particularly in my early memories that still produce dysfunction whenever triggered by outside stimuli, must be exposed to the life-giving presence and power of the gospel, the good news and be replaced by truth that only God can bring into those memories. As I cooperate with God in this process and begin to experience freedom from those deepest lies that continue to cause me to react to provocations, I will discover to my amazement that what used to be sources of fear and pain and death to me no longer hold their power of influence over me. My triggers will become inoperable and I will be filled with the peace of God which passes all understanding, all cognitive explanation.

This is the work of faith, which is simply the reaction of growing belief in the power of God to bring life into places of death. As I receive heart-truth into the painful areas of my right brain that harbor lie-based beliefs that drive my dysfunctions, I will experience more and more the resurrection power that brought Jesus up from the dead. It is that very same power that brings life into my own heart which in turn produces the true fruit of righteousness. This is the real righteousness that God intends to produce in all of His children who choose to cease trying to establish their own righteousness by religious information and activities. This is faith-based righteousness that causes a person to thrive as they live more openly from a heart being transformed by the renewing of their mind.

What does it mean to believe? It means believing the truth about our value to God at the heart level. It means believing that the Lord we submit to abounds in richness for all who call on Him. (v.12) It means that our hearts are warmed with the love of God that causes us to become overwhelming conquerers through Him who loved us. (8:37-39) Faith/belief at the heart level is a natural response to the faith and belief that we discover God has in us. He was so confident in our response of accepting His love that He demonstrated it by allowing us to kill His only Son with our sins.

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

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