Random Blog Clay Feet: December 13, 2007
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Two Options of Righteousness

As I look again at Romans 10 I see something interesting about righteousness. Apparently there are two ways of arriving at the same thing; two different options of how to be righteous but not two different kinds of righteousness. For I do not believe that Paul is saying here that there can be more than one real concept called righteousness.

I am again forced to go back and revisit the confusing issue of trying to define this word that has been pretty much a mystery to me all of my life. Not that there is any shortage of offered definitions floating around in the world. But I am looking for the real definition that not only makes sense logically but fits perfectly into the heart as well as the mind.

For starters I just looked up the word from its Greek origin and here is part of what I found. Righteousness means equitable (in character or act); by implication, innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively): – just. So from this explanation this word can obviously have very broad application both to internal qualities of a living being and the way this being expresses those inner qualities in their actions and interactions with others. Their character and actio

ns both will be fair (that's what I take equitable to mean) and just, which is pretty much the same concept. They will also be innocent, which means they are free of both evil motives and evil actions. They are also holy which means totally dedicated to something or someone (see some of these terms on my growing list of definitions).

The Bible says that only God is holy. And it also teaches that really only God is righteous and that all real righteousness comes from Him. That creates a very interesting situation for unpacking these verses in Romans 10:5-13 regarding righteousness.

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. (Romans 10:5)

What I see in this verse is the strong implication that real righteousness is not only a description of qualities and a condition but is also a source of life itself. Somehow righteousness is a description of what brains are pre-hardwired to look for to get life.

Just like a newborn baby intuitively knows how to look for a mother's breast to receive life and nourishment to thrive, I believe humans are designed to hunger and look for something call righteousness from which to receive life and nourishment to stay alive and thrive.

In that case, going about to establish our own righteousness is like a baby trying to suck on a toy or anything else that feels like it might be a source of nourishment but is not the real thing. Worse yet, it is trying to create the source of nourishment by looking to one's own self as the source from which to draw nourishment. It is like insisting on only sucking your thumb to receive all the nourishment you need for life. It becomes quickly obvious that for a being to look to itself as the source of life for very long will only result in sucking the life out of themselves, for nothing can depend on its own life to be the source of its own life. Only God can depend on Himself to be a source of energy and life because God is the only self-existent one. He is the one and only source of life for everything else that exists.

When viewed in this perspective, what this verse is really saying is that if someone decides that they are going to be righteous based on a description of what righteousness looks like – the Law – then they are going to have to depend on a self-generated perfect conformity in every detail to what God is like as well as be a self-existent source of life for themselves, for that is the real meaning of righteousness viewed through the Law. They are entering the role of being God themselves and are depending on themselves and their performance as their source of life.

But just as it is an impossibility in the physical world for a baby to nourish itself and thrive by drawing life from its own body, so also is this an impossibility in the realm of righteousness as well. What is really taking place here is that anyone attempting to be righteous by perfectly keeping the Law is actually setting themselves up as their own god, their source of life. They come to worship themselves and their own works, knowledge and performance and depend on their own achievements and appearances to be the source and reason why they should be able to live forever.

So, since this is an absurd impossibility, what is the real way to get life so that we can thrive and receive the life (righteousness) that we need? The answer comes in the next few verses that

present once again the message of salvation that is the reason the whole Bible is given to us. Real righteousness – the real way to get the life we must have – is by aligning ourself in proper relationship with the one and only Source of life, the only righteous One in the universe.

It involves using the equipment that we have been given in the proper way and connecting it to the proper source, just like a newborn must use the mouth and all its other organs it was born with to connect with the breast and life-giving milk that is provided for it from an outside person that is mature and much greater than the child.

The healthy newborn baby has instinctively a measure of faith that the mother's breast will provide what it needs and desires. Otherwise, it would not even try to suckle and drink and rest in its mother's love. Just so, we have to exercise the measure of faith that each one of us possesses and respond to the loving care of our Creator and draw life from Him using the equipment He has given us. And the primary equipment that we are given with which to receive life from God is our heart, that deepest sense of our being that is largely located physically, I believe, in the right brain.

It is with our heart and emotions that we successfully connect with the current of life streaming from the heart of God. It must be with our heart, not just our intellect, that we believe at a much deeper level in the goodness and loving-kindness of God to provide what we need and crave, just like a baby trusts its mother implicitly to provide all of its needs and desires while drinking her milk from directly over her heart. This even gives an interesting new meaning to Paul's statement that the word of faith is near you, not far away, but is already in your mouth and in your heart. You already have the equipment you need for nourishment, you just have to use it in the proper relationship with the only Source of life and nourishment.

So what is that proper relationship? Verses 9-11 makes it very clear. We have to relate to Jesus as our Lord, the one who is bigger than us in every way, our Mother/Father God and who is mature and has the capacity to give us what we need. We use our mouth to acknowledge our proper relationship to Him that our heart cries out for. That is the part that our left brain resists doing in its pride and independence and must be surrendered in humility.

Secondly, our right brain that is so full of fear and doubt and overwhelmed with pain and the shadows of death must choose to believe that God is a reliable source of life and healing for anything associated with pain and death. Through the demonstration of the power seen in the resurrection of Christ from the grave after He suffered more pain and results of sin than any being will ever experience, we are given the evidence of God's ability to bring life and hope into any place filled with the tinges of death. There is no heart so full of pain and fear and death that it cannot be brought to life if it is willing to open itself to receive that healing and life.

But just like a baby cannot be forced to drink, so too God will not force our hearts to receive the life that He so desires to give to us. Real love demands complete freedom of choice, and God is only interested in a relationship of love with all of His created beings. Forced obedience is an invention of the devil, and God will not accept any such pollution into the environment of heaven. Real obedience is a natural response from hearts that believe the truth about how God feels about them and receives the love that He pours into them. When a person believes with the heart, the spontaneous result is righteousness.

But this righteousness is not something created by the person any more than the growth and health of a baby is something it somehow generated on its own by drawing life from itself. Life is imparted only in relationships, and real righteousness is like the milk that imparts life to our thirsty hearts. When we connect our empty, hungry hearts to the heart of our loving Parent in heaven and open our mouth to receive it, we will begin to experience the inflow of life and the natural effects of vitality and growth that spring from that life.

For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed." (Romans 10:11)

So, this all sounds good on paper and in theory, and I believe that it is important to understand the theory to some extent. But what does it look like in real life? How do I, in practical, everyday life go about connecting my heart with the heart of God? How to I link up with Him/Her to drink the living water/milk that is waiting to nourish my soul?

Well, to offer a pat, simplistic answer to that question would be an insult to the depth of it and the nature of the answer. Issues of the heart are very difficult to translate into words at times but must necessarily be attempted anyway for communications sake. I will simply say that it is the journey that I am on to find that answer for myself experimentally. I am in process myself of trying to learn what it means to live from my heart, to receive the healing and nourishment at the heart level that I desperately need to be restored to wholeness and to enjoy the satisfaction that does not disappoint.

I invite you to join those who are choosing to explore this life of connecting to the only Source of righteousness. There are many who are discovering the joy of receiving the same attentions from God as a baby receives from its mother. (see Isaiah 66:9-14) I believe that the real way to prepare for end time events is to learn experientially what it means to live in intimate connection with God's heart and thrive with the nourishment of joy and peace that He has to feed our heart. Preparation for the end of the world is not found in memorizing proof-texts or steeling the mind against false doctrines (which usually also means hardening the heart), but it is in becoming real, getting totally honest about the real pain and emptiness of our heart and living with a vital, dynamic connection to the heart of our Savior.

I am learning very slowly how to exercise my heart a little more each day. I sometimes have to refrain from writing or even thinking so much to allow room for my heart to do whatever it is that it does in the presence of God. I cannot cognitively understand how my heart operates but I am learning that it needs to function much more freely than I have ever allowed it to before. So in the safety of the grace of God and trusting in God to finish the work He has started within me, I am exploring what it means to know about God's righteousness (Romans 10:3).

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