Random Blog Clay Feet: December 15, 2007
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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Refiners Fire for Salvation

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."

(Romans 10:9-13)

I looked up the reference in the Old Testament which Paul quoted here at the end of this passage to see what the context was for this statement. I am aware that many like to lift this phrase out of context and jump to a conclusion that if one simply says certain words with their mouth that claim to be calling on the name of the Lord, then they become irrevocably “saved”, which in their interpretation means that they are now guaranteed a place in heaven no matter what else they do. That kind of teaching is not supported by the Bible when it is allowed to speak for itself and I do not believe it for a minute. People try to claim that this is the definition of assurance. In reality, it is making humans think they have power to manipulate the Almighty. However, I am very interested in finding out just what real truth Paul was trying to express in this passage. Here is more of the context of this reference that is found in Joel.

"It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32)

While the Spirit may be poured out on all flesh or humanity, that does not mean that everyone will receive it. In James we are told that anyone who is double-minded does not have a working receiver capable of receiving from the Lord. In that case, even though the Spirit may be waiting and available, if we have not participated and cooperated in the work of purifying our faith through trials then we will not be equipped to receive and be empowered by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:2-8 NRSV)

First I would like to note that given the context of both Romans 10 and Joel 2 it seems quite clear that the emphasis being made here is on God bypassing all the human differences that too often seem so important to us. That seems to be the main point that is being made in both of these passages. Whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered. Paul refers to the prejudice that was felt between Jews and Greeks (or Gentiles) that he had previously addressed in chapter 2, For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:11), but Joel takes it much further and refers to the comparisons or distinctions of parent and child, old and young and even class distinctions of servants and masters.

This seems to be one of the most difficult things for the church in all ages to accept. Peter expressed it when he was confronted with the wrongness of his own prejudice by saying, "I see, beyond all doubt," he said, "that 'God does not show partiality,' But that in every nation he who reverences him and does what is right is acceptable to him." (Acts 10:34-35 TCNT)

I think it becomes more clear in these two passages that God has no use for the distinctions we seem to put so much value in between humans beings in various situations or even sexes. When God comes to relate to a person's heart there is not the slightest difference from His perspective between one human being and another. God's desire and passion is to connect every single heart to His own with intimate ties of love and affection in a covenant relationship that is permanent and secure. He is also eager to bond together the hearts of everyone who is thus being brought into relationship with Him by connecting them with each other in bonds of love and unity. And for that to take place we all have to be divested of our prejudices and artificial distinctions and false ideas about each other and God that prevent us from entering into the unity that God is bringing about in His family.

Secondly I would like to look a little more at the issue of those who may outwardly claim to call on the name of the Lord but who yet cannot be brought into paradise. I know this may make some people bristle, but it is still true. Jesus said Himself, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21) Did these people “call upon the name of the Lord”? Apparently they did, but yet Jesus says they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So what gives here?

I think a very important key is found in James in the context of the other verses we have looked at here. And I also think Paul has been developing this truth all throughout the book of Romans up to this point. Just because people make a profession of serving God and do any amount of religious activities and make all sorts of religious claims about believing in God does not mean that they will be found in heaven. The Jews experience has made that abundantly clear and Paul is addressing that very issue throughout the book of Romans.

The problem is still very much the same today. There are millions who are resting in the false hope that because they repeated some kind of religious words like a mantra and then believe that they are predestined and guaranteed a place in the kingdom of heaven. The Jews lived under a similar delusion but it did not prevent them from killing God Himself in the flesh. Paul is making it very clear in the previous verses that confessing with the mouth alone (a left brain based religious experience) is not enough to get one aligned properly with God and enter His kingdom. There must be a heart transformation that takes place that coincides with the confession that is then made by the mouth. The heart-based beliefs must be purified by exposure in the fires of trial, acknowledged and released so that the truth of God believed at the heart level (faith) can become more and more pure. As the lies about God embedded in the heart are exposed and replaced with the presence of the Holy Spirit that brings in truth, spontaneous faith and love is the natural result. Then the confession of the mouth that Jesus is our Lord is actually a statement of truth, not just a rhetorical recitation of some “magic words” that supposedly force God to guarantee us a place in paradise.

God is not in the business of making us jump through hidden hoops or perform certain gimmicks so that we can go to heaven. God's desire is to enter into the most intimate of relationships with every person who is willing, in the total freedom of their own choice without any coercion or force from the outside against their will, to enter into an intelligent covenant relationship with Him by sacrifice of themselves. "Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice." (Psalms 50:5 NIV)

Paul made this very same point later in Romans 12. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

This transformation is the very same thing that happens when metal is transformed from a state of ore to the beauty and strength of purity in the smelting process. But God does not force anyone to cooperate with this process. We will all have the heat of trials come into our lives, but the choices we make as to how we respond to that heat makes all the difference as to whether we end up with a purified faith that is bonded to the heart of God or we retain our impurities and have to be discarded with the slag.

Salvation is the plan and process whereby anyone may be purified and prepared for the pure heat of God's glory in His presence. But it is always our own free choice that determines whether or not that process is successful in our hearts. This purification is a heart work much more than it is a collection of true information stored in the intellect. It is very painful work and most people sadly are unwilling to participate in this work. They are eager to trust in their theories and formulas, their assurance that they have the right doctrines or know more “truth” than others. But just like the Jews who also had “all the truth” in their religion, if we do not allow the refiners fire to expose the right brain experiential lie-based beliefs that cause our emotions to betray our professions of piety and receive the healing needed to replace those false ideas, then we will find ourselves arguing with Jesus in the judgment as to why we are found on the wrong side of the gates.

What is this process? How does God refine our faith so that it is more pure and effective?

In short, we need to realize our true condition and how our left and right brain process and store things radically differently. Our memories and experience make up all of what we are inside and determine how we relate to any circumstance or relationship that we currently meet. However, the memories of the very same events from our past are stored in both sides of our brain but in very different ways. Our left brain stores facts and concrete information and data about an event whereas our right brain remembers the feelings, emotions and deductions that we made about the event stored as pictures, feelings and how it made us feel about our value.

Quite often, but usually unknown to us cognitively, the conclusions that we have about an early event in our life are contradictory between our intellectual memory and our emotional memory. But it is events from our past, especially those formed very early in our life in our formative years, that today make up most of how we perceive and react to life. When we have a negative emotional reaction to what someone says to us or an unfair circumstance, the real source of the emotion has very little to do with the current event even though it feels very much like it does. When we are honest enough to face that emotion, instead of suppressing or ignoring or running away from it; if we are willing to disconnect it temporarily from the current circumstance, then we are capable of allowing its original root memory to come back into consciousness and we are very close to discovering the belief that is driving our current experience of this emotion.

Within every root memory there is an intense belief about ourself and/or God that became the basis by which we always relate to any new stimulus that is somewhat similar in nature to the original memory. If that core belief (which has very little to do with a cognitive belief which is on the other side of the brain) is false, and it very often is, then when we are triggered by a current circumstance, comment or other situation that stimulates that memory we will experience an immediate emotional reaction that is always based accurately on the belief that is held in our heart.

Again, I am not talking about intellectual, cognitive beliefs held my our mind on the left side that are much easier to identify and relate to. I am talking about experiential beliefs that lie deeply buried in our right brain emotional history that are far out of reach of our left brain capabilities to access. And even when we do become consciously aware of these emotional beliefs with our left brain it is still unable to change them because the left brain has no equipment to make alterations in the right brain beliefs. It can only make changes in the left brain, fact-oriented memory files that are parallel to the right ones which do not change what we really believe. For what really drives our life is the beliefs that are hidden in our heart and that will drive our responses to outside stimuli's when triggered.

Unfortunately, most religions have tried to create all sorts of gimmicks and formulas to deal with this problem, but always unsuccessful in dealing with the root problem. We may be able to create convincing masks that make us appear to be healed, but if the root beliefs are not allowed to be exposed and brought to the open and dealt with in ways that are truly effective, then we can never really believe the truth with a pure heart. It is only through the process of refinement talked about in James and in other places in Scripture that we will ever successfully be prepared and purified for the intensity of fire that is found in the presence of God.

So how does this process work correctly? How can we come to count it all “joy” when we encounter various trials that turn up the heat of the refiners fire?

When we are triggered emotionally, we are really entering into a wonderful opportunity to access a belief, often hidden, rooted in a memory that cannot be accessed in any other way. The negative emotions are fueled by the heat caused by the resistance produced by a lie-based belief. Our emotions can always be trusted. I know this sounds almost heretical to some, but it is nevertheless true. I am not saying that our emotions are guidelines to show us how to act or react to any given situation. But our emotions are always completely reliable to reveal to us a belief that is held deep within our heart, our right brain memories, that is the foundation and springboard for that emotion appearing in that kind of circumstance.

Whenever we experience this emotion it is really an invitation from God to allow Him access to our heart to do a healing, transformational work that will further purify our heart if we are willing to not avoid it or run away or suppress it. He will not force us to cooperate, but if we are willing to be completely honest and go into that emotion and trace it back to its root in our heart, then God is faithful and just to expose the false belief that we have so long believed to be true and will speak healing truth and peace into that root memory that will bring instant healing and wholeness to that part of our heart. From then on, anytime we encounter an event that would normally trigger that negative emotion, we will find to our amazement that in the place of that disruptive, destructive emotion and pain we will only experience the peace of Christ. This is the work of purification that God eagerly wants to work in each of our hearts.

If we choose any other option to avoid exposure when faced with these emotions, then we will pass up the opportunity to receive the necessary healing that God wants to work in us and will be forced to repeat the problem again and again until we are willing to own our feelings and beliefs or we have hardened our heart beyond repair. All of us have many, many lie-based beliefs buried in our hearts that need to experience the transformation of healing that God is ready to do for us. But the choice is always ours as to whether we will take ownership of our “stuff” or we will go into denial, avoidance or blame.

As stated in James 1, God is faithful to give us the all the wisdom we need generously whenever we get our “receiver” synchronized with the convicting Spirit of God by facing and owning the symptomatic feelings that warn us of underlying problems of the heart. That is what the word “confession” simply means – agreeing with God. If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord... Whenever we make that choice, we will experience the inflowing power of the peace that passes all understanding, peace that is unexplainable by the left brain logic. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 NIV)

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