Random Blog Clay Feet: December 16, 2007
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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Heart Gospel

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:13-15 NRSV)

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

I see here another strong indicator of the need for anyone trying to share the gospel with others to be actively living with their own heart open before God, not just focused on giving out information. First of all, I think it is extremely important that they comprehend the true heart-nature of the gospel message and are actively engaged in the work of transformation in their own heart. This is not something that can be substituted in any way with more head knowledge or even being able to say all the right words and believe the right facts about the importance of the heart. It has to be a work that makes their own heart open, honest and the motivator of their own life in submission to the Holy Spirit. They need to be aware of the kind of spirit that is in them at all times and need to know how to do heart work with other people.

Jesus is the perfect example of a heart worker. He was always very careful to pay much more attention to the signals of people's hearts than He was listening to their words. He always worked with the utmost gentleness and unselfish love and was not focused on spreading doctrinal truth as much as enticing hearts into a trusting, loving relationship by revealing a new picture of God. Most evangelism today is focused on presenting facts and trying to push people into changing their intellectual beliefs about certain doctrines. Others focus on having an emotional high in a church environment and then draw people into coming back to repeatably receive an emotional fix several times a week. But none of these constitute the real gospel that Jesus came to announce.

Paul is making it more clear here that the gospel is an issue that is primarily dealing with heart problems and must be always focused on the heart more than the intellect alone. But for people with hurting, broken hearts that do not know the truth about how God really feels about them, there needs to come a revelation at the heart level of the real God that can be trusted to respect, care for and heal their heart. When they realize that such a God really exists and is not the angry God that has been foisted on them in the past; that God is not like their dysfunctional parents or religious leaders or anyone else who has used and abused them, then they will be more in a position to respond with real faith.

Paul says here that there is a sequence that has to take place. For a person's heart to respond to a loving Father and give Him permission to launch His remedial work in their life by calling on Him, they have to first grasp a sense of the trustworthiness of that God before they can invite Him into their heart and believe that He has their best interest in mind. For them to be able to come to that place of heart-understanding and belief they must hear about this trustworthy God, especially at the heart level which is where their belief must originate to be effective. For them to hear the real truth about this loving, empowering, healing God there must be a person who not only knows this truth but must convey it in such a way as to reach the hearts of people more than just conveying information to their minds. And for such a presenter to be able to live from his heart and be able to be effective without losing perspective or becoming burned out, that person must be connected very intimately at the heart level with a group of “senders” who not only hold that person accountable to stay open at the heart level but are there for the “preacher” of good heart news to support, encourage and inspire as well as share the heartaches and pain that will inevitably be a part of that person's ministry. They will be there as a reliable support team to minister to his heart and keep his heart open and on track in his own healing journey.

But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:16-17 NRSV)

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Safe to Save

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13 NRSV)

I would like to address a little more the false idea that if someone just says some words, even with strong emotion, that they confess Jesus as Lord of their life and call upon His name that somehow God has now been obligated to “save” them no matter what choices they make after that point. That is completely contradictory to God's respect for their freedom of choice.

A person has the right to choose to be lost after they have called upon the name of the Lord and have been saved. Because being saved is not so much about going to heaven as it is entering the process of healing and restoration that God wants to effect in our lives. If a person decides that that process is too painful and they are unwilling to learn endurance through the testing of their faith (James 1:2-4), they are free to withdraw from that process and go a different direction with their life. God will do everything possible to attract them back to Himself but He will not employ force to coerce them into compliance with His will. He will also not endanger the purity of heaven by taking them into paradise where their unwillingness to cooperate will reinfect the universe with the poison of sin.

Some people believe that at the moment we are taken to heaven that God does something miraculous in our brain that will cause us to suddenly not desire to sin anymore. Some believe that sin in our heart would go away if there were no more outside stimulus to cause our sinful reactions so if we can just somehow get into heaven then we will no longer have a sin problem.

But this kind of thinking misses a great deal of understanding of what sin really is and how our own minds and hearts operate. The first belief embraces a view of God who is willing to violate our free choice in favor of ending the problem of sin. But violating anyone's freedom to choose is to rob them of the ability to truly love. And God simply is not going to settle for imitation love. If He was willing to do that He could have ended this whole experiment long ago. He will only receive into His dwelling those who have freely chosen to give themselves totally into His heart of love and be molded into His image by any means necessary short of violating their will.

The second belief falls into the trap of thinking that most, if not all of our problems are simply a result of others or outside circumstances and we are not responsible for our own reactions. That is denial, failing to take ownership of our own stuff. And placing us into a perfect environment will not cure the deceitfulness and sin of our own heart. The sin problem is a lot deeper that others causing us to react negatively. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (James 1:14-15) Sin at its root is really selfishness.

When a person “calls upon the name of the Lord” in a public or even private setting without a corresponding, deep heart change inspired by a new perception of God at the heart level, then we cannot expect God to force us into the process of salvation. For it is with our heart that we must believe, much more than with out intellect. Our intellect must cooperate with this process, but it cannot preempt it or replace the transformation that must take place in the heart.

God desires only service motivated by love. And for love to be genuine it must be totally free and uncoerced. Freedom means that I am always free to not love, or else love is not really love. Only those who are willing to be transformed by the renewing of their mind into the image of God will be safe to save in God's kingdom. Our love for God must always be based on the natural response to perceiving His intense love for us. And this must be perceived with the heart, for it is the heart that knows how to really love with passion and satisfaction. By beholding we become changed.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV)

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