Random Blog Clay Feet: November 29, 2008
Feel free to leave your own comments or questions. If you would like to be in contact with me without having it published let me know in your comment and leave your email address and I will not publish that comment.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Discomfort with Judgment

I was sitting in church pondering some of the issues that were being discussed and/or avoided and I began to think again about the relationship of judgment to other things in life. For instance, why is it that the closer one gets to really knowing God the more uncomfortable one can become? After all, one of the main reasons many of us try to know God to start with is to find relief from much of our pain, both physical and emotional. And yet when we truly come to God with our hearts finally starting to open to receive love for maybe the first time in our life, we find that coming into His presence stirs up old issues that cause us to squirm and duck and try to avoid what we are being convicted of that we don't want to face.

But as I thought about this it started to make much more sense to me. After all, God is really the most powerful judge in the whole universe, and we expect to come close to Him without facing judgment? Come on, get real! You can't expect to cozy up to One who's very identity is that of Judge while expecting to avoid judgment can you?

So in that respect it should be no surprise at all that when we start to get serious about knowing God that we will begin to feel the effects of true judgment in our lives. So how should we relate to this? Try to manipulate the Judge? Try to bribe Him with good works and lots of praise and worship? Try to remake Him into our image as one who is so lenient and loving and full of grace that He will overlook our mistakes and secret sins? Just how are we to get intimately close to the great Judge Himself? How do we deal with the natural reaction of fear when coming into the presence of judgment?

I am coming to understand that much of our problem with being afraid of judgment and true judges is that we have such a contorted view of what this really means. What I have been learning through careful study and observation is that the word judge and its related words like judgment and judging are in actuality simply talking about exposure of what is real and what is hidden on the inside.

Because so much of what we call judging in this world is a perversion of true judgment, we have come to be afraid of the idea of facing the final day of judgment before the throne of God. I am not saying there is not great reason for being quite concerned to be ready to face the judgment. But I am saying that our concern should be for possibly different reasons than what we have usually assumed.

Counterfeit judging usually involves arbitrary decisions based on arbitrary and often fickle rules and laws that are often conflicting and even unjust. Judges have come to be known for their unfairness and selfish interests in many of their decisions and millions are possibly imprisoned right now, not because they are guilty of any real crime but because prosecutors, lawyers and judges have colluded to find someone to blame to take the heat off of their own unjust system of political power sharing.

Earthly judging also almost always involves imposing shame on others, whether it is imposed by a court of law or whether it is the judging that we typically do to each other in the normal course of our day. In addition, nearly all of the news that we hear from the media is skewed to create assumptions of judgment even before we have heard all the facts. We are being trained by our culture in constantly judging others while at the same time desperately trying to avoid being judged ourselves. As a result of this mindset that is so widely pervasive we have assumed that God acts pretty much the same way we do, handing out arbitrary decisions and imposing them on the guilty with force that cannot be questioned.

But is this really how God relates to the children that He loves so tenderly? Is God the Judge different than God our Father? Do we find ourselves wishing that God would judge others harshly who are hurting and oppressing us but want Him to extend extra grace to us and our kind? Are we so bent on insisting that God is just the way we insist that He must be that we cannot see the real truth about how He feels about us or what is involved in real judgment?

I am becoming much more aware that real judgment really means open exposure of what is inside the heart, what the true motives are that cause us to do and say the things that others see on the outside. If what is truly on the inside is less than honest or honorable or moral, then we likely have very good reason to fear true judgment, for real judgment simply exposes for everyone to see clearly what we have been desperately trying to hide from them for so many years. And it is inevitable that as a person comes closer to the real God (not the God that religion has created in the image of the world's system) who is also the real judge that the person themselves will necessarily begin to experience the exposure of what is deep inside. This is only natural, for as John clearly explained in his gospel, the closer we get to the light the more clearly will our faults be exposed.

So what is the result of this unavoidable consequence of coming closer to God? What is becoming more clear to me is that an unwillingness to face exposure in our life, to face truthfully the inner faults, sins and corruption that lies deep within every one of our hearts, actually blocks us from knowing the real truth about God. For it is absolutely impossible for anyone to really become close friends with the real Judge without being willing to experience the exposure that is the essence of that presence itself.

I also believe that resistance to true judgment in the authentic presence of God is part of the foundation of all false and counterfeit religions in this world. Resistance to real judgment also is the root of many of the popular lies about God that so permeates much of our thinking and assumptions about Him. We suppose that we want to get close to God so we can feel better, but at the same time we resist the personal exposure that always accompanies coming into His presence. But knowing God for real and avoiding exposure is attempting an impossibility. The only way this is ever going to happen is if we substitute alternate, deceptive ideas about what God is like for the real truths about Him. And that is what happens most of the time in religious circles.

What are my gut-level immediate feelings whenever I hear about the great day of judgment? Am I afraid? Terrified? Intimidated? Motivated to strive harder to be a “good” person (whatever that means)?

One thing I am perceiving is that our initial reaction and feelings that we have at the gut-level whenever we seriously think about judgment reveals the truth about how we really feel about God too. For since God is in charge of the judgment and is indeed the Judge Himself, the judgment is going to reflect His own character and personality in how it is conducted.

Whatever people may think about judgment, the reality is that the secret thoughts and motives of every single thinking individual who has ever lived will be fully exposed for all to see plainly. But real judgment does not just take place at one time far off in the future. Those who choose to get close to the Judge today and accept His offer of salvation and intimacy with Him will have to be willing to seriously enter into judgment beginning right now. And this exposing of the secret things of the heart and life will continue to intensify and become more and more explicit the closer we get to maturity.

One thing I have observed is that God usually, if not always, starts at the individual level and brings conviction to the heart in an attempt to expose what needs to be dealt with and resolved with them alone before ever moving on to more public exposure. God is very kind and faithful and respectful of our feelings and freedoms. He wants us become honest with Him and with ourselves and to release our sins to Him that He exposes in private judgment with Him. If we are willing to cooperate with Him at this level we will be able to find the freedom and peace and integrity that He is eager to place in our hearts to avoid the public embarrassment of open judgment.

But if we resist His quiet convictions and refuse His offers of repentance, but instead deny our faults and problems, we force Him to become more and more public with the circumstances that bring exposure to what is hiding within. All through this process of personal judgment and exposure we have opportunity to accept repentance from Him and in humility confess the truth about what He is revealing to us about ourselves. As long as our heart is not totally seared from over-resistance to His Spirit we have opportunity to come into alignment with His will and His ways through His grace.

But there is also coming a day when everyone and everything will converge together to finally expose, not only the real truths about what is in each heart whether honest or deceitful, but will also be a surprising revelation or exposure of what is in the heart of God Himself. The great day of judgment – which really means the great day of exposure or revelation – is when every heart, motive and thought, both human, angelic and divine, will be laid out in full view for all the universe to finally judge according to the built-in principles of reality that are hard-wired into every living, conscious mind.

Am I still afraid of the judgment? Am I still afraid of God? Am I still afraid of others seeing what goes on inside my secret thoughts and imaginations? If I am aware of any of these fears, I am not to run away from them and the convictions of the Spirit, but my real hope is to acknowledge those fears as symptoms of things that have yet to be judged and resolved so that I have no fear of them coming out in the final judgment when it will be too late to have them removed from my character.

For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. (John 3:20-21)

Jealousy or Joy

Those God places around me are quite often the ones who tend to trigger my faults and negative reactions the most easily. How I choose to respond to this situation determines whether or not I will grow spiritually, emotionally and socially.

The counterfeit system of religion that I am more familiar with than the true, generally causes me to try to avoid such uncomfortable interactions and to instead look for people who make me feel better about myself rather than trigger me. I don't think it is wrong or bad to have people around who want to encourage me or remind me of who I am in Christ; I think that is actually very important for all of us to have those people in our circle of friends. But the idea that I should be able to live outside the troubling atmosphere of those who more often trigger me than encourage me is a philosophy inherent in my old system of religion, not the real truth that I am now learning about how God intends to mature me.

I am trying to perceive my areas of blindness concerning this. I am praying for a different perspective, not only intellectually but far more importantly emotionally in the heart. I want to overcome my fears of those who can influence or control me with their ability to ignite my internal lies that anchor the handles by which I can be manipulated. I want to come into much closer alignment with God's way of thinking and feeling so that I will be the one exerting the stronger influence of attraction on behalf of Jesus instead of being the one operating under the influence of fear (OUI).

I want to be holy. That means that I want to be a person who's supreme desire is to exclusively draw attention to the beauties of God and His characteristics. I want to have the kind of influence on others that was seen in John the Baptist that caused Jesus to declare that "among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (Luke 7:28)

These words have always seemed like a riddle to me, and I still am puzzled by them yet today. But I know that a very strong clue as to their true meaning is rooted in the attitude that permeated the life and activities of John and that are most clearly seen in his own testimony about his lifework and his true identity.

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:29-30)

Those words about joy really resonate with a deep craving in my own heart. I so much desire to have a joy that is full and overflowing. It was this joy that was seen in the life of John that made him such a powerful and effective witness to attract people away from all the disappointing attractions offered by the world and to open their minds and hearts to consider heaven's offering in the Peace Child. Yes, I want to have the spirit of John the Baptist that gets excited about others getting excited about falling in love with Jesus and becoming His bride.

But another dark part of me is jealous and wants to play the role of the bride myself. And even worse, a dark part of me wants to steal away some of the affections of the bride from others to enjoy for myself instead of living to point others exclusively toward the only legitimate Bridegroom. This part of me rationalizes that there is plenty of love to go around and if people attach some of their affections onto me while I am sharing the beauty of Jesus with them there should not be much harm done. By indulging in this “flirtation” my own emptiness might be satisfied to some extent by enjoying a part of their affections while they should still have plenty left to connect their hearts to God as well.

But this kind of reasoning, no matter how subconscious or obscure it may try to remain, is another symptom of a deeply embedded lie in my soul that will betray both me and God's plans into the schemes of the enemy to undermine what God is accomplishing in the hearts of His children. This is where true holiness must be strictly understood and uncompromisingly obeyed. There can be no dividing of anyone's affections. Not only must my affections be totally surrendered to the Lover of my soul, my Savior and Redeemer, but likewise I must be just as jealous as John the Baptist was that the loyalty of every person coming to know Jesus is not diverted in the slightest by anything I may crave for my own heart. I must embrace fully the spirit of John the Baptist who lived his whole life to attract others exclusively to Jesus. John exhibited a complete and selfless commitment for the glory of Jesus. He must increase, but I must decrease.

To imagine that my joy could be made full by decreasing my importance in the eyes of others runs counter to everything that seems intuitive, but that is just the problem. Everything that feels intuitive almost always emanates from the flesh, and the flesh will always, always steer me in the wrong direction and give me answers that sometimes sound and feel correct but will in the end betray my heart.

Logic, reason and feelings tell me that to feel good about myself and to have joy I must cause others to like me, to want to be around me and to speak well of me. So I try to manipulate what people think about me through various means so that I can have as many people as possible affirming me, so that my fears and self-doubts can be reduced as much as possible. I naturally tend to try to use religion and religious activities to influence what others think about me so that they will maybe speak well of me sometimes and praise me for being such an upright, noble, true-hearted Christian.

It frightens me deeply to even give voice to these inner realities, for when they become exposed to the light of expression they also take on the darker shades of falsehood and hypocrisy that betray their true nature. To even acknowledge that these kinds of feelings and motives exist inside of me is shaming and causes me to want to deny them as really true. But to do that would be to once again hide from the very light of truth that is necessary if I am to ever to be free and experience the kind of full joy that John talked about.

I wish I could say that I have this all sorted out and have the answers neatly packed away and functioning in my heart. But that would not be true and would only be a denial of reality. I also wish that I could describe just how this condition is going to change, how from now on I am going to be completely transparent, honest, loving, unselfish and dedicated like John to drawing everyone around me into a passionate intimacy with Jesus while I am willing to stand by and watch them all pass me by and forget about me in the process.

I can say that I know I should be this kind of person. I do know that this is the true role that God wants me to fulfill. And I suspect that this is likely the only course that will lead me to that state of full joy that I so long to live in each day. But to say that this is what I am going to do and be from this point on would be the height of presumption – except for the catalyst of the presence of Jesus in my life that can accomplish the impossible in and through me.

As I look at my relationships with those around me, in my family and my church not to mention my almost total lack of any meaningful relationships with others in my community, I see very little evidence of the disposition described in these words from John the Baptist. No wonder my life has so little influence for God. But that is not to say that I am ready to just remain stuck in my impotence and fears. I cry out to God for deliverance from this evil man that controls me from within. I want to be transformed from the person described in Romans 7 to the joy-filled, Spirit-led life described in Romans 8. And all that I know to do to get there from here is to throw myself on the mercy and grace of God and trust Him to continue to guide and change and grow me.

God, I have such mixed motives down under the cover of looking good on the outside. Thank-you for exposing some of these to me this morning. I don't know how You are going to change me but I give You unconditional permission to do whatever it takes to transform my heart and mind and life into what You have in mind for me, even though saying that is very frightening. Continue to reveal more of Your glory to me and more of Your intense beauty. I want to be a clean, holy, passionate channel of Your glory to everyone who sees me just like John, Your friend was back when You started Your ministry on earth. Have Your way in me today. Fill me with Your humility, Your love, Your spirit of instant forgiveness, Your overwhelming kindness, Your grace for anyone who offends me today. Glorify Your name in my life and in the atmosphere around me today.