Method over Content
I quickly jotted down some key thoughts this morning to capture them before I go back to flush them out more thoroughly. That sometimes makes for disjointed flow in my writing but it does help me to avoid forgetting key elements that are coming to my attention.
I have been thinking about some of the problems we run into as we try to share with others the amazing truths about God that some of us have embraced as of late. It began to dawn on me that some of the resistance that we encounter from others is often due more to the methods which we sometimes use to spread this gospel rather than the truth of what we are sharing in and of itself. We need to better utilize the cause and effect principle as opposed to arbitrary pronouncements to lead others to arrive at correct, life-giving conclusions. Too often we try to start by imposing our conclusions and then trying to prove them with the supporting information.
When we begin with a conclusion and then attempt to support it, we are inadvertently using methods from the counterfeit system and attempting to make the natural system of growth work backwards.But that is what produces dogmatic views and naturally produces resistance and argument in many minds. The human heart and mind naturally resists accepting conclusions before evidence because such an approach denies the freedom needed for the mind to arrive at its own conclusions. This method is disrespectful and violates the principle of freedom that God so fiercely protects for all of His children.
While arriving at right and healthy conclusions is vital for moving ahead in personal growth, it is counterproductive to impose our conclusion first for these very reasons. It is right to confess our own conclusions and to explain how we discovered them; but that is vastly different than pressuring others to accept our conclusions without first equipping them with knowledge and helping them to learn proper methods for evaluating competing ideas and concepts. We must allow others the same freedom and show them the same respect that we ourselves require in order for others to follow the same progression of processing information. Presenting good evidence and making room for the Holy Spirit to use means we do not have access to is far more effective to help them come to maybe the same place that we currently experience presently.
If we try to take shortcuts to hurry others along to arrive at what we are certain is truth, we might get some to agree with us, but their level of security about their position will be very weakened and will be vulnerable to someone else coming along and using similar tactics to what we used and pressure them even more intensely to adopt an opposing view. This is why it is so vital to pay closer attention to the methods we use to lead people to truth, possibly even more so than guarding the content of what we want them to believe.
If we put more emphasis on the accuracy of what others believe while overlooking the methods we choose to get them to arrive there, we may be robbing them of the assurance that is so vital for keeping them securely anchored to that truth. Their anchor might rely too heavily on an inordinate dependence on us rather than a solid, self-discovered revelation that both makes sense to them and connects at a very deep level of their being. They need to experience how reason and Spirit both point to the same conclusion that they have chosen to embrace so they own it themselves and are not just submitting to our insistence. Truth must be accompanied by ownership of the heart, not just acknowledgment of the head.
This is what freedom of conscience is all about. It is not just our rights in human society to practice religion in the way we feel is correct; it is the very essence of the freedom that God insists on and that is so vital for love to even exist. This freedom needs to be at the center of how we arrive at all of our conclusions about God and about which system is valid or which we will reject.
Yes, it is proper and healthy to share our own views on these truths. This is part of the evidence that others will take under consideration when processing new ideas in their own minds that we present. But we must be extremely careful to avoid crossing the line between strong personal testimony about our own conclusions and pressure to get others to embrace beliefs for themselves. If they are not led by the Spirit to decide in complete freedom from undo pressure, then their choices will be vulnerable to being undermined and it might be our fault for pushing them instead of leading them gently.
If we indulge in making our views and theology the standard by which we measure other's theology, we will be in danger of slipping into a spirit of judging. This too is a serious danger and can easily happen without our even realizing it at first. Yet Jesus never did this and warned us strongly about its dangers. Judging involves yet another principle that Jesus explained. It is the principle of getting what you choose. The measure you choose to use for others will be the same system of measurement that will come back to haunt you. The judging that you utilize to label others will inevitably result in others labeling you without your input. Give and you will receive. Withhold and others will withhold from you. We are all like mirrors and we tend to invite whatever methods we choose to use with others to be used with us in return.
If we do not want others to insist on us accepting their conclusions or views or beliefs before offering us ample evidence and then backing off to allow us time to reason and the Holy Spirit to convict and draw our hearts into embracing truth, we should treat them the same way. If we insist that God respects our freedom to disagree with Him without fear of retaliation or threats, we must do the same to others.
This especially applies to the agape love aspect about God that we are becoming so involved with. If we teach and proclaim and defend the truth of God's agape love and yet give people the impression that we are value their worth based on how much they agree with our conclusions and views, we may be teaching truthful facts while in spirit denying those same things because of the methods that we are using to promote our beliefs. This is one of the slickest schemes of the enemy that has been all too successful among God's people. Those who have the most potent truths are special targets of Satan and can loose much of their credibility through the mistaken methods in which they try to spread that truth. Thus others come to view with suspicion and doubt the teachings themselves because they feel violated by the ways in which we relate to them or pressure them or in some other method from the counterfeit.
We are all in constant danger of falling into these traps. In no way do I want what I am saying here to be seen as an accusation or an attempt to judge anyone. I am maybe more susceptible than the average person to indulge in these faulty methods for I seem hard-wired to utilize pressure tactics to convince people of things I am learning. And while it may well be true that what God has shared with me might be completely true, valid and important, the spirit in which I try to convey these things to others can make all the difference in the world as to the credibility and effectiveness of these things in other people's minds and hearts.
This is why emulating, not just the teachings of Jesus but even more so the methods of Jesus is so important for each one of His followers. It was the way in which Jesus presented truth, a way that made people feel honored, respected, loved and free to evaluate, reason, think and ponder and come to their own conclusions without any pressure from Him that made His influence so powerful and compelling.
Truth in and of itself has a power of compulsion; but when we try to help it with additives in the methods we use to promote truth, we may actually destroy much of its effectiveness and dilute its natural compelling nature instead of enhancing it. The most potent additives we can insert into our presentations of truth are not pressure or judging or threats but will be the overwhelming and irrefutable argument of how that truth is transforming our own spirit, attitude, reactions and character. Let truth have its full effect in our own hearts rather than trying to impose it on others. Let our own lives be transformed by the renewing influence of a mind utilizing reason and guided by the right Spirit rather than indulging in a wrong spirit, the spirit of compulsion that will only dilute our testimony.
Does this essay implicate and condemn me? Most likely. I am just as guilty as anyone of trying to impose my views of truth and my discoveries and conclusions that have so energized me and awakened my own heart to finally begin to respond to the amazing love that I am starting to see in Jesus. But love and freedom are inseparable and if I fail to protect and respect that principle in the way I present my ideas to others I will discredit the very Name that I so want to exalt.
At this very point in this writing I opened a book and read these words:
I solemnly assure you that the Good News of salvation which I preach is not based on mere human reasoning or logic. (Galatians 1:11 NLT)
What is God alerting me to here? I don't know fully yet, but the first thing that comes to my mind is that we need to help people to see that logic alone will not get them all the way to saving truth. While too much religion throws out logic and reason in order to manipulate and control people through superstition, fear, pleasure or any number of other faulty methods, people must realize that while truth will ultimately make complete sense when all the facts are taken into account, in the meantime there are going to be times when our reason must be surpassed by supernatural revelation. Such revelation will never violate truth but will always enhance it. And this is where it is vital that people learn how to test the spirits and not to believe just any spirit. It is absolutely necessary to have Spirit assistance for getting us all the way to real truth. But which spirit assists us will also make all the difference which direction we will be led and which end we will encounter at the conclusion of the path we choose.
God has clearly stated that He wants us to reason together with Him. But at the same time Jesus also stated clearly that He was sending the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth and to remind us of what Jesus taught while here on earth. As a result, it appears to me that we need to learn how to both appeal to reason in the ways in which we present what we have found in principles of truth, while at the same time realizing the pivotal importance of relying on and cooperating with the Spirit of God to do what only He can do deep inside those we are seeking to influence. This means that we must learn to respect and honor the same freedoms in others that the Spirit respects and protects in them and us. For only in the atmosphere of complete respect (whether the person appears to deserve it or not) and freedom to choose for themselves can a person find the space to respond positively to the compelling nature of truth uninhibited by any human or pressure or fear.
Paul is saying here that the Good News about God in and of itself has all the compelling power needed to recommend itself without assistance needed from any coercive methods of our own. Salvation is credible because its power comes not only in its appeal to our reason but because the Spirit presenting it can take us far past our reason and logic to experience aspects of God that are impossible to encounter through human ability. It is impossible through working our minds hard to discover full truth in its actual dimensions, for the dimensions in which truth exists extend far beyond the dimensions we are currently familiar with and operate within. That is why it is so vital to lean on the Holy Spirit who comes from beyond our limitations to work deep inside us to draw us higher and higher in ways unfamiliar to us currently. And while truth should be attractive to our God-given reason and powers of logic, we must be willing to move even higher to experience things that are impossible to discover using only our limited powers.
Religion based only on human logic and reasoning takes the Word of God and tries to figure it out, condense it into formulas, build traditions around it and often creates ever-increasing numbers of rules to produce a lifestyle acceptable to God. But this orientation of religion that may appear to seem pious and righteous fails to recognize the kind of spiritual power that can only be found in a radical revelation of who God really is at the heart level.
Sin at its core is distrust of God. The malfunctions that we commonly assume and label as sin are really the after-effects of how the human heart reacts to distorted, darkened pictures of God. As long as we believe false assumptions about God we will react negatively to these views of God, for it is an unavoidable principle that we always reflect the kind of God our heart believes in – we are just mirrors when it comes to how we see God.
This is why it is so vital that we lead people to see the truth about the real nature of sin, for sin will never be eradicated from our lives as long as our hearts harbor fear produced by false assumptions about how God feels toward us. A true revelation of who God is and what He is really like is the only hope we have of being healed from our mental illness called sin. All our erratic behavior and malfunction is a natural consequence of believing and clinging to false notions about God.
Only in becoming exposed to the light of the real truth about God can any heart respond to the love that is God. But this light never uses force. Light exposes by default because that is the nature of light. So as more light exposes more confusion and inner filth that has long been hidden by the darkness of misapprehensions about God, we also receive more grace and power to be changed through the natural principle of beholding.
The content of what we choose to believe is important; I do not want to minimize that in any way. But what I am starting to see even more clearly is that we are too often tricked by Satan's inducements to borrow his methods to advance our truth-filled content. This is where we need to be reminded that truth is far more than facts, content or anything that reason and logic uses to process. Truth is embodied in a person, and only by coming into relationship with a person can we ever begin to know more about their heart, their essence, their ways and come to appreciate and connect to them. And only in an atmosphere of complete freedom and respect can healthy relationships be bonded securely with the super-glue of God's agape love.