When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11)Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you what has been a truly revolutionary discovery for me, and I believe it will be life changing for you. I will break this presentation into four parts: the first is this week, and in successive weeks, we will give Part 2: How this applies to an entire generation that is missing in our church; Part 3: Why evangelism in North America is failing and the solution; and Part 4: What all this means to us in our heart’s spiritual fulfillment with God Himself.
I also would like to encourage you to listen to the presentation “Intrinsic or Imposed,” found on our Web site at www.renewedheartministries.com/sermons.asp
Let us begin with those words: “intrinsic or imposed.” If a child is running down the sidewalk, you might tell him, “Listen, if you keep on running, I’m going to tan your hide!” Let’s say the child does just that, and you follow through; will there be pain for the child? Yes! But is that pain intrinsic to the activity of running on the sidewalk or have you imposed it upon the child for running on the sidewalk?
Now let’s say the child is running on the sidewalk and you say instead, “Listen, if you keep running on the sidewalk, you might trip and fall and skin your knee.” And let’s say the child continues running, trips, falls, and skins his knee. Is pain involved? Yes! But have you imposed that pain on the child for running on the sidewalk or is that pain intrinsic to the nature of the activity?
I don’t mean to place moral value on either of these two paradigms. I don’t want to say that one is always right and one is always wrong. Either one can be the right response, and either can equally be the wrong response, depending on the context. For example, a five-year-old may need the “imposed” because he doesn’t understand the “intrinsic.” But it would be extremely unhealthy to “spank” a 30-year-old for doing something wrong, even if it’s your kid! So the context itself determines which is right to use.
What concerns me here is that most of us have related to God only within the “imposed” paradigm. In other words we are refraining from certain behaviors because of what we are afraid God will do to us if we do them, rather than from recognizing the intrinsic harm arising from those activities for ourselves and for others.
I saw that once when a dear saint said to me, “Herb! Don’t make God out to be too good! Don’t go around telling people God loves them no matter what they do! They’ll think they can just go out and do anything!” This extreme viewpoint is produced by seeing only the “imposed.” If you have been refraining from something because you’re afraid of what God will do to you as a result, then to hear that God will still love you if you do it may be a little problematic. But the truth is, God truly does love you, no matter what you do! What we fail to understand is that although God loves you no matter what you do, sin DOESN’T, and is still intrinsically harmful.
Understand: something is not wrong because God says so. God says something is wrong because it naturally is! And what makes it wrong? The intrinsic results that follow from the activity.
I believe when God was making this world, He saw the potential things that bring life, joy, and happiness, and He also saw the things that would bring pain, misery, and death. For things that would bring life, joy, and happiness, He said, “Those things are right!” And for the things that bring pain, misery, and death, He said, “Those things are wrong.” Notice that they are wrong because of what they produce intrinsically.
Understanding this would bring a lot of balance within the church. There are many things we say are wrong that, to be honest, flat out aren’t. And many things we say are “OK,” but they are actually very destructive. We have related to God only according to the “imposed” paradigm, and thus even our understanding of right and wrong has been skewed at times.
This is just Part 1. More will follow next week on how this concept has affected an entire generation and how we can turn it around. Afterward, we will discuss what this means for evangelism in a post-modern culture, and finally, we will discover what seeing and understanding these ideas will do for us personally in terms of intimacy and fulfillment in our heart’s relationship with God.
I wish you God’s best this week.