TruthInvestigate

“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Law and the Lion of the tribe of Judah

The Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah. How did He get that way? We could say He was born that way. Or He was born a lion cub, a potential king, one whose right and destiny it was to be ruler, one with royal blood whose assassination was attempted at birth to preventthe usurper’s overthrow.

Every disciple of His was born again with the same blood flowing through their new heart and mind and body. They receive power to become sons of God, and despite their languid past, now through the powerful grace of God they are unstoppable.

As was seen in the baby Jesus and throughout His younger years and adolescence, in whom, “the powers of mind and body developed gradually, in keeping with the laws of childhood,” (Desire of Ages, p. 68) those who are born from above will also need growth and development; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

God, in His wisdom and providence, gave us human examples of what He desires to do in everyone who comes to Him. Last night at the prayer meeting we studied one example, the blind man recorded in John 9. Of him Jesus said, “The works of God should be made manifest in him.” (vs. 3). The Savior, surrendered and submitting to the providence of His Father, designed the healing that day to give a revelation of how God works in us.

Paul, declared a similar purpose in his own ministry. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.” (1Tim. 1:15,16). Speaking to king Agrippa, Paul repeated Christ’s words to him at his conversion, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” (Acts 26:16-18).

Here we see that the Master Teacher uses living examples in His powerful teaching techniques. These two men, along with a great cloud of witnesses since the very beginning, acted out the lessons He sought to teach us in His divine-human text book, the Holy Scriptures. Let’s look at these two human object lessons to learn about our Creator’s work of grace in the fallen human heart and mind.

The blind man experienced a transformation that he could never have accomplished by himself. Through the use of clay poultices on his eyes, Jesus acted out a spiritual lesson like Ezekiel had done for his generation. Their Messiah longed to open their eyes, and He used the ancient method, which they could not miss recognizing. On the worst spectacle of humanity He dispensed His richest blessing, as a testimony to what He wanted to do for those who had already been blessed in earthly things.

Although Satan moved upon them to reject this invitation to their hearts, the blind man, who had been seeking God but was trampled upon by the self-righteous religious people, now became the recipient of great blessing. Not only did he receive sight, but he became a world-class debater for truth. A boldness suddenly took control of him. When faith comes, so does the voice of authority. All who place their confidence in Christ, will like Him, “rule all nations with a rod of iron.” (Rev. 12:5). They will not be timid and confused and useless to represent the Almighty King; they will speak “as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mat. 7:29). “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:10).

Similarly, Paul was a hot fire brand for God’s glory. And in Romans chapter 7 he opens up for our benefit the phases he passed through to get there. When we read that chapter, we see three stages in his progression toward Jesus.

1) “I was alive without the law once.” (vs. 9);
2) “The commandment came, sin revived, and I died;” “held,” “being dead.” (vs. 9,6);
3) “Dead to the law by the body of Christ;” “married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead.” (vs. 4).

First, Paul had been a blatant sinner, a natural man only, uncaring about anything spiritual. But the convicting influence of the Spirit of God must have moved upon him and led him to see the emptiness of that kind of a life.

But before coming to Christ, he must pass through an intermediate phase, that of a powerful religionist. A Pharisee of Pharisee, after the strictest sense, he could say, “Beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: and profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” (Gal. 1:13,14).

Finally, he met Jesus face to face and His law in a much higher revelation than ever before. Then the apostle’s testimony became, “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me…;” “who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (Gall. 1:15,16; 1Tim. 1:13,14).

When Ananias said, “‘Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost,’ immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” (Acts 9:17,18). New sight accompanied a new heart and mind, a new conscience, and a new will. The condemnation of God was past; His grace appeared to Paul in all its glory.

Like Elisha told the prophet messenger to Jehu, “Take the box of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then open the door, and flee, and tarry not;” so once Paul was anointed of the Lord, he turned the world upside down. (2Ki. 9:3). He was a sample of what God purposes for everyone who comes to Him.

His relation to the Law reflected his relation to Christ. Whereas before his focus was only on the Law, turning him into a dangerous foe of God, now being “delivered from the law, that being dead wherein [he was] held,” he would “serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

His attachment to a Person made all the difference in the outworking of his life. To just live by the commandments wasn’t enough. He needed the nuclear power of God’s love and grace. Because of his “own works” he had become destructive dynamite. When he “ceased from his own works,” his zeal became regulated with the mercy he saw in Jesus toward himself. (Heb. 4:10).

This clearer revelation of the steps to Christ was what He desired to teach when He personally healed the blind man. That healing was part of an unfolding of knowledge of the mystery of godliness, the science of salvation which He unveiled in His star apostle, Paul; not by the law, “wherein we were held,” but by the tortured and limp body of a crucified Master who loved us and gave Himself for us, can we be saved from sin and the fruits of disobedience. Let us make a deep study of the true righteousness, “the righteousness of faith” which manifests itself in likeness to Christ, who “will magnify the Law and make it honorable” in us. (Rom. 4:13;Is. 42:21).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Lk. 4:18,19).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Angry at goodness

“Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Rom. 4:15).

Why does the law work wrath in us? Paul’s no law/no transgression issue is a separate thing from what I speak of. It is true though, if I’m going along thinking I’m doing pretty good in morality, and then I see how bad I really am because new rays of truth flashed into my conscience, I’ll be unsettled and likely get upset.

I’ve been depending on my morality and all my security has been dashed to the ground. I’ve been insulted by God. I was pretty good, even if I had a few faults. Nobody’s perfect, you know! So get off my case, God. Take the log out of Your own eye, and leave me alone with the little dust speck in mine!

Law works anger in us. And it does this even if we don’t attach any divine significance to it. This is because in our fallen state and naturally not predisposed to our Father in heaven, we don’t impulsively and immediately assign love to law and rules. Our atheistic nature and immediate predisposition to law is that it, as a principle, cares less if do I obey it. Law is all a matter of information; it’s all pure mechanics. “This is what righteousness means; now obey me.” Law has no heart. It has no feelings for me. It has as much love in it as does a robot. It’s simply a moral machine. And this grinds on us subconsciously, until the silent grinding manifests itself in a violent outbreak or in an act of abandoned immorality. And people take notice and say, “Where did that come from?”

Nobody can live in a loveless environment. And the law doesn’t love. It can’t. It’s only stone; its principles are represented by stone to the core. It’s a law of love because of the principles it espouses. It demands love, it teaches love, it informs of it, but it doesn’t love. One thing in the Ten Commandments’ favor, though—it reminds us of it’s Maker who we may eventually find does love us, and that very graciously.

There exist other laws beside the Ten Commandments. We look all around us and see road signs telling us what to do and when to do it. I can’t drink and drive. I can’t speed or drive recklessly. We have taxes we better pay or I get audited, fined, and then pay my back taxes. We have bills that come to our house every month. If I’m hungry, somebody must take my hard earned money before I can satisfy my hunger. If I build a house on wet lands, the state will make me tear it down and then fine me for having damaged the natural habitat. There is information I must study and knowledge I must learn to do my work, or I will get fired.

What does every law, judgment, statute, principle have in common? They tell me what to do, regardless of how I feel about it. No sympathy to the pains obedience will cost me. No warmth. No tenderness. Cold, hard principle.

This is seen all through the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. An example of this comes from Ellen White:
Principle is always exacting. No man can succeed in the service of God unless his whole heart is in the work and he counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. No man who makes any reserve can be the disciple of Christ, much less can he be His colaborer. When men appreciate the great salvation, the self-sacrifice seen in Christ’s life will be seen in theirs. Wherever He leads the way, they will rejoice to follow. Desire of Ages, p. 273.

Even in the words above relating to service to God and discipleship to Christ, without intimate love and grace shed from the Holy Spirit, religious words will do nothing but stir up anger and rebellion.

When something is lacking, the lack may be initially invisible. But over time, the empty spot begins to create a sore until we become aware of the lack. Then comes the investigation of how to get the replacement.

When all we have is law without the grace of it’s Originator, the lack of sympathy and tenderness of the law wears on the soul. The deficit of love grows worse and worse, and the mind often doesn’t even realize what’s happening to it. The heart suffers and doesn’t know why. This is especially the case when a person has access to something sensual to take the place of the pain in the heart. Games, toys, rich food, entertainment, stuff, hobbies and curiosities, are subconsciously introduced to distract the soul from the lack of love created by the written law or the law as it is embedded in the requirements of life.

Paul says, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid….The commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Rom. 7: 7, 10-12).

The problem in all this is not with the laws or principles or information to learn and follow. They are all “ordained to life,” morally or intellectually; and higher than any other law, the moral law of the Ten Commandments is holy and just and only good. The problem is that the whole human race is cut off from life from God. We are all born naturally atheistic and reprobate because the grace-filled life of God does not flow through us moment by moment.

We are born loveless. Our mothers and fathers may or may not fill us with their human grace and love. But, even if they do love us, human love is not enough. We grow to a maturity stage when we need to trust in more than they have to offer, a love higher and more powerful than they can love us, a grace that will stoop lower, even to our sin. We need a power instilled that has no natural, earth-bound source.

The only power that can create or perpetuate true peace is the grace of Christ. When this is implanted in the heart, it will cast out the evil passions that cause strife and dissension. “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;” and life’s desert “shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” Isaiah 55:13; 35:1. Desire of Ages, p. 302.

This love is the evidence of their discipleship. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples,” said Jesus, “if ye have love one to another.” When men are bound together, not by force or self-interest, but by love, they show the working of an influence that is above every human influence. Where this oneness exists, it is evidence that the image of God is being restored in humanity, that a new principle of life has been implanted. It shows that there is power in the divine nature to withstand the supernatural agencies of evil, and that the grace of God subdues the selfishness inherent in the natural heart. Desire of Ages, p. 678.

Over the baby Jesus it was prophesied, “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against.” (Lk. 2:34).

In Him dwelled all the fullness of His Father’s love, and through Him to everyone with whom He came in contact. Mary needed to be especially spiritual, not simply in order to be the perfect mother, but to be able to see and be humbled by the unselfish behavior and the pure, innocent words that flowed from her Child every day, month after month, year after year because He was being loved by His Father. Jesus was made by God and His love, for the fall and rising again of a world foreign to God’s infinite love, Mary included.

His connection continuously unbroken, the life of God vivified His whole being from conception to childhood and adolescence, and to adulthood and ministry. “O how love I thy law!” was the joyful thought that thrilled His every day of life. Ps. 119:97. Perfect union and communion with all heaven was Jesus’. And perfect acceptance of the law was the result.

We can have the same. And we must. But until we receive Him and the life that comes with His grace toward us, we will hate the law because, consciously or subconsciously, in our banishment from the God of love, we find it all loveless words and the actual “strength of sin.” (1Cor. 15:56).

In America we have an old patriotic oath, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Spiritually speaking, that could translate to: “Give me love or give me death!” And to anyone not surrendered to grace, it naturally devolves to, “God, be loveless, and I will be lawless!” “If You have no tenderness to show me, then I refuse to follow Your laws; I will gladly burn in hell.”

Let us shake our fist at God, if we must, because of His Law—until we crumble at His feet in brokenness and contrition. He isn’t afraid of our fists; He welcomes them. He’d rather us to be cold and spiteful to a Father who we think has spurned us, than continue from birth as the “moral” sinner who doesn’t have time to believe in God enough to fight with Him for His love.

He has no fear for our attitudes toward Him. He has already demonstrated that since the very beginning; He has never stopped loving us. He knows one day some will wake up, when they wrestle with Him long enough. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jer. 31:3).

Only by feeding off of His love and grace, can we accept the principles of His laws. Without the constant life from His warm friendliness and brotherly kindness, we have nothing with which to face reality or the law. Love, a Father’s indomitable love alone will provide us with perfect peace with law and keep us reconciled to obedience.

“God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8).

“Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Ps. 119:165).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Strife for life

Hello brother,

I felt the need to write to you about last Sabbath. I feel like I ignored you during the fellowship dinner. You had gone out of your way to come to worship with me and spend some time together and I didn’t give you the time you deserved.

I didn’t mean to ignore you. I was wanting to talk with B___ who sat across from us, and I was hoping you would enjoy conversation with his friend next to him. It’s hard for me to divide my attention up. I’m not the gracious conversationalist I need to be. I have so much to learn from Jesus, to be like He was and is.

I’m sure you will disagree about my lack of attention, because you always want to affirm me, and I appreciate that. But I want you to know that I want to edify you and make you stronger all the time. I want and keep praying that the Lord will give me just the right things to say that will give you the tools you need to overcome the adversary. Satan certainly is a real foe and a great threat if we don’t have the living, active grace of God constantly working in us through faith in Him, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Rom. 5:5).

D____, I also wanted to encourage you in your battle to get to the bottom of your affliction. I was very encouraged when you told me that shame was causing you the grief you suffer. That said to me that the Holy Spirit was making advancement, even against the mighty, dug-in and entrenched spiritual army you are fighting. Your revelation seemed to me like the cog of a ratchet, setting itself firmly into the next tooth, awaiting the next tooth and then the next, one victory gained after another until the final overthrow of Satan once and for all. It certainly is coming.

I want to tell you in Christ’s stead, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” Stay patient, praying, and faithful. Brother, it’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12).

When Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” He wasn’t speaking lightly of it. Most people don’t realize what is involved in seeking. Because He also said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” (Lk. 13:24). Then He goes on to say that He ate at their tables and taught in their very streets, but they still won’t be in the kingdom. They didn’t strive, and the door came closed on them.

But, D_____, you are striving. This is why you will, I say, you will have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city. I declare this based solely on the promises of God’s word. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn. 8:31,32).

This word strive is related to the word strife. There necessarily must be much strife in gaining the kingdom. No slovenly soldier will ever gain it. This is why thousands were turned away from Gideon’s army. They drank their water and went through the motions of fighting, playing like soldiers, but their hearts weren’t in the fight. So they were rejected. You are highly prized, though you don’t feel that could possible be. Jesus is very proud of you because you are responding to His drawing. So continue responding until you are free, and free indeed.

This deeper idea seeking by striving is exactly the way Solomon describes the search for God.

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.
When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;
Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness.

The nominal church-goer’s idea of seeking God is a very half-hearted way of doing it. And that is why they never find Him or ever come to know Him. The striving is all part of the knowing. “Ask and ye all receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and the door shall be opened unto you” never happens for them because they don’t throw themselves into the fray, or rather, allow themselves to be sucked into it. When they ask and seek and knock, they don’t do so vigorously.

They don’t bang on the door, or ask and seek God furiously. That is why they don’t become the powerful sons of God. They never responded during the embryonic stages of birth, therefore it is impossible for them to be born from above. They die and are miscarried from salvation.

We who do strive have nothing with which to glory in striving. All we have done is respond to the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts. But it’s a real glory to know that here is great, wonderful evidence that we are being worked by Him, that God hasn’t left us, after all the failures we done.

He is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. This is the God we serve. And D_____, I am proud to fight next to you. Real proud. You are not a fellow soldier who will turn away from the battle and leave me warring alone.

You will receive the wonderful approbation that is given to all the saints who ever overcome, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”

Love,
David

Sunday, May 25, 2008

God's amazing justification

Justification is more than forgiveness.

Before that first disobedience by Adam and Eve, they enjoyed perfect loyalty to an infinitely pure and holy Creator. They were pure and holy, never knowing the slightest taint of sin and rebellion. Self was never a consideration for them. Self-preservation, self-protection, self-justification, self-esteem, self image, self-reliance, self service, self-interest, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, and a host of other self-related aspects of sin, had never dawned on their minds.

Now, joined in the revolt against God and depending on self, they cut themselves off of their Creator. Why should they need Him for anything if they weren’t going to depend on Him for everything? This was God’s point of view. They would be His completely, or not at all. If they chose Satan as their support and his form of government as theirs, they could not own the minutest part of the Divine government.

Adam and Eve came to, as they saw what they had done to God. But now they were outcasts from their first family because they chose to be adopted by a “better” family, one that had promised to give them more than God had.

They could never, ever stand before God again in perfect trust. Never, ever. How could they? What was done was done. The past couldn’t be changed. There can be no undoing something that has already occurred. It’s simply impossible. They had insulted the infinite God. They had offended the angelic hosts. They could never, ever again have the unblemished relationship with God that they had previously thrilled in. It had been based on zero doubt, 100% perfect and pure faith and love. That was gone forever.

They had joined with the terrorists and committed high treason to a government that could never suffer one offense. That government had been built upon the law of complete and utter self-forgetfulness as the only sure promise of enduring forever. Any one disobedience endangered the whole structure of the universe. Every law would be loosed of its eternal purpose if one law could be relaxed. Especially would the moral law be under attack. So, the perfect home and even life itself, which they had been so generously given, could no longer be theirs. It would only be fair.

How could one little failure cause the whole universe to collapse? God knows and sees the end from the beginning. The whole creation would all eventually unravel. The dimented Satan would eventually destroy it all and then destroy himself.

But what about Adam and Eve? They were the apple of God’s eye. Earth was a precious creation to Him. The newly created pair was an amazing object lesson for all of heaven to learn from about the mystery of God and His character. Could anything be done for them? Yes, God had already known about such a contingency. He already had a plan laid out and discussed with His Son that They would use this emergency to its best potential and reveal God’s character anyway, despite the gross presence of sin and selfishness in the realm.

Through the revelation of divine pain and agony because of sin, throughout all time divine love would be demonstrated in a new way than had ever before this been realized. Grace would come to light, an aspect of God’s character that had ever been exercised toward His growing and developing heavenly hosts and unfallen worlds, but which had never been explicitly defined as it would be now that a rebellion was in effect. The wonderful new discovery by the perfect and holy hosts of heaven and loyal worlds was that they needed the infinite Creator’s grace too, and had been receiving it since their creation. Earth and the great controversy thus became a subject the angels intensely desired to look into. 1 Pet. 1:12.

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom 11:33-36).

Through His grace, even rebel man could be reinstated into the family of heaven. By faith in the love and righteousness of the Son of God, through the renunciation of sin and sorrow for what sin has done to God and his brother, every one of Adam’s children could be restored. Unreserved forgiveness would be granted, full and complete reconciliation with God’s great heart of love. Total renewing and rebuilding of the first trust would begin. Damage was done; scars would persist, not only with God, but with all of heaven; but God would open the once closed door and invite the repentant and humbled human race home again.

Justification is the Biblical term used to describe this gracious provision by the Divinity. To be justified is more than forgiveness. It means to be looked upon and treated as if the rebel had never, ever rebelled; the child had never, ever turned on the Father and left. By looking on the agony of the precious Son of God, our pride could be broken, our hearts won again to self-sacrificing love, fully adopted back into the Divine family, and reinstated as free-born citizens into the government of heaven, which administers and enforces the Law of God.

Grace—an amazing quality and invention deep in the heart and mind of God—God not only forgiving me and bringing me home to His bosom, but making it legal, too. A sinner of the deepest hue, repentant and restored in all respects; justified—Just as if I’d never, ever, ever, ever sinned.

Sin and Satan make us feel abandoned and impossibly incurable. God and His grace make us know we are very curable and were never abandoned. Amen.


The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell; It goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell; The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win; His erring child He reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.

When years of time shall pass away, and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall, When men, who here refuse to pray, on rocks and hills and mountains call, God’s love so sure, shall still endure, all measureless and strong; Redeeming grace to Adam’s race--the saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.


O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure The saints’ and angels’ song.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Justified

Justification is more than forgiveness.

Before that first disobedience by Adam and Eve, they enjoyed perfect loyalty to an infinitely pure and holy Creator. They were pure and holy, never having the slightest taint of sin and rebellion. Self was never a consideration for them. Self-preservation, self-protection, self-justification, self-esteem, self image, self-reliance, self service, self-interest, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, and a host of other self-related aspects of sin, had never dawned on their minds.

Now, depending on self, they cut themselves off of their Creator. Why should they need Him for anything if they weren’t going to depend on Him for everything? This was God’s way of thinking. They would be His completely, or not at all. If they chose Satan as their support and his form of government as theirs, they could not own the minutest part of the Divine government.

They were outcasts from their first family because they chose to be adopted by a “better” family, one that had promised to give them more than God had. So, the perfect home and even life itself, which they had been so generously given, could no longer be theirs. It was only fair.

They could never, ever stand before God again in perfect trust. Never, ever. How could they? What was done was done. The past couldn’t be changed. There is no undoing something that has occurred. It’s simply impossible. They had insulted the infinite God. They had offended the angelic hosts. They had joined with the terrorists and committed high treason to a government that could never suffer one offense. It had been built on complete and utter self-forgetfulness as the only sure promise of enduring forever. Any one disobedience endangered the whole structure of the universe. Every law would be loosed of its eternal purpose if one law could be relaxed. The moral law especially would be under attack.

How could one little failure cause the whole universe to collapse? God knows and sees the end from the beginning. It would all eventually unravel. Satan would eventually destroy it all and then destroy himself.

But what about Adam and Eve? They were the apple of God’s eye. Earth was a precious creation to Him. The newly created pair was an amazing object lesson for all of heaven to learn from about the mystery of God and His character. Could anything be done for them? Yes, God had already known about such a contingency. He already had a plan laid out and discussed with His Son that They would use this emergency to its best potential and reveal God’s character anyway, despite the gross presence of sin and selfishness in the realm.

Through the revelation of divine pain and agony throughout all time, divine love would be demonstrated in a new way than had ever before this been realized. Grace would come to light, an aspect of God’s character that had ever been exercised toward His growing and developing heavenly hosts and unfallen worlds, but had never been explicitly defined as it would be now that a rebellion was in effect. The wonderful new discovery by the perfect and holy hosts of heaven and loyal worlds was that they needed the infinite Creator’s grace too, and had been receiving it since their creation. Earth and the great controversy became a subject the angels intensely desired to look into. 1 Pet. 1:12.

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor?
Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom 11:33-36).

Through His grace, even man could be reinstated into the family of heaven. By faith in the Son of God, through sorrow for self-exaltation and renunciation of sin, every one of Adam’s children could be restored. Unreserved forgiveness would be granted, full and complete reconciliation with God’s great heart of love. Total renewing and rebuilding of the first trust would begin. Damage was done; scars would persist, not only with God, but with all of heaven; but God would open the once closed door and invite the repentant and humbled human race home again.

Justification is the Biblical term used to describe this gracious provision by the Divinity. To be justified is more than forgiveness. It means to be looked upon and treated as if the rebel had never, ever rebelled; the child had never, ever turned on the Father and left. By looking on the agony of the precious Son of God, our pride could be broken, our hearts won again to self-sacrificing love, fully adopted back into the Divine family, and reinstated as free-born citizens into the government of heaven, which administers and enforces the Law of God.

Justified—Just as if I’d never, ever, ever, ever sinned.


The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell;It goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell;The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win;His erring child He reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.

When years of time shall pass away, and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,When men, who here refuse to pray, on rocks and hills and mountains call,God’s love so sure, shall still endure, all measureless and strong;Redeeming grace to Adam’s race--the saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made,Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade,To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry.Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.


O love of God, how rich and pure!How measureless and strong!It shall forevermore endureThe saints’ and angels’ song.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jesus, the extremist fanatic?

Something disturbs me about last week’s Sabbath School lesson. Entitled, The Puzzle of Jesus Conduct, Roy Adams being the principal contributor. Each of the following subjects, “Neglecting parents?” “Displaying anger?” “Destroying personal property?” “Neglecting the persecuted?” criticized Jesus for what He did. Was it subtle higher criticism? Shouldn’t we examine His actions and learn how to copy them?

Neglecting parents?
Referring to Jesus’ 3 day stay in the temple at age 12, Mr. Adams writes: “The incident, on the face of it, gives the impression of an irresponsible lad, utterly uncaring about the pain and anxiety of his parents. What parents would not be terribly angry at such apparently callous disregard for their convenience and the rules of their home?

This is one of those events that show the limits of using Jesus’ conduct as a model in every case. What is happening here, it would seem, is that Jesus’ Messiahship has already begun to shine through at the tender age of 12. He is becoming conscious of an allegiance to a Power infinitely higher than His parents, however much He respected them. The brevity of Luke’s account leaves a dozen questions unanswered, such as: Who fed and housed the lad those three days? Did the priests have any concern to find His parents?”

Maybe the author of this SS quarterly doesn’t realize what he has done, but he casts doubt on the actions of Jesus, God’s only Son, who came from the bosom of the Father, and whose life was the outworking of His Father’s love. By saying, “What parents would not be terribly angry at such apparently callous disregard for their convenience and the rules of their home?” and “it would seem,” that even when the Mr. Adams also writes rational and true words, in the minds of many readers, those words are mixed with error and cannot repair the damage done to Jesus and the lessons the Father sought to teach.

“This is one of those events that show the limits of using Jesus’ conduct as a model in every case.” Is there a limit of Jesus’ example that we should not follow, in the correct season and time? “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.” (Heb. 2:17;1Pet. 2:21;Rev. 14:4)

The lesson here is that parents need to stay aware of their children’s thought processes. Mary and Joseph had it coming to them for not doing this. It is an easy thing to fall into and happens to us all. As consecrated as were the parents of Jesus, they slowly fell away from their heaven-ordained duty, but the providence of God aided them in seeing their failing. Isn’t this how God works with all of us?

Young Jesus was consumed with His life purpose. He must have fasted the whole three days in the temple. He might have wandered through the streets of Jerusalem and slept on the streets, if not praying and meditating a good part of those nights. He had a thoughtfulness way beyond His years. “I must” indicates the determination of His soul.

Mary’s hurt feelings were just going to have to be put on hold. As with all of us, she was going to have to get over it. But, in keeping with His young, sanctified soul, Jesus did not disrespect His parents. He was made under the law in order to redeem us who are under the law by showing us how to give place to self-centered vengeance.

Jesus had not neglected His earthly parents. His action here is not a puzzle, it’s a revelation.

Displaying anger?
Wasn’t Jesus the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Wasn’t He the son of David, the man who slew a lion and a bear and finally Goliath, and then cut off his head? He is the Lord God of the Old Testament, in the flesh.

Too often the principal contributor quotes from a book that I believe to be strange fire, “Presuming that what Jesus would do today has some correlation with what he actually did then—in first-century Roman Palestine . . . —how in the world might a contemporary Christian go about replicating and applying these bizarre incidents of tree-cursing and temple-disrupting? If our favorite grocery store happens not to stock a particular fruit we are craving—because it’s out of season!—do we proceed, with Jesus’ blessing, to curse the fruit bin, the produce manager, and everything else in sight? And if the preacher goes on too much about money one Sunday or if we are just generally miffed at various church personnel and programs, do we bust in during a worship service and start upending pews, pulpits, altars—anything not nailed down—and bouncing ushers from the premises?”—F. Scott Spencer, What Did Jesus Do?, p. ix.

Then the contributor asks, “What principles should we bring to bear upon such questions? Where does spiritual common sense come in? Jesus came as the Messiah, the Savior of humanity. How do we distinguish what He did strictly in that role from that which He intends for us to follow?”

He cast out the thieves, like spraying roach killer all through God’s house. He intends for us to follow it all, without distinction of His Messiahship or Kingship. As King and Savior, He came to shed light on true conduct. By beholding Him we would be changed into the same image. If we accept His justification, we too will be kings and priests in the earth.

My question is, What is this spiritual common sense the author speaks of? When Ellen White has plainly given us great light on the life of Jesus, why must we bring into the study some kind of “sense” that would destroy the spiritual discernment from the Spirit of Prophecy, even if it condescendingly calls itself “common sense?” There is no common sense apart from perfect obedience to Jesus, who lived out the righteousness of the Law. Everything else is foolishness and eternal loss.

Destroying personal property?
Br. Roy Adams: “Why do you think Jesus allowed the demons to enter the herd of swine? Would He have done the same thing if the animals had been sheep? Where is the sympathy in Jesus’ action here? Was there a concern on His part that, regardless of His own dietary strictures, the herd, nevertheless, represented the livelihood of one or more families in the town? How would the idea of compensation fit into this picture?

“‘If these swine were owned by Gentiles, we should be left without a real explanation for their destruction. To say that the devils were ordered merely to leave the men, and that their entering the swine was their own act, contradicts their request to Jesus and the plain statements of Mark and of Luke that Jesus gave them permission’—R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), p. 353. Another Bible scholar sees in Jesus’ action ‘a powerful protest.’ ‘The name “Legion” and the pig mascot,’ he says, ‘both signify Roman military occupation.’ Thus Jesus’ intention was to ‘protest against oppressive Roman possession of Israel’—F. Scott Spencer, What Did Jesus Do?, p. 101.

“Ellen G. White says that ‘it was in mercy to the owners of the swine that this loss had been permitted to come upon them. They were absorbed in earthly things, and cared not for the great interests of spiritual life. Jesus desired to break the spell of selfish indifference, that they might accept His grace’—The Desire of Ages, p. 338. While these comments might help us to understand certain calamities that come upon us personally, how do you see it setting any precedence in regard to our own action? Or is this one of those actions pertaining to Jesus’ role as Messiah-prophet, and not intended as an example for us to follow, as such? How would you make the case that the same is true as regards the cursing of the fig tree (which probably had a personal owner)?”

Why bring up these confusing issues? Why question Jesus’ sympathy and concern for people’s livelihoods, instead of praising Him for it? Christ was simply removing the obstructions to the kingdom of God which they had set up. He was giving them a blessing in disguise. “It was in mercy to the owners of the swine.” They were rewarded for sacrificing self, even if they cursed Jesus that day. Later, the blessed fruit of righteousness and obedience came clear to them and they welcomed Jesus back when He finally did return to their coasts.

A powerful protest against Roman military occupation? Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world; His work was to break the spell sin had on the human race. His enemy was not flesh and blood, so He never fought against the Empire. Such a sentiment comes from modern evangelical dispensationalism, which is in the process of destroying the United States Government to make it conform to their false doctrines, the false revival that is taking Christianity by storm. Introduce this falsehood into the Adventist church? Why, Mr. Adams?

Do we criticize Jesus for doing all He did? Should He be afraid of our ignorant criticism? Obviously Jesus wasn’t. And I’m glad He did not fear to stare Satan down and reclaim Satan’s territory.

Neglecting the persecuted?
Continuing on, “How is Jesus’ conduct during the imprisonment of John to be explained? Upon first hearing of John’s incarceration, He returns to Galilee…. Following the visit of John’s people, Jesus launches into high praise for the embattled prophet but does not visit him.” “One of the most persistent questions we face as human beings centers around the issue of suffering: ‘Where is God when we hurt?’ In the experience of John, we have a partial answer, in terms of Jesus’ conduct. Though He was God in human flesh, with power to act, Jesus does not intervene to rescue the one who had helped prepare the ground for His own ministry. And following John’s murder, all we get from Jesus (Who, we suspect, felt it keenly) is silence. Nor is it likely that He or His disciples attended John’s funeral.”

Jesus gave John just what John needed and wanted. Blessed is he whosoever he be that is not offended in Me. John went to his death surrendered like he could never have been without those stronger, affirming words of the Son of God. If Jesus had sent pitiful words He would have abetted Satan in tempting the Baptist into self-pity, to overthrow his faith. If Jesus had stood outside the prison calling for John to stand firm, Jesus would have disgraced the work of the gospel. If Christ had saved the prisoner from his time of trouble, John would not be among the redeemed.

And, yes, Where is God when we hurt? Right next to us as He was with His only beloved Son on the cross. How can we truly understand what Jesus went through for our redemption and what God the Father has been through because of the great controversy, unless we go through hard times? How else will we ever be able to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus unless we suffer the consequences for our failures, including the separation from God which we choose?

Satan knows how to turn around everything that is wrong and make it seem right. Jump, Jesus, for the Bible says that God will send His angels to catch You. Let me quote to You some scripture... Eat, Jesus, Your Father has given You the power to create, and He doesn’t want You to die before You even start Your ministry!

We can begin to see how destructive human philosophy comes to be. It is when good people lose their hold on a self-sacrificing God, that they cannot endure hardship anymore. They water down duties and requirements of God, and Satan then has the opportunity to take control of doctrine and manipulate it to teach his will. The intoxicated religionists never see the new administrator of their doctrines, and they continue on as if nothing changed, as if their religion hadn’t changed hands. Then, over time, Satan, working through doctrine and philosophy, slowly brings the people to become more and more critical of primitive godliness and more and more distant from it.

Thus very familiar truth slowly comes to be strange, bizarre, puzzling. To them as He did to Israel, God says, “I have written to him the great things of My law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” (Hos. 8:12).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Second Coming Of Jesus

Jesus’ second coming has been the one event looked forward to for centuries.

Zechariah’s prophecy, about 500 B.C. “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and His name one.

All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses. And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited. And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.” (Zech. 14:3-12).

Daniel foresaw the Second Coming of Jesus as he interpreted the famous dream of Nebuchadnezzar about 100 years before Zechariah. “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” (Dan. 2:44,45).

Jeremiah, about the same time as Daniel, prophesied, “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by His fierce anger.” (Jer. 4:23-26).

Isaiah, writing around 700 B.C. looked forward to the Second Coming of Jesus.“Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt: And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger.” (Is. 13:6-13)
“The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers? Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand. Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King; He will save us.” (Is. 33:14-22).

“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Is. 25:8,9).

“And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of His people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.” (Is. 30:25,26).

Two hundred fifty years before Isaiah, circa 1000 B.C., David also wrote of the Second Coming of Jesus and the destruction of Earth. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.” (Psalm 46).

Moses, quoting Job, around 1500 B.C.: “So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that Thou wouldest keep me secret, until Thy wrath be past, that Thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee: Thou wilt have a desire to the work of Thine hands.” (Job 14:12-15).

“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27).

As early as Enoch, the great grandfather of Noah, the Second Coming of Christ was the blessed hope. Around 600 years before the worldwide flood, he preached it. “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 14,15).

Why shouldn’t we, with Paul, be “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ?” (Tit. 2:13).

Peter—“That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

“And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” (2 Pet. 3:2-14).

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bible love—the best love

Maybe you have or haven’t ever thought of it, but the Bible isn’t overflowing in bold statements about God’s love. Love isn’t gushing out of every page, per se. In fact, the open admissions to it are actually rare.

Look at the Old Testament. How many times does it plainly say, “God loves you, and so do I”? You don’t find bumper sticker religion there. The Bible contains one account after another of strong language and judgment. And commandments.
And the New Testament, in which one would expect a cornucopia of loving expressions, doesn’t fare much better than the Old. Yes, there are a few more promises of deep love, but they are surprisingly few and too far between. A love letter? Good news? For these reasons, many reject the Book; and many others keep it but don’t love to read it. To many who read the Bible, it isn’t holy because of love; thus, to them, it is not really holy and they don’t obtain characters transformed by it.

But, the Bible has volumes and volumes of good news, and yes, it is a love letter from our very far away Father mailed right to the very door of our heart. Why then His seeming reserve toward us? Why the lack of profuse overtures from His heart that we are loved by Him? Is He afraid to make a commitment? Is He afraid to openly say, “I love you?”

God has left us with abundant indication that He loves us deeply. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jer. 31:3). “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” (Jn. 6:37). “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28).

Those are certainly good words and very encouraging. A God in both Testaments, throughout the history of man, yearning for His children, receives them, and heals them. Those promises speak of One who will forgive and gather us into His arms. If we let the Bible speak to us, we will hear Him say to you and me individually everything He spoke to His audiences of old, “I will…receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also,” and He will say of us, “They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand… and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” (Jn. 10: 28,29).

Of this we can rest assured. We can stake our claim on a “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us.”

But then the question by those of us who have read much of the whole Bible, Why then these promises so few and far between in the Bible? Why strew them so sparingly, and surround those few promises so profusely by warnings, punishments, and apparent outbreaks of divine anger, not to mention rules, laws and commandments? Why mix one part good news with 50 parts bad news?

I believe this is because the God who is rich in mercy is also a God rich in wisdom. He knows us inside and out, better than we know ourselves. We may know what we need, but He knows what we really need. He made us and knows our spiritual constitutions. He understands the laws that govern our psyches and what will bring us the truest happiness, and He works to bring us to that happiness. He works only for our benefit, even if we don’t recognize His work or the benefits, such as they really are.

In our fallen, self-centered condition we believe we should have a certain kind of love from God; but what we naturally desire is a self-centered, destructive love. We want God to be infatuated with us, like our first boyfriend or girlfriend, or we expect Him to be like a doting human parent. Because we want to be spoiled in His love, our oft offended distrust flies up so quickly toward His firmness and strong warnings. But real love does not spoil; it serves and edifies. As the wisest and most loving parents refuse to spoil their children, so does our loving and holy Creator refuse to spoil His. True love does not destroy; it only can work for the strengthening of the objects of its attention and attachment.

Satan, the great enemy of love, a demon empty of love, desires nothing but our destruction. He is wily in his ability to devise a love that looks good, but one that kills—that is, self-centered love. Such love is a drug, a sugar-coated caplet of slow poison. The Bible labels it, the Wine of Babylon, and it receives God’s fiercest denunciation. “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” (Rev. 18:2,3).

God cannot be drawn into giving us self-centered love, as we foolishly long for. He distinguishes destructive infatuation from real, pure, ennobling love—a love purified from any taint of self. If we will look carefully and constantly at what is written in the Holy Scriptures, His love will surely grow apparent to us. His every word and act are wonderfully good. As our hearts and minds are washed by His words of equity and righteousness, in every warning and judgment and commandment and rule we will gradually see more and more clearly the deepest love ever revealed to mankind. Those vehicles of love will all become beautiful to us; they will be seen as they truly are because our blinders will have been washed away. And it will all become plain as day that God’s treatment of man’s absurd foolishness and selfishness, through all His judgments and commandments, was good and fair, and that the God of the Bible does love us profusely, after all.

Not a syrupy, sickeningly sweet love, but a liberating, nourishing love that leads us to humility and to the forsaking of self-service, will we discern in the true and only wise God. Jealousy for our eternal safety, mercy, gentleness, correction, —even reproof, if necessary—characterize the divine love of God our Father as revealed in the Lord God of both Testaments, the loving Son, Jesus Christ.

As He promised us from of old, “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” (Is. 54:10).