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“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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The search for love

The search for love will bring us to God. If we look for it in all the wrong places, but we keep looking for it, we will eventually find it. Providence will guide the seeker for love into God’s love. His Spirit will instruct us to not be satisfied with human, selfish love. Once we have obtained a taste of unselfishness through many and varied instances in the life, when we see in others human pride break down and they demonstrate helplessness and trust, the Spirit of God says, “That’s the kind of love you are searching for. That’s what you want to have all the time, for the rest of your life. Study that. Contemplate it. Relish the meditation of it.”

Eventually that person follows the divine lead into Christ’s pure, undying love. This was how Abram found God in a world given over to idolatry and licentiousness and pride. His longing for a child ultimately led him to the unknown God without him knowing that he was finding Christ. After decades of wanting to love a human whom he could see, God broke into his mind and revealed a love from a Person Abram couldn’t see. Then after proving himself faithful to God and trusting Him, God could safely give the gift of Abram’s longing, Isaac.

Abram was satisfied with Ishmael, his half son, who reserved half his love for his unconsecrated, selfish mother. Yet, this was satisfactory for Abram, so long as he could rejoice in his son. But God had a better plan for his servant and friend. A son who would love him with all his heart even as Sarah did, was God’s plan for Abram. Perfect love is God’s plan for us all.

It was this love that lived in David’s heart. His brothers looked at tending their father’s little flock as the most inglorious chore. But, David took up the responsibility because he saw gentleness and helplessness in the sheep. He felt so at home in their company. So he became their defender. It was love for them that honed his slinging skills. It was love for them that gave him the courage to standup against a lion and a bear when they came to steal one of his lambs. He not only pelted each one with stones, but he “went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth.” And when the angered beast arose against him, David said, “I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” (1Sam. 17:35). For fear and love for his flock, he fully forgot himself.

And we also can have that same fearlessness. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Tim. 1:7). “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” (Is. 59:19).

In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom. The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan’s control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God. Desire of Ages, p. 466.

“Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand.” (Jud. 14:5,6). With the strength of Samson, love will bring us to life again and compel us to throw off a mountain of depression and darkness. This is God’s purpose for the whole world. “[He] was the true Light, [who] lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (Jn. 1:9). “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (Vs. 4).

But, too often sinners don’t recognize love when they see it. “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” (Vs. 5,10). However, Jesus has a backup plan to slow the blood-letting away of our life until help can arrive. That alternative divine contingency was the use of law and law enforcement. Love cannot be forced; nor can it be legislated. But law can be used as a tool for teaching love through regimentation, if the Abram-like search for love is not voluntarily forthcoming.

Abram’s discipline under God’s direction was not solely of mercy. Justice was mixed into it also. Each time he lied, the Lord made sure he was caught in the lie, and shamed. When he chose to listen to Sarah’s advice to go into her servant, Hagar, in order for them to have a son, Hagar conceived immediately and a daily grief and conflict for Abram began that day which has remained to our 21st century. So justice and correction were given to Abram. But he saw Gods’ love in it all and accepted the gracious offer. He bowed in repentance because love humbled his pride. So there was justice; but there was also extra heapings of mercy that eventually far exceeded the justice.

In God’s alternate plan, however, justice must necessarily exceed His mercy. Mercy is not excluded from the program, but it lags the enforcing of law because the people like it that way. They aren’t seeking love so they don’t desire mercy; mercy doesn’t figure into their mentality. And if they don’t give mercy they don’t receive any, either. But, because they don’t want to stretch their heart too much they are perfectly fine with a grace-free existence.

So, we see Israel coming out of Egypt fully corrupted by the idolatrous, sensual, self-indulgent lifestyle and worship to Satan there. The Israelites were dogs that had been beaten and abused until they were bitter and mean. Grace was not a concept they comprehended. So God gave them what they would comprehend—justice, forced righteousness. But mercy was mixed in, just not in the proportion that He would prefer.

He gave them a chance for mercy in the deliverance from Egypt and at the Red Sea, but they threw it all away ten times on the way to Sinai. And then in the face of His thunder and fiery clouded Sinai, they threw out His grace when they threw a party to Satan, and really went out in a blaze of glory. So, rather than give them grace which they will simply trample on and be led to dare Him to kill them, He gives them what they need and what they can conceptualize. Then, with some mercy slowly but surely brought into the mix, they have the best chance of being rehabilitated and redeemed.

But rehabilitation assumes a present depravity of will-power and moral worth. Will they accept that character assessment by the omniscience God, or will an almighty pride refuse it? For 40 years the increase of mercy was refused again and again. The bitterness and meanness was clung to rather than admitting to the need for rehabilitation. One by one, they grew old and were buried in the desert sands without ever giving up the pride or bitterness. All their life, they never surrendered to mercy and thus never knew surrender to love.

But there have been some down through the ages who have accepted their condition and discipline. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that My fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.” (Jer. 2:19). “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:23,24). Most of us use this method, unfortunately. We come out of the fray between Christ and Satan missing body parts (Matt. 5:29,30), or like Jacob, we walk with a limp from the biggest spanking known to mankind. (Gen. 32:25,31). “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Heb. 12:11). “After that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:25,26).

So, in all the law-enforcement, all the punishment, all the guilt and shame, all the depression and helplessness, we can be hopeful. But we need to be patient and keep looking for love. We may not be as susceptible to it as were Abram and David and Moses, but in time its appeal will melt our cold hearts like the sunlight shining on the icy crystals that cling to the window pane. Despite their determining to resist all attempts to change their state, they melt suddenly and easily flow down.

All that God has even done was for us and motivated by love. His overtures will create in us trust in Him. And in that faith sin and Satan will retreat. This is the gospel truth. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1Jn. 5:4).

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