Saturday, December 21, 2013
What a Mess and How to Get Out of It!
[The Cosmic Conflict Over God’s Character)
December 21, 2013
Sabbath School Lesson
Larry R Evans
We sometimes make things more difficult than necessary especially when it comes to the gospel. So let’s begin by asking a “simple” question: “Is the antidote for being bad being good?” This question and its implications are at the heart of our studies. But first a story and unfortunately a true story!
When I was young I liked to go fishing. A friend and I would grab our fishing poles and head off to a lake. To get there we had to walk across about half a mile of dry cheat grass. On this particular day we decided to also go swimming. When we got out, despite the hot weather, we thought we were cold – cold enough to start a fire. We gathered some rocks and put them in a circle. To make things easier we brought along some lighter fluid. We lit the match and threw it on the pile of cheat grass and twigs. We were unprepared for what happened next! There was huge puff of fire that reached out of the rock circle and grabbed hold the surrounding grass. We did our best to stop the spread of fire. We poured on the grass the little water we had but it was no match. The fire spread quickly. The rest is history. Fire trucks came and eventually the fire was put out but only after burning many acres of dry cheat grass. Fortunately no one was hurt nor buildings damaged. I tell you this story because of what happened the next day.
I was outside with my father when a car drove down the lane to our home. It was the fire chief. Before he could say anything, I blurted out “It’s not my dad’s fault! It’s mine!!.” The last thing I wanted was for my dad to receive the blame for my actions. Why should he be blamed? My friend and I were the ones who started the fire. “Keep dad out of it,” I thought. I’ll take the blame! But for the fire chief that was not possible.
Generations ago a similar story happened. There was no fire but there was a Father and two of his children. Everything was designed to be perfect but it all changed in a moment. As in my own story, the Father got the blame and a real “blame-game” developed that not only threatens His reputation but our future as well. In fact we find in Rev. 14:7 that there is even a time called “the hour of his judgment.” I realize we give emphasis to it being a time of our judgment and that it is a time when God judges but I believe there is more to the story than just our well being. (See Heppenstall in Christ Our High Priest, pp. 187f).
This week we will quickly review three stories and the questions that arise from them
1. What really happened in Eden and why was it such a big deal?
2. Is it true that even our motives for doing what’s right can be detrimental to our Father’s reputation? Why?
3. Finally, do we correct the problem by being good instead of being bad?
Believe it or not, this quarter’s Sabbath School lessons on the Sanctuary have been addressing all three questions. They are at the heart of the Sanctuary services and the gospel. Basic to this overview is the biblical insight that the conflict that began in heaven (Rev. 12:7-9) –one that was initiated by Lucifer when he desired to be as God (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:1-19). He found a new battleground to carry out his attack on God in the Garden prepared for a new creation. This creation was created in the image of God and became the object of Satan’s wrath.
I. One Day in Eden
We don’t dare propose to deal with all that happened that day but we will focus on Eve’s response to the insinuations of “the serpent” expressed in Genesis 2:6.
What 3 responses did she have when she ate of the forbidden fruit?
“So when the woman saw that the tree 1was good 2for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree 3desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 2:6)
1. Eve concluded that the fruit of this tree was “good.” Up to this point declaring what was good was God’s declaration. We must not read those words in Genesis 1 and 2 lightly. Once the serpent is introduced we see that the serpent and Eve have taken upon themselves the prerogative of pronouncing their own verdict as what is “good.” As with Lucifer/Satan in heaven, so Eve now assumes a divine role. “Good” is no longer God’s verdict. Eve attributes good to what appeals to her.
2. Eve redefined creation’s role. God had told her that the tree was NOT good for food but she declares it otherwise. The purpose for that tree was not for “food” to nurture them but to highlight their freedom. She now assumes a divine prerogative and assigns to it a new role and that it would enrich her life.
3. Eve concluded that the tree “was desirable for gaining wisdom.” Her search for wisdom was independent of God. Compounding the problem was that the search came from perspective of greediness. Subtly but nevertheless real was the beginning of substituting a part of God’s creation for God Himself.
(See Angel M. Rodriguez in Spanning the Abyss)
One application: With regards to the Sabbath
1. Any day is good. (Who decides?)
2. Any day can be used as “a” Sabbath. (Purpose disguised or changed—What was God’s design>)
3. Tradition, society or our work schedules can determine when we worship (What is the source of instruction or wisdom?)
The subtleness of the serpents attack disarmed Adam and Eve. Little did they realize that the road they were going down would take them farther and farther away from the One who created them and who had a unique plan for them. The plan God had for them had to be put on hold. Their distrust of the Creator derailed their future. Was God to blame? This question was not just one for Adam and Eve. It was the question insinuated by Satan before he was cast out of heaven.
II. Our Motives & the Father’s Character
Critical to the story that began in Eden is a question that surfaces in the account of Satan confronting God about Job’s reasons for being faithful. If God is the kind of person the serpent made Him to be, then those who obey Him must be doing it out of fear or in order to persuade Him to do what they want. . . . and not because Job really trusted or loved Him. The question is found in Job 1:9 -- "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. According to verse 6 the whole universe witnessed this conversation between the Lord and Satan. The question not only doubted Job’s reasons for living as he did but also the very basis for God’s governing of the universe. Satan attributed his own characteristics, the one’s that got him thrown out of heaven, as being normal and in fact in the very heart of God. Behind the question was a much bigger one and no doubt one Satan was asking of all whom he could get to listen: “Why should I, be forced out of heaven when you accept people like Job who do what they do because they are afraid of You or in order to get from You what they want! How are they any different than me?”
It is no wonder that Jesus addresses a deeper “righteousness” than one motivated by personal gain when giving his Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5-7. Could it be that Jesus was addressing the very accusations of Satan when He said,
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)
[How does this verse address the question of motives? In light of the experience of Job and Satan’s accusations of him and of God what implications do the words of Jesus have?]
Trust & Obey
The song says, “Trust and obey for there is no other way” but there is another way and it has been tried by all of us. Sin in all of its forms is a distrust of God. Standing in midst of a moral chaos are those who resemble Job. Of him it was said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”? (Job 13:15). Trust is difficult enough when you can see where you are going and why but such was not the case with Job. He could not understand why all of this was happening to him. He saw no future yet he trusted.
So How Do We Get Out of This Mess?
We go back to our original question: Is the antidote for being bad just being good? No it is not and this approach has been tried and each time it is short-lived. This is not to suggest that “being good” is bad. It’s just that a more radical solution is necessary. And once again the Sanctuary services illustrate this. For our purposes now, we refer to Ezek. 36:22-38.
1. See God’s holiness (v.23)
2. Put corruption behind (v.24)
3. Allow God to cleanse and to remove all impurities and idols. (25)
4. Be willing to receive a new heart. (26)
5. Allow Spirit to lead in obedience. (27)
6. Live the promised life with the blessings of God (28)
The sanctuary services all point toward to the fulfillment of Ezek. 36-28 -- A changed “heart” and not just changed behavior.
All of this is possible because the Father paid the price. His character has been vindicated at the cross and is being vindicated by those whose lives bear the kind of trust of Job demonstrated-- despite the accusations of Satan. (See Rev. 12:11 – Overcome by (1) the blood of the Lamb and (2) the word of their testimony.
Returning to Eden
As we’ve said before in class the entire Bible can be summarized into 4 basic insights:
1. [The Plan] God had a plan for each of us that beyond anything we’ve experienced.
2. [The Fall] Sin entered and messed up God’s plan and we’ve all sinned.
3. [The Redemption] In order to correct the problem of sin God sent His Son to pay the penalty and to make it possible for God’s ultimate plan to be reached.
4. [The Restoration] – God seeks to restore His image in us and with it is the restoration of the plan He had begun in the Garden sanctuary called Eden.
Read the Bible from cover to cover and you will see these four parts being repeated over and over again. We see God setting out His plan, then His people falling away from it which leads into chaos. This chaos is met when God intervenes with the purpose of restoring His people to His original plan.
“The message of the Bible is that the human race is a band of exiles trying to come home. The parable of the prodigal son is about everyone of us.” (Tim Keller in The Prodigal God, p.109) The good news is not only that the Father is waiting for us but also that He is coming for us!!
As in the case of the story of the prodigal son, so it is with those who are redeemed: The Father is found with His redeemed. The tree of life is once again present among His people and its “medicinal effects” are for the “healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). The tree of life, of course, was in the Garden of Eden. God’s original plan resumes. The deep yearning to be “home” is realized. It has been a costly journey and the price of freedom beyond comprehension but now the fulfillment of the Christmas story is once again summarized in one word:
“Immanuel”—God with Us!
Friday, November 1, 2013
Atonement Phase One:
“It’s Complicated—It’s All About Relationships”
November 2, 2013
Larry R Evans, Teacher
I found this definition of “It’s Complicated” in the Urban Dictionary:
The Bible is clear. The plot is laid out in Genesis 1-4. God had a plan at the very beginning and we messed things up. The relationship got “complicated.” It got complicated in part because of a third party (Satan) who entered the scene and tried to breakup the relationship that God was building. Damage was done for sure. The relationship was fractured but there was still hope. It was God who came to Adam and Eve. It was God who took the initiative to meet them. He came to restore a relationship. They were hiding. He came wanted to talk and they wanted to hide. It was God who asked “Where are you?” It was Adam and Eve who in turn blamed, accused and condemned then God and each other. Sin complicates things. God knew that the relationship He had intended and what the three of them had been experiencing was on the verge of ending. Action had to be taken. Much was at stake . . . even more than Adam and Eve realized.
This week’s lesson is all about restoring our relationship with God. Our study ushers us into the history of broken relationships. We’ll see how God is still at work trying to restore and deepen the special kind of friendship He wants for us. He does not give up easily. We step back into history and see through ancient sanctuary services how He tries to convey both the cost and the process of restoration. It was no easy task to communicate with a wandering, nomadic people who had forgotten the very basics of their own religion. I’m not convinced it is any easier today.
This week’s lesson is all about a relationship that had become “complicated.” It seems today that some are anxious to declare that they are “Single” and “Looking for Random Play.” God is moved out of the center of the relationship. Our study is about God’s efforts to restore the relationship back to His original plan. Its about how He lays the necessary foundation for a genuine friendship and lasting relationship. It’s about two tough words that are part of any relationship – accountability and responsibility but placed in a matrix of “faith, hope and love.” It’s about how God took upon Himself the weight of these simple but profound words. The door is opened and inside we see how God assumes the guilt for the sin problem—that’s right, He assumes the fault for the broken relationship as if He is the guilty party. But He’s the innocent One! Go figure!! There is no finger pointing but there is an invitation. It is a wake-up call for all of us to rethink our attitudes, our feelings, and our frustrations. God invites us to allow Him to come back into the picture and to change our status from being “Single--Looking for Random Play” to becoming “Friends in a relationship” again. God set the pattern. He surrendered Himself. He paid the price. He faced the problem and He became part of the solution. The dispute and hostility should have ended but change takes time and it takes a deeper understanding of what the real problem is. Central to this week’s lesson is a central principle of any relationship: It is dangerous to remain in the “It’s Complicated” status – and especially with God. It doesn’t have to stay that way! God has a plan.
The road to recovery begins with understanding God’s plan but understanding isn’t enough. This study isn’t to be limited to knowing about sanctuary furniture and sacrificial rituals. They are there to lead us now to the Sacrifice and in that journey will find ourselves confessing and surrendering and becoming. Rituals were never the answer. They opened the door to an understanding. To help us know Him better. In this conversation with God we are taken to a giant “felt board,” as it were, located in a desert. Here, away from the distractions of an “Egyptian slavery,” we can visualize what is at stake. It is here that God tells us His story. It is now time to let Him tell it. The good news is that we are at the heart of own God’s story! Amazing.
1. The fact that there is a need for an “atonement” suggests that a relationship has been broken. True or False? (Heb. 2:14-18; Rom. 5:11)
2. God is “guilty” because of “our” sin. True or False? (Isa. 53:6; 2 Sam. 14:9)
3. Blood is used extensively throughout the sacrificial system because the Israelites were no longer vegetarians. True or False? (Lev.3:17; 17:10-12)
4. The “laying on hands” signifies both identity and a transference of guilt. True or False? (Lev. 1:4; 4:4; 16:21)
5. In God’s sight all sins are the same? True or False? (Lev. 4:3, 13, 22, 27)
6. By way of illustration, the sacrificial system revealed that as long as sin remained with the person they were lost. (Heb. 9:22; Rom. 5:9) True or False?
7. With such sacrificial love illustrated in the sanctuary service and in the cross of Jesus, we know that judgment is only a symbol to get our attention. All will be saved in the end. True or False? (Micah 7:18-20; Nahum 1:2,3; John 3:16).
8. The sacrificial system reveals one dominant truth: God has a recovery plan for every sinner. (Gal. 2:20)
Leviticus is about relationships lost and relationships restored. Restoration is costly. It took the life of Jesus. Taking the life of an animal was an extreme measure of the sanctuary service. It was used to illustrate just how serious the sin problem is. Sin separates. Sin kills. Sin is a barrier to recovery. The good news is that the power of sin was defeated. Grace sees possibilities when sin removes them. Grace restores relationships. Grace brings life. Grace restores relationships. Sin no longer has to dominate. There is hope for broken relationships. It is not necessary to live in “Complicated Relationships.” There is hope, the kind found only in Jesus – the Lamb of God.