Commentary on "Love"
Day 7: Friday, April 3, 2009
Today’s lesson focuses on a set of six discussion questions. The questions themselves stem from a typical Adventist world view and become the “wrong” questions as one begins to see from a Biblical perspective. The question, for example is this: “One cannot escape the question: If God is love, why is there so much suffering? It is not only the scale of suffering that causes people to question God’s love but also the fact that so much appears to affect innocent people, and so much appears utterly senseless. How do we, as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, deal with this reality? How does our understanding of the great controversy help us understand this difficult topic?
The second question addresses how one can love an abusive, unloving person, the third asks how one can love those who never love back, the third asks who the outcasts are and what ministries one’s church has for them.
Question five states that true love demands a death to self and a willingness to put aside self for other’s good. Then it asks, “What choices do we have to make in order to experience that death ourselves?”
Number six wraps with this final question: “Besides the Cross, what are other ways that we can see God’s love for humanity?”
First, the problem of suffering is not one which God has actually answered for us. We struggle with this question of suffering and a “loving God” when we do not believe Him to be truly sovereign. This question becomes a conundrum when we see human significance and reason as the ultimate “values” in the universe which God must honor.
The book of Job redirects us to a proper orientation of humanity in relationship to God. During the last chapters of Job, God finally addresses Job’s questions and asks him where he was when He created all things from the stars to Leviathan in the deep. God ends His redirect by saying, "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (Job 40:2).
Job’s response is sobering. After listening to God remind Job of the mysteries of creation, emphasizing that no human knows or understands the secrets of God’s creative power, Job is reduced to silence: "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).
After God reemphasizes His power and man’s inability to control nature, Job admits that he spoke of things of which he had no knowledge.
"I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;” Job admits at last; "therefore I despise myself, and repent [fn] in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).
Job, the righteous man, is brought to the deep awareness of his own sinfulness, and he repents. The point of the book of Job is not primarily that bad things happen to good people because God is proving things to Satan. The primary point of Job is that no one—not angel or human—can question God and expect to understand Him or to receive answers that make sense in a human perspective. Every person, no matter how “good”, must bow the knee to God Almighty and repent, acknowledging His sovereign trustworthiness and gracious goodness. Every human must repent of his arrogance and pride and realize that God owes him nothing, not even an answer. What counts is not “answers”. What counts is trusting God who is sovereign over all creation and over all circumstances, wasting nothing and redeeming everything for His glory.
The almighty God has given us grace through the gift of His Son and His death and resurrection. God’s glory is the ultimate “value” in the universe, not human understanding or physical life. God gives us something much greater than “answers”; He saves our souls from the domain of darkness.
The “great controversy” does not reveal the biblical picture of how God works. God is not on trial, and believers are not on trial. The Bible never hints anywhere that Satan has accused God of making a Law that is impossible to keep. On the contrary, Romans 4 and 5 reveal that the law was given in order to make it possible for sin to be charged to people’s accounts. Original sin rendered everyone spiritually dead; individual sins, however, were not accounted to people before there was a law (Romans 5:12-14).
The great controversy attributes much more significance and power to Satan than the Bible attributes to him. There is no ongoing battle between Christ and Satan. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross and publicly humiliated him (Colossians 2:14-15). We do not help prove God is just. God Himself proved His own justice by publicly displaying Jesus as a propitiation in His blood (Romans 3:25-26), and the question He settled was NEVER “Why does God punish people for not being able to keep the law?”
Rather, the question He settled was the question of why He did not destroy sinners. Jesus’ death showed that God was actually just in having left sinners unpunished, because Jesus paid the necessary price for sin. He allowed people to continue to exist because from all eternity, Jesus is the Lamb slain.
Death to ourselves?
The question, “What choices do we have to make in order to experience that death ourselves?” betrays Adventism’s utter lack of understanding the new birth. We are incapable of “making choices” that will enable us to experience death to ourselves. We are born into the domain of darkness, and only God can transfer us into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Co 1:13).
The only way—and there is no other—to experience death to self is by bowing the knee to the Lord Jesus and repenting of our intractable sin. Only by accepting the blood of Jesus as payment for our sin can we be born of the Spirit (John 3:3-5) and enter the kingdom of heaven.
Unless we are born of the Spirit by believing in the Lord Jesus and accepting His blood as our justification, no choices we ever make will result in true love or a death to self. We die when our spirits are made alive by the Holy Spirit in Christ.
The question we must ask is not, “what choices do we have to make”. Rather, the only question that matters is, “Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior and bowed your knee to His authority and lordship?”
When we have accepted the Lord Jesus an repented at His cross, we have crossed from death to life (John 5:24). That moment is our death to ourselves.
Moreover, asking what ways besides the cross reveal God’s love betrays another deep misapprehension of God and salvation. The cross literally is the central revelation of God’s love.
No other revelations of God’s love carry significant meaning apart from the sacrificial love of God for His creation made in His image. Nature, family, the Bible…nothing carries the power to give us significance and hope apart from the cross. Without this revelation of God’s love, all His other gifts are limited in their ability to demonstrate God’s love.
Romans 1:18-20 explain that the invisible attributes of God have been clearly revealed through creation so that all are without excuse, but these things do not reveal God’s commitment to redeem us. His redemption at the cross is the one thing that gives meaning to all others.
The Christian who will respond to God’s love is the one who has been made alive by God’s Spirit, and without the miracle of new birth, no self-denial will yield any sort of real love. We can only love when God literally places His love in us in the person of the Holy Spirit.
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