Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“God as Redeemer”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"God as Redeemer"
For the week of  January 15 - 21, 2012
"You were not redeemed with corruptible things, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18, 19).  "You who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13).
Redeemed by blood.  Brought near by blood. 
HOW does blood redeem, or how does blood bring us near to God?  Physically, Christ's blood was no different than any of ours.  It was composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma.
If Jesus had died by a bloodless method such as poisoning, or hanging by His neck, would we still be "redeemed" and "brought near" to God?  Is there some magical or mystical power to Christ's literal blood – the fluid running through His veins – that enables us to be redeemed or get close to God?  As we approach God, if we have a vial of Christ's blood to show to God, does that deflect any potential objections that God may have to our sinful condition, and thereby grant us redemption – a pass into heaven? 
It is, rather, that Christ's "blood" is a representation of the giving of His life. 
But now let us think about the blood from a different perspective.  Is "blood" necessary, because God requires it before He is able or willing to forgive and accept us?  Is "blood" necessary , before can God relate to us with favor and acceptance?   Does God stay, to some degree withdrawn and distant in His attitude towards us until we have "blood" to present before Him? 
·         Does blood move God towards us?
·         Or, does blood move us towards God?
·         Is God the one who requires blood before He will accept us?
·         Or, are we the ones who require blood before we will accept and receive Him?
·         Did God need to see a death, or did we need to see a death?
As we perceive and understand Christ's life, and inculcate the principles of that life into our experience, we are transformed (redeemed) to the point that we want to be near to God.
Notice in Ephesians 2:13 above: Who was brought near to whom by the blood of Christ?  The blood (life & death) of Christ did not bring God near to us, but we who were "afar off" have been "brought near."  The alienation, distance, fear, and even animosity were in our hearts towards God, but never in His heart towards us!!  We were the ones who needed to be moved, to be brought near, because we were "afar off" from God in our hearts and minds and affections.
Notice the same pattern in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19:  "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, . . . that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself."  Again, we were the ones who needed to be reconciled (moved) towards God.  The distance or alienation or suspicion wasn't on God's part towards us, but on our part towards God.  The carnal mind is enmity against God.  We have a natural, innate animosity and fear towards God.  The only way He could overcome that fear and animosity in our hearts is to demonstrate His goodness, trustworthiness, and love for us – which is what the life and death of Christ accomplishes.
Notice the same pattern in 1Peter 3:18, "1For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust,that He might bring us to God."  Again, we are the ones needing to be changed or appeased by the sufferings and death of Christ.  God is pursuing and loving us from the very beginning.  We are the ones scared, and running, and even angry at Him.  Christ died to bring us to God, to move us into a stance of acceptance towards God.  Christ didn't die to move God towards acceptance of us.
So often the process of redemption is expressed – intentionally or unintentionally – as partly a change on God's part (God is holy and just, and therefore can't accept sinners without blood being shed by Jesus), and partly a change on our part (we need to accept Jesus and then God will "count" our faith as righteousness).  But as we're seeing from all of these Scriptures, the actual story of the Bible is about a God who already loves us and relates to us with an attitude and heart of warmth and acceptance.  This God sent His Son to reveal His unchanging love through Christ's life and death.
When we see that truth, and believe that truth, and act in harmony with that truth, then, reconciliation occurs in our heart towards God.  Reconciliation and acceptance have always been in His heart towards us – we just never clearly perceived it.  But in Jesus it's so clear what God is like, and how kindly He has related to us, that there is no cause any more to fear God as a distant, severe, unforgiving, or judgmental Being.  We can see God clearly because Jesus is the exact image, or perfect revelation, of what God is like (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews1:3).
"We are not to entertain the idea that God loves us because Christ has died for us, but that he so loved us that he gave his only-begotten Son to die for us"  (Ellen White, Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895).  God's love is the source of the life and death of Christ, not the result of Christ's life and death.
In a very real sense, all religion can be divided into two categories.  If the theological idea is that someone or something outside of God causes love, goodness, forgiveness, kindness, etc., to awaken in the heart of God, then it is a false gospel – a false religion.  Even if the change or appeasement of God is caused by God Himself – God changing Himself – then it is missing the beauty of the gospel.  A famous Christian author described salvation as God's self-appeasement or self-satisfaction (John Stott, The Cross of Christ).  But again, is salvation a change in God towards us, or a change in us towards God?  I would submit to you that the consistent testimony of Scripture is that God is working to change us.  Jesus did not change, or mollify, or appease God.
May we see in the "blood" (life and death) of Jesus, the truth that God loves us and is working to redeem us back to Himself from the alienation and fear that have come about as a result of believing the deceptions of Satan about God.  When those lies are fully exposed and disbelieved, then "redemption" will be complete in us.  May we strive, under the influence of God's love and goodness, to reach that end.
--Bob Hunsaker

Raul Diaz