Saturday, January 07, 2012

“The Triune God”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Triune God”
For the week of  January 1 - 7, 2012
In the lessons for this quarter, themed “Glimpses of our God,” the Sabbath School student is sure to be blessed by the warmth of Jo Ann Davidson’s writing and the insights she shares of our holy, Creator-Redeemer God.

When we look into the heavens through a telescope, no matter where we look the view changes, yet we’re still looking at the same universe. In a similar way, as we seek for fresh “Glimpses of God,” the view is illimitable.
The opening lesson this quarter addresses the framework through which we understand who God is – the “Triune God.”
Guiding our discussion this week is the following counsel, which underscores the purpose of Sabbath School Insights:  “But whatever phase of the subject is presented, uplift Jesus as the Center of all hope” (TM 118).
“There need to be far more lessons in the ministry of the Word of true conversion than of the arguments of doctrines.  For it is far easier and more natural for the heart that is not under the control of the Spirit of Christ to choose doctrinal subjects rather than practical” (Lt 5, 1886, quoted in the VSS, p. 342).
In this Insights study we consider:
-       What history reveals about the importance of this truth.
-       How this doctrine reveals Christ as the Center of all hope.
-       How this teaching applies to my life.
History Speaks
Before the earth was ever created, Lucifer charged God with being self-exalting and prideful. We see this in his profane manifesto transcribed by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 14.  “I will ascend,” “I” will do this, “I” will do that, “I” will be the great center. “I” will be like the Most High.
Oh really? Is that what God is like? Puffed up with self-importance and exalting His own interests above that of all creation?
Yes, Lucifer said, that’s what He’s like, and I want to be just like Him.  To the un-fallen hosts this idea seemed both new and strange, yet for some it held a mystical appeal.
Lucifer’s charge that God was self-exalting struck at the very core of His existence. And here we see the connection between the esoteric doctrine of the Trinity and the gut-wrenching truth of God who, at the very core of His being, is epitomized by self-giving, self-emptying love.
The depths to which this love would plunge our Savior in order to save man – at any cost to Himself – stands in dramatic juxtaposition to the astounding obfuscations made by the haughty Lucifer.
How could a Divine trio of three Persons dwell in perfect harmony, as “One,” if a power struggle existed in their midst? Soon, the three would be reduced to one, as only one can come out on top of any fight for supremacy. Consistent with this picture is the work of the Holy Spirit, who does not “not speak on His own authority,” but whose role is to magnify – not Himself – but Christ: “He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13, 14). So we can know that wherever Christ is lifted up, there the Holy Spirit is working.
When this sad experiment with self-exaltation is finally ended, all will finally see and acknowledge that the only way for the universe to continue without implosion is for it to operate under the law of self-giving love.
Christ as the Center of All Hope
The entrance of sin into this world created an internal struggle within the Divine Godhead that we but faintly comprehend. In the union of three-in-one, we see God working to save man at any cost to Himself. But do we think the decision to save man was made without a struggle? Oh no! The Father Himself agonized over whether to give up His beloved Son to save our thankless race.
Elder G. E. Fifield spoke on this theme in a sermon delivered at the 1897 GC session:
“Now let us get a glimpse of Christ's crucifixion.  Jesus Christ was with God, equal with the Father in glory and honor; co-creator with him of countless worlds; all the ten thousand times ten thousand angels at his beck to do his bidding.  One cannot take in the honor and the glory of that life that opened out into limitless distances before him.  But down here on this world man had sinned, and Christ did not think of holding fast to that glory and honor as a robber holds fast to his prey; but he gave it up.  That was when Christ was crucified.  He let that life go, and he came down here and identified himself with human sorrow, with human trial, with human need, with human heart-ache; so that away back there, before he became incarnate at all, in all their afflictions he was afflicted, and he bore them and carried them all the days of old.  He was with us much more than we think.  Abraham saw him; Joshua saw him; Moses saw him; the Israelites drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.  The divine One had given up that life there, been crucified, and identified himself with human need down here, away back there; and when you come to the incarnation, which was but the revelation of this larger sacrifice, this larger fact, the crucifixion was carried so far that he who was Almighty became so weak that he said, "I can do nothing of myself."  Is not that crucifixion?  (February 15, 1897 N/A, General Conference Daily Bulletin page 29.7)
Practical Application
My daughter spent last school year serving as a nurse at a mission hospital in Africa. One day she sent an e-mail telling how a young kid goat about three weeks old had fallen deep down in the recesses of the outhouse, about 20 feet down.  It was bleating pitifully.  She described how a bunch of men held onto ropes and lowered a skinny guy (with shirt tied over his face and a headlamp mounted for sight) down into the hole which was no more than 15 to 18 inches wide. At last the goat was retrieved and the man lifted from the smelly hole.
When I read this story, it made me think of what God did for us. Hopelessly lost in the mire of sin, the Father had only one chance of saving us, and that was to send His only Son down into this filthy pit where he wrapped His arms around the human race and collectively rescued us all from the horrors of sin.  Indeed, God the Father was “in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,” not holding our sins against us (2 Cor. 5:19).  And to those of us who have tasted and seen a glimpse of His amazing love is committed the privilege of becoming “ambassadors for Christ” by living out the principle of self-denying love that we have seen demonstrated in Him (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20).
“By coming to dwell with us, Jesus was to reveal God both to men and to angels. He was the Word of God,--God's thought made audible. In His prayer for His disciples He says, "I have declared unto them Thy name,"--"merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,"--"that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them." But not alone for His earthborn children was this revelation given. Our little world is the lesson book of the universe. God's wonderful purpose of grace, the mystery of redeeming love, is the theme into which "angels desire to look," and it will be their study throughout endless ages. Both the redeemed and the unfallen beings will find in the cross of Christ their science and their song. It will be seen that the glory shining in the face of Jesus is the glory of self-sacrificing love. In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which "seeketh not her own" has its source in the heart of God; and that in the meek and lowly One is manifested the character of Him who dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto.  {DA 19.2}  
--Patti Guthrie