Wednesday, July 02, 2014

“Our Loving Heavenly Father”

Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Our Loving Heavenly Father"
For the week of July 5, 2014

This quarter's lessons are systematic topical studies of various teachings, by Jesus, in different settings such as in the synagogue or on a mountainside or by the sea. The first three lessons are about the Godhead. Following these, salvation is considered, then the Church and its mission, with the law and Sabbath coming after, finally proceeding to the topics about death, the resurrection and ending with the second coming of Jesus.

This first week's lesson is about the Father. He is presented, as should be, as "Our Loving Heavenly Father." However, most religions of the world present Him not as a loving Father, but as an exacting tyrant who requires sacrifices, even suffering, to appease His wrath. This was the misunderstanding of God's chosen people before, and during, the days Jesus sojourned on earth two thousand years ago. This notion continues to this very day in the religions of the world and by many, if not most, Christians.

On the other hand, there are teachings of Spiritualism which present love "as the chief attribute of God" (GC557). But it makes little or no distinction between evil and good. In a book written by a Spiritualist, A.B. Child, M.D., entitled Whatever is, is Right, we read in question and answer form:

"What is evil?" The reply is "Evil is good." On page 27 we read: "What is Evil?" "What is called evil is good. Nothing is evil in reality, for what appears on the surface to be evil, is only a necessary effect of goodness; it is the effect of wisdom acting ever, for the best good of all." Under the question, "What is a lie?" we read the devil's answer: "A lie is a truth intrinsically; it holds a lawful place in creation; it is a necessity" (p. 18).

Since the message of God's love is paramount, especially in these last days of earth's history, we may be sure that the devil will present a false concept, a counterfeit, of God's love. The following quotation sums up this counterfeit teaching of Spiritualism:

Love is dwelt upon as the chief attribute of God, but it is degraded to a weak sentimentalism, making little distinction between good and evil. God's justice, His denunciations of sin, the requirements of His holy law, are all kept out of sight.
It is true that spiritualism is now changing its form and, veiling some of its more objectionable features, is assuming a Christian guise. But its utterances from the platform and the press have been before the public for many years, and in these its real character stands revealed. These teachings cannot be denied or hidden (GC 557, 558).

Notwithstanding the devil's counterfeit, God's love must be considered and proclaimed. We must not shy away from presenting God's fatherly love to the fallen race.

Let's first consider some background for the term "Father." In the Old Testament, the word comes from the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The first letter Aleph is the "father" of the Aleph-Bet. It is a silent letter, but testifies of the oneness of God. (See Hebrew for Christians, by John J. Parsons, online at: Aleph-Bet/Aleph/aleph.html).

The second letter of the Hebrew alphabet is Beth, which means a house or a tent. A "father" is a member of a household. God is our Father. And we are of His household: "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph 2:18).

God is the father of His people. The word "father" is used of the founder, protector, and sustainer, of a family, a household, a church, or a nation.

The devil's attack has always been centered on the character of God. Jesus came to unmask the devil's deception and present a true picture of God as our Heavenly Father. This was because most of Israel had a misconception of God. This included the disciples of Jesus who were with Him for more than three years. Jesus must have been cut to the quick when Philip requested "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us" (John 14:8). Jesus was "the express image" of God's person (Heb 1:3) and so He replied to Philip, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9).

It wasn't until the cross that the disciples more fully understood the love of the Father as manifest by Jesus. On the cross Jesus revealed the infinite agony that the Father experienced on our behalf, as well as Christ's own sufferings for us – all for us. "The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God" (Ed 263). God's suffering did not begin nor end at Calvary.

The cross is a mighty revelation of the unconditional love of God for a race who did not love Him. Read Rom 5:6-10, where we read that "Christ died for the ungodly" and that His death was a demonstration of the love of God for us "while we were still sinners." Even "when we were enemies" we were justified and reconciled to God "through the death of His Son."

E. J. Waggoner wrote of his conversion experience, which happened when he was 27 years old and while attending a camp meeting. He saw Christ crucified for him personally and for the first time he realized that God loved him. He wrote:

[A]n experience came to me that was the turning point in my life. Suddenly a light shone about me, and the tent seemed illumined, as though the sun were shining; I saw Christ crucified for me, and to me was revealed for the first time in my life the fact that God loved me, and that Christ gave Himself for me personally. It was all for me. If I could describe my feelings, they would not be understood by those who have not had a similar experience, and to such no explanation is necessary. E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant (1900), p. 5.

Waggoner knew that he would find in the Bible "the message of God's love for individual sinners, and I resolved that the rest of my life should be devoted to finding it there, and making it plain to others." Ibid. And so he did.

And you can know today, right now, that "God is bending from His throne to hear the cry of the oppressed. To every sincere prayer He answers, 'Here am I.' He uplifts the distressed and downtrodden. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. In every temptation and every trial the angel of His presence is near to deliver" (DA 356).

Again: "God looked upon humanity, not as vile and worthless; He looked upon it in Christ, saw it as it might become through redeeming love. He collected all the riches of the universe, and laid them down in order to buy the pearl" (COL 118).

And think of this. This is especially for you. God wants to win your confidence: "If you ask the help of God, you will not ask in vain. The Lord is at work in many ways to win your hearty confidence." (This Day with God, 184).

Will you surrender your life, without reservation, to this God – this loving Father – who loves you without limits. Think of this: God who superintends the unnumbered places and people of the universe, takes time to bend from His throne to listen to you and to me. What a God! What a Father!
-Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz