Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Mankind: God's Handiwork"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Growing in Christ
Lesson 3: "Mankind: God's Handiwork"

"Restorations" often look better and perform more efficiently than "originals." Man,-- male and female,-- was created in "the image of God" (Gen. 1:27). Man's choice to ruin himself through willful rebellion against God well nigh obliterated that image. It is only through the "cleansing of the sanctuary" truth, so vividly proclaimed in the 1888 message, that our Elder Brother restores the image of God with the final approval of "the seal of God."
Of all God's created beings only "man,"-- male and female,-- were created in "the image of God." The animals have minds, but no morality. The angels have intelligence and ethics, but they cannot procreate. God has bestowed upon male and female the capacity to choose and develop character and to participate with Him in bringing new life into the world.
The essence of "God is love [agape],"-- the divine self-denial in service to all others (1 John 4:8). Innocent "Adam" was clothed in a "garment of light," radiating divinely endowed agape. [1]
The age of agape-innocence passed with Adam and Eve's attempted "overreaching" to become "gods" knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). They were now exposed in the nakedness of their own selfishness. The guilt was beyond their ability to handle. They felt themselves dying of self-condemnation. In order to save themselves they covered their nakedness with self-made vegetation.
The sin of usurping their Creator was so high-handed and mutinous that in order to preserve the ego, it set up a "guardsman" to repress the guilt of murder so that it was unconscious. "They did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (Rom. 1:28). They wanted God dead and out of their lives. "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God" (Rom. 8:7).
"Adam" did not seek for God. He hid. God "called" for him. Thus began the "restoration" of mankind. God made "coats of skins, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). They did not repent and ask forgiveness. God saw their need. He "redeemed" them "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb," "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:18-20). God has forgiven the sin of the world before anyone asked for it. "Father, forgive them; forthey know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). [2]
Herein lies the great, vast, unknown sin, not only of the world, but of God's last-day Laodicean church. There's something she "knowest not" and is "wretched," "miserable," "poor," "blind," "and naked" (Rev. 3:17). Buried deep within the repressed memory-banks of Adventist's minds is the guilt of the murder of the Son of God from which "enmity" rises up against Christ's priestly work of ministering the cross to the resistant heart.
In 1888 Christ sent "messengers" to uplift "the Lamb slain" "the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." "Theefficacy [effectiveness] of the blood of Christ was ... presented," "the efficacy [effectiveness] of this atoning sacrifice." [3] Here is the dynamic of the 1888 message-- the cross and the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. The "atoning sacrifice" is already effective before one believes. [4] Take a breath; that is proof that Jesus has saved you from the second death because if He had not saved us from it, we would all be dead right now in it. So don't ever think that Jesus' death isn't effective for every individual in the world.
The Saviour came to the 1888 conference with a message of His heart-reconciling cross and He in the person of the messengers were spurned and ridiculed just like the Jews treated Him 2,000 years ago. [5] There was deep, unconscious hatred for Christ. This same resistance toward the 1888 message has passed on through succeeding generations until today whenever the topic is brought up there is animosity in the hearts of many. It was historic Adventists back then and today who say we don't need this easy believism, Salvation Army religion. The law of God and the prophecies are the centerpiece of our full-message evangelism.
Never has the hatred of God's own people for the Son of God been so striking, bitter, and unreasoning; it's straight out of hell! Never in the history of this earth has Christ been so cruelly "despised and rejected of men" as He is today (Isa. 53:3). The story of Jesus is the saga of eternity. To the extent that the universe is filled with intelligent beings, they marvel that people created in the image of God and redeemed by His love can be so devilish in their animosity toward the Son of God.
Now the world stands in a new relationship to God's throne, never before known in its past: we have come to the hour of the cosmic Day of Atonement. By Christ's redemption of the lost race also comes the restoration of the image of God in man-- also known as sanctification. It's the hour Scripture has long said is the time when repentance for the rejection and crucifixion of the Son of God shall become complete and a people at last be fully heart-reconciled to the righteousness of God.
One of the vivid metaphors that describes this "atonement" (or at-one-ment) is the "Bride" making herself ready for "the marriage of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:1-8). Out of the human race that is corporately guilty of this rejection of Christ comes (or will come) a "remnant" as intimately reconciled to Christ as a bride can be to her husband.
At the same time as this "atonement" is in process, the rejecters in the human race will crucify Him "afresh" in a final frenzy of hatred of God. The grand Day of Atonement is the hour for some to be fully reconciled to God, and also the hour of "judgment" for those who choose finally to dis-believe the Son of God.
The 1888 message discerned rightly is the "beginning" of the "loud cry." The apparent terrors of the third angel's message are transcended by its genial proclamation of grace. The warning against the mark of the beast is in reality the Good News that the Lord is trying His best to persuade us to receive the seal of God. Herein is the overriding concern of the 1888 message-- let's stop resisting that on-going grace! Let Christ do what He wants so much to do-- save us "to the uttermost." We have arrived.
-- Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (From the Writings of Ellen G. White):
[1] Last Day Events, p. 249.
[2] "That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God" (The Desire of Ages, p. 745).
[3] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 92.
[4] "The atonement of Christ was not made in order to induce God to love those whom He otherwise hated; it was not made to produce a love that was not in existence; but it was made as a manifestation of the love that was already in God's heart ... We are not to entertain the idea that God loves us because Christ has died for us ... The death of Christ was expedient in order that mercy might reach us with its full pardoning power, and at the same time that justice might be satisfied in the righteous substitute" ("Christ Our Complete Salvation" (Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895).
[5] "It would come vividly before me that the same acts that the divine Redeemer experienced when He was in this world, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, are being repeated by Christ's professed followers today. ... This meeting [Minneapolis] has been the saddest experience of my life" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 176, 179; MS. 21, 1888).
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