Monday, February 18, 2013

"Jesus, Provider and Sustainer"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 8: "Jesus, Provider and Sustainer"
What is the Creator's relationship to His creation? Is there a conflict between science and the Bible's portrayal of the divine providential care of creation? Are the things of nature self-sustaining in that they act according to set laws observable by scientific discovery?
How are we to understand the extraordinary miraculous events of nature and the common or ordinary events of nature? What is the purpose of divine providence in the common and the extraordinary "miraculous" in nature? Is there a "dynamic" providential revelation to be seen in nature and God's movements among mankind that reveal His Divine love?
There is false science and there is true science. With false science there is conflict with the Bible. In true science there is perfect harmony with the Scriptures.
The laws of nature comprise what men have been able to discover with regard to the laws that govern the physical world; but how limited is their knowledge, and how vast the field in which the Creator can work, in harmony with His own laws, and yet wholly beyond the comprehension of finite beings.
Many teach that matter possesses vital power, that certain properties are imparted to matter, and it is then left to act through its own inherent energy, and that the operations of nature are conducted in harmony with fixed laws, with which God Himself cannot interfere. This is false science, and is not sustained by the word of God. Nature is the servant of her Creator. God does not annul His laws, or work contrary to them; but He is continually using them as His instruments. [1]
There is in nature the continual working of the Father and the Son. Christ says, "the Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). The Levites, in their hymn recorded by Nehemiah, sung, "Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, ... and Thou preservest them all" (Neh. 9:6).
A belief in miracles is a necessary consequence of a belief in God. He who does not believe in miracles does not believe in God. Miracles are simply God's natural actions. His smallest acts must be miraculous in the eyes of men, simply because He is God.
The life of Jesus on earth, from His birth to His ascension was a miracle, because it was the life of God. All the Son's acts were the acts of the Father, who dwelt in Him. "He [the Father] doeth the works" (John 14:10). Thousands of people who never heard of Jesus, had tried to live sinless lives, but not one had been able to do so. But Christ lived a sinless life, in the face of such temptations as all the world together had never known. It was because He lived the life of the infinite God.
These miracles were wrought for a definite purpose, "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, ... and that believing ye might have life through His name" (John 20:30, 31). Christ did not perform the miracles simply for the purpose of calling attention to Himself, but to show the love and the power of God toward man. The healing of the bodies of men were aids to faith, to enable men to grasp unseen realities; to show them the power of Christ to heal the disease of the sin-sick soul.
Just as surely as Christ created the world and sustains all that is therein, just so will He bring about through Divine providence the completion of the gospel work of a ripened harvest at His second coming. [2] Christ used God's providences in nature to illustrate how His providence will produce a mature harvest for His second coming. Jesus likens His church to a garden crop to be harvested (Mark 4:26-29).
In telling this parable, Jesus obviously intended to comment on the time of His return, because the same symbol appears in the picture of His coming in Revelation: "On the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having ... a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, 'Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe'" (Rev. 14:14, 15, NKJV).
According to these passages, the actual time of Christ's second coming depends on the "harvest" getting ripe; that is, on God's people being ready for His coming. The factor that makes the difference is what the Bible speaks of as "the latter rain" outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All of earth's thousands of years of history have been the growing season preparatory to this moment of "harvest" when He personally returns. Out of earth's billions of inhabitants of all ages there comes at last a remnant of precious souls who gladly receive the showers of the latter rain. Their mature faith has at last produced in a community of believers a reflection of the beauty of Christ's character. Without fail, "the great, grand work of bringing out a people who will have Christlike characters, and who will be able to stand in the day of the Lord, is to be accomplished." [3]
No one prepares himself or herself for "the harvest." The latter rain causes the grain to ripen. Robert J. Wieland has perceptively pointed out: "There is in Seventh-day Adventist history a grand and profound design of Providence that will lead this people to a heart-felt reconciliation with the Lord such as no previous community of God's people have ever experienced." [4] Our part is to welcome that blessing, and not to fight it off and resist it.
That picture of the harvest getting ripe so that Christ can thrust in His sickle to reap is a beautifully expressive symbol. The One who went to the cross for us, who poured out His soul unto death, who suffered unspeakable agonies for our redemption, looks upon that ripened "grain" as the hard-won fruitage of all His sacrifice and atoning work in the sanctuary above. He deserves a reward!
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "In dwelling upon the laws of matter and the laws of nature, many lose sight of, if they do not deny, the continual and direct agency of God. They convey the idea that nature acts independently of God, having in and of itself its own limits and its own powers wherewith to work. In their minds there is a marked distinction between the natural and the supernatural. The natural is ascribed to ordinary causes, unconnected with the power of God. Vital power is attributed to matter, and nature is made a deity. It is supposed that matter is placed in certain relations and left to act from fixed laws with which God Himself cannot interfere; that nature is endowed with certain properties and placed subject to laws, and is then left to itself to obey these laws and perform the work originally commanded.
"This is false science; there is nothing in the word of God to sustain it. God does not annul His laws, but He is continually working through them, using them as His instruments. They are not self-working. God is perpetually at work in nature" (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 259-260).
[2] "As they learn to labor effectively, they will proclaim the truth with power. Through most wonderful workings of divine providence, mountains of difficulty will be removed, and cast into the sea. The message that means so much to the dwellers upon the earth, will be heard and understood. Men will know what is truth. Onward and still onward the work will advance until the whole earth shall have been warned, and then shall the end come" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 96).
"The Lord will raise up men to bear the message of truth to the world and to his people. If those in responsible positions do not move onward in the opening providences of God, bearing an appropriate message for this time, the words of warning will be given to others who will be faithful to their trust. Even youthful Christians will be chosen to 'cry aloud and spare not'" (Ellen G. White, "Heart Work in Sabbath-School Teacher and Scholar," Sabbath-School Worker, April 1, 1892).
[3] Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 129.
[4] Robert J. Wieland, "An Answer to 'Further Appraisal of the Manuscript 1888 Re-examined'" (October, 1958), p. 68.