I think some of you have already gone through this series on the atonement before so it will be repeat for you. And so we'll find out from the very outset how well you remembered what you heard the first time. And for those of you who haven't gone through this series before this will help you to know what we are going to be focusing on the next several sessions. If you've got a piece of paper, I'm going to give you some questions. By the way several people have been asking me when my book "The God They Never Knew" was going to be coming out again. It's out now. They've done a new cover on it. I've added some material to it and one of the things we've added in the back of the book is a series of study questions for each chapter. And so I think it's become really a more appropriate tool for schools like this one. I don't have enough books right now but I do have one that has the study questions in it. So, I' ll just go ahead and read them to you and I'm going to allow you to go ahead and put down what you think the answer is. Then we'll go over this same quiz later on after we finish the series and see how you do this afternoon. Hopefully, you'll do a little bit better.
First question. Briefly summarize, as best you can, in your own words, describe, summarize Man's situation apart from God.
Second question is this. What were the four major difficulties God needed to overcome through the atonement?
Question number three. Was it possible for God to accomplish many ends with just one action?
Question four. Explain God's governmental problems in reconciliation and then tell me, how did His problem correspond to that of King Darius.
Too bad I forgot to put the answers in the book.
Question number five. What does law without sanctions amount to?.
Question number six. Now, this is a two part question. What thoughts entered Adam's mind about God subsequent to his initial sin?
Makes you wonder when people get out slide rules for these questions.
Second question in number six is this. How has this erroneous concept been carried on down through human history?
Question number seven. How is this wrong concept transferred to various interpretations of Christ's work in the atonement?
Question number eight, again, two part question. Why did God's love not need to be restored by any propitiation? Why did God's love not need to be restored by anything that Jesus did on the cross?
Second part of this question number eight. Was the cross of Christ a stimulus to bring mercy about or an expression of God's predisposition to mercy?
Question number nine. What is wrong with the statement; "God is a God of Love but He is also a God of Justice"?
Question number ten. Define the two types of justice that are basically covered in the scriptures. Tell me which type allowed for forgiveness.
If you don't remember the exact word to use, just describe it.
Question number eleven. Define forgiveness. And tell me why is it impossible to both receive payment on a claim and to forgive it. Why is it impossible to both receive payment on a claim and to forgive it....after you define forgiveness.
Question number twelve. This is a neat kind of test, it gives you an answer to one of the previous questions. If the atonement, if the atonement satisfied retributive justice to the tiniest iota, if the atonement satisfied retributive justice to the tiniest iota what prospect are we faced with in relation to the Trinity? Second part of this question number twelve. Where in the universe, if this theory be true, can we find an example of pure agape love?
Question number thirteen. Can God relate to man in intimate fellowship when man thinks he's something he's not? Second part of this question. Why is it important for man to see himself as he truly is in a matter of reconciliation?
Question number fourteen. Explain God's motivational problem in reconciliation. Second part of question fourteen. What was the key to maintaining the new God-Man relationship against the magnetism of former inflamed appetites and habit patterns?
Last question, number fifteen. Do we possess any alluring qualities at all which would attract God to us prior to salvation?
In discussing the atonement, it must be done in two segments. The first we need to discuss and understand God's problems in winning man back to Himself; in reconciling man back to Himself; in restoring the ruptured God-Man relationship. In understanding the problems that God faced in winning man back to himself, it will help us to have a much greater appreciation for the solutions that God has offered for those problems. The process that takes place in restoring that ruptured relationship is called reconciliation. The object that is hoped for in that process is reconciliation. The solution to the problems that exist in the God-Man relationship is called redemption. The way that God won man back to Himself is called redemption. And we're going to talk in the next several sessions about both reconciliation and redemption. We want to begin by acquiring a good hardcore understanding of the problems that God faced in reconciliating man to Himself so that as we then later discuss the solution we'll have a much greater appreciation for it. Now I want you to grade your own quiz.
The way that you'll do that is by paying attention during the next couple of lectures where we cover the subject of reconciliation and you will know when we come to each one of these different questions and we'll be discussing the answer and if the answer that is given during the course of the lecture differs from what you put down on your paper then you will want to make the necessary correction.
C. S. Lewis, I think probably summed the whole matter of reconciliation as succinctly as anyone has when he simply stated that "God became a Man in order to turn creatures into sons". "God became a Man in order to turn creatures into sons".
Another Englishman, Malcolm Muggeridge, talking about reconciliation, stated "Through Him, speaking of Jesus, we may know God truly is Father. Through Him, the universal becomes the particular, the imminent becomes the transcendent, the implicit becomes the explicit, always becomes now, it was for this purpose, to open a way for sinners to know God, that Jesus came among us." "It was for this purpose, to open a way for sinners to know God, that Jesus came among us." Galatians 121 we read "and you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works yet now hath ye reconciled".
We want to try and understand to begin with this morning, what man's state was prior to his redemption. What was his standing with God What was his situation like? In discussing this it is important to go back and recall that Biblical principle, and it's not just a biblical principle that "Grief is proportional to intimacy". "Grief is proportional to intimacy". The more we know someone, the better we know someone, the more we love someone, the more vulnerable we become. And in any earthly relationship, of course, the ultimate in vulnerability comes in marriage, where the Bible says we become " one flesh" and when there is a hurt, it tears our own flesh. The better we know that person, the longer we've known that person, the closer we've become, the more power they have to wound us. If some casual acquaintance, that we've met maybe once or twice in our lives, makes some unkind remark to us it's fairly easy to shrug it off. But when our marriage partner comes up to us and makes and unkind remark, it's not so easy to shrug it off. It hurts. If some casual relationship suddenly leaves, goes somewhere else, it doesn't necessarily wound us to the core but if an intimate relationship is broken up, it can wound terribly. Grief is proportional to intimacy. The more we get to know someone, the more vulnerable we become.
That being the case, then think about the words of the Bible concerning God's knowledge of us. That he knows our going in and our going out; that every one of the hairs of our head are numbered; that God so loved the world, the people in it, the souls in it, that he gave his only begotten son; think of the love that God and the knowledge that God has for humanity, it's awesome, it's beyond anything that we will ever know, in any earthly relationship. The more we can learn about interaction in love and intimacy in this world on this planet in earthly relationships. All these relationships do really is serve as types or as examples of a much greater relationship that's behind all of those small relationships. And I think that so called atheists and agnostics that deny god or deny the possibility of relating to him who enter into intimate earthly relationships are the greatest fools in the universe. For how could there be, any earthly intimacy that had any meaning whatsoever if it was not a reflection or an extension of a greater relationships that was behind all of that. If there is not some kind of an eternal reference point, then all of our so-called intimacies and loves in interaction down here in various earthly relationships are totally absurd, totally without meaning, totally without foundation, without roots. The only thing that gives any of our earthly relationships any substance whatsoever is the fact that they are rooted in a deeper, more eternal intimacy and love relationship.
Now I believe that people who are non-Christians can love each other, but I don't believe that they can get the maximum out of those relationships without understanding the God-Man love affair simply because that while they may be experiencing love they don't understand why it has meaning. And I just think to myself what it must be like for people who really love each other, who don't know the word. And what must go through their minds sometimes, you know, as they're laying down in their bed at night going to sleep and they are thinking about how wonderful this thing is but why is it wonderful, why does it have meaning. God said, "I am broken with their boorish heart which hath departed from me ". "I am broken with their boorish heart which hath departed from me" and the word "broken" in the Hebrew, the original Hebrew, means to shiver or to shatter, to totally crush, to break into thousands of pieces. And I think that the word that's used here, the word "departed" is very, very important and very, very suggestive, and we'll see.
What's the reference? I'll give you all the scripture references that we'll be going through at the end of the lecture if you like. In fact I'll give you a list for you to copy down, I'll just read them all off to you at one time.
It is man that has done his very best to break, to shatter, all expressions of divine love. And the question that this raises, man has taken God's Love, the love that God has extended, and he has wrapped it up in tin foil and he's deposited it in the garbage can. And he has said in effect to God, "I don't want to have anything to do with you, I want to live on my own, leave me alone".
Man has done this, this is an accomplished fact so the question that we ask ourselves at this point is, if God's heart and feelings have been broken, if they have been shattered, if this intimate love relationship that God originally intended to exist between Himself and man has been severed and has been ruptured is it possible to put it all back together again? Remind you of Humpty Dumpty? All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again.
What about the God-Man relationship? Does there exist a craftsman anywhere in the universe that is skilled enough to put those pieces back together, in their original form. In answering this question, we have to realize that what God has to start with, if He is that skilled craftsman what he begins with is debris. He doesn't begin with something that half built or something that is merely cracked a little bit or chipped. He begins with debris, with something that doesn't resemble what he started with at all. And that craftsman who had this beautiful form, this beautiful love relationship with man in the beginning, that has been shattered, it's been atomized, can he take all the little pieces and debris and put it back together again and in doing that you have to understand that craftsman must be able to visualize it's original form. He must be able to recall what it looked like to begin with, what it was to start with. He is not making something different, he is restoring what once was. Restoring the boorish heart that was departed. Okay, so man's situation today apart from God can be summarized very simply as follows: a) Man today apart from God. Man does not like God or even want to know him. And if you read through the first couple of chapters of the book of Romans, it makes this point very, very clear and in the amplified version that says Romans the 2nd chapter, that man doesn't even consider God worth knowing. So man does not like God or even want to know Him. b) despite that fact, that man doesn't like God or consider Him worth knowing, Man needs God for his sustenance and for optimum fulfillment.
I heard a funny thing yesterday. You all know who Madeline Murray O'Hare is don't you? Well, she's gone into hiding because people were driving her nuts witnessing to her. People kept calling her and witnessing to her over the phone..all kinds of Christians would go and stuff her mailbox with all kinds of Christian literature and with letters telling her how much God loved her until she couldn't handle it anymore. And she went, she's hiding now someplace..in between working hours. And here's this woman who swears up and down that God just doesn't exist and anyone who that believes in God is a fool. She doesn't like God and she doesn't consider Him worth knowing. And she's very blatant about it, most people aren't quite so blatant, so militant but Madeline Murray O'Hare whether she recognizes or acknowledges it or not needs God for a her sustenance. What's going to happen to her if suddenly the atmosphere of the earth evaporates? She's going to die very, very quickly. Her heart keeps her blood pumping through her whole body every day hundreds, thousands of times it beats. And it does so because God has allowed it. He has provided for her sustenance; he's provided food for her, provided air for her to breathe, provided water for her, everything that she needs in order to sustain her existence has been provided and continues to be provided by Almighty God.
And you know today we've become a people who somehow think, and even as Christians we think this, that we don't really need God, I mean that we don't need to be dependent on him on a daily basis. We go out to the market, we buy milk and we buy eggs and we buy meat; I mean we worked for that, we worked hard, we got a pay check and we went out and bought groceries.
And we really think in terms of the immediate, we think that we have produced that which we need ourselves. You just stop and think about it.
There are people, there are dairies, there are butchers, there are poultry farms and they think that they supply whole cities with dairy products and poultry and all this, they're the suppliers. To this day, I don't know of a single human being who has ever produced the necessary ingredients for an omelet themselves. No man has ever been able to create an egg. Or any of these things, no man has been able to produce a stalk of wheat or an ear of corn. No man produces these things.
And we need to sometimes just think back to the very, very beginning of things go back behind the super markets, behind the suppliers, behind the packagers and realize again even in this modern, technological 20th century we are absolutely, day by day, utterly dependent upon the providence of God for our very sustenance and whether we acknowledge that or recognize it or not doesn't change the fact our well-being every moment of every day depends utterly upon God. Whether we like Him or not it's still a fact.
Secondly, the Bible tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes 3rd chapter that God has set eternity in our hearts. And of course this is the scripture that Don Richardson used to formulate the title for his most recent book "Eternity in their hearts" and the Hebrew word for eternity in this particular passage is the world Olam. OLAM. Carries with it the connotation of the love of eternity or the love of that which is eternal. In other words God has set or manufactured into every man and woman who has ever been born into this world a love of that which is eternal. And we cannot experience on this earth optimum or complete fulfillment in our lives until our lives or longing for that which is eternal is met. Our society today is a picture of people who are trying desperately to find fulfillment, they're eternal beings, trying to find fulfillment in a material world while denying God any role in their lives and of course its impossible but they try. And don't ever forget that you and everybody that you know was made with a capacity for God consciousness for God awareness and that we were designed purposely that way by God. To relate to Him and to relate to that which is eternal. And when we try and stuff an eternal compartment with material things of course its never going to bring us to optimal satisfaction or fulfillment. And there are these ludicrous little slogans that we confront.....the craziest one of all is cigarette slogan, you know, "the cigarette that really satisfies" and of course if it really satisfied we would only need to smoke one, wouldn't we. Here are these chain smokers smoking the cigarette that really satisfies; you know. Nothing in this world really satisfies and we don't know that that's true until we come to the point when we are born again.
Something enters our lives that we can't describe, that we can't really explain but we are made complete, we are made whole. And as we look at our communities full of thousands and thousands of people who don't know God relationally, we need to view them as walking shells that need to be filled with eternity.
I was invited by girl I met in a class to her home. I was to meet her family and just to be hospitable and sociable and this girl lived in a family in which her father was unsaved but the rest of her family was born again. The wife was a Christian, her mother was a Christian, her brother was also saved and she was a Christian. In fact, she's, some of you will know who she is, her name is Sue Secrest - her husband is Dan Secrest - who for many years was the YWAM director of Spain. And what I suspected was happening when I was invited over to the house was that I was being set up and that her father was also being set up. And that we were going to be maneuvered into a situation in which I was supposed to , you know, lay some Christian apologetics on him, because they had tried everything you know to get him to become a Christian and he was a real hold out (laughter). So you know we had a great dinner and then in a not so subtle way we were ushered into the living room and positioned right in front of each other in two facing chairs. I thought "Oh brother", I felt, I felt really sorry for this man. Not because I was going to slaughter him with some kind of debate or anything like that but because the situation was so blasted awkward and I felt uncomfortable and I knew he did and I just wanted to come and be his friend and get to know him and not have to start witnessing the first five minutes of our time there.
Anyway they started asking questions that were real set up questions like "George, what do you think about ..."; or a "I know that dad has been wondering about..."; and I wonder if you could share with ..." and a little ways into our conversation he said "Look, I don't have any problem with the fact that my wife and my children have become Christians. I have no problem with that, I think its great. I wish them the best. I'm not going to interfere in that, I think its wonderful, I support them wholeheartedly, I love them. I don't think there's anything wrong with Christianity. I think it's okay to be a Christian. But we're talking about me, right now, and I am happy". Have you ever been witnessing to somebody who says, "Hey, I don't need Christ, I'm happy"?
He said," I've got a fantastic family, wonderful children a wonderful wife, I love them, we get along fine (and they did) and I've got a great job, I like doing what I'm doing, I get good pay for it, it's fulfilling and challenging. I've got a nice home, I enjoy living here (and they did, it's a beautiful, beautiful place down in Olympia) and on the weekends I can go out and take my motorcycles up into the hills and ride around, you know, I'm healthy, I'm happy. I don't think there is anything wrong with Christianity, I just don't see why I need to become a Christian. Why do I need to go to church and listen to somebody preach? Why do I need to give my life to God? I'm happy. I've got everything I need right now".
Well, I listened to him, he was sharing like this for about ten or fifteen minutes, I was listening and he was so sincere, he really just about had me convinced that he really was happy; and I was saying to myself and to the Lord "Lord, what would you like to say to this gentlemen? What am I supposed to say to him?, you know. There's the typical response, you know " You've fallen short of the glory of God, you've sinned, you're a sinner, you need to recognize that you're a filthy sinner; all your righteousness is filthy rags". I didn't think I d get too far with that approach and I was asking the Lord for some handle with this fellow and that scripture from Ecclesiastes 3 just roared up into my conscious mind, "For God has set eternity in their hearts" and then the Lord just reminded me, He said "You have an ally inside of him". What he's saying to you cannot possibly be true, he has experienced a measure of happiness.
And those of you who have had the opportunity of reading C. S. Lewis's autobiography entitled "Surprised by Joy" will remember that he made many, very, very similar, statements that were similar to the ones that Mr. Secrest, I mean Mr. Fourier was making.
He was happy and one day C. S. Lewis came to the realization that while that he thought that what he really wanted in life was to find joy, was to capture joy, he suddenly realized that joy wasn't what he was seeking at all, that joy was a by-product of something else. Or of someone else. And there are many things that we seek today for themselves, their own sakes, like humility, like unity, like joy, and all these things will evaporate in our very hands if we try and grasp them. You can never realize any of those things by seeking them for their own sake, they are all by-products of a relationship and a focus on the source of all of those things, which is of course, God himself. Anyway, I said, when Mr. Fourier was finished, I said, "Well listen, if you'll just, let's just use our imagination here." "You've told me that you are happy and have explained some of the reasons why but I'm sure that there must be at least a few little adjustments or modifications that could be made in your existence that would make you even a little bit more happy. You could be a little happier still. So why don't you take the next five minutes or so, lean back in the chair, close your eyes, and just imagine yourself in the most perfect, absolutely perfect, circumstances you can fathom, maybe with somebody else with you, maybe in some other place or with something else added to you."
And I gave him a few minutes to do that and I said "Okay, now that you are in that place and all the circumstances now are in place there's only one thing I can say to you with certainty. And that is that if you ever actually realize that which you are imagining right now, your heart will still long for something more. And once you realize that, your heart will still long for something yet again. And you will always still long for something more because God has manufactured you with a capacity for eternity." And that's all we shared that night and we dropped the subject and we started talking about sports or something else. But two weeks later, he finally went forward in his family's church and gave his life to the Lord.
He's doing great, he's a Christian to this day. And there are, there is again this vital principle here that we as human beings desperately need God not only for our sustenance but for our optimal fulfillment.
So again, going back, and recapping man's situation apart from God is, he doesn't like God and doesn't want to know God. Secondly, but man needs God for his sustenance and optimal fulfillment. Thirdly, God loves man deeply and wants the best for him. We remember God is a God of agape love. And how would we define agape love? Give me a few words, descriptions. Love without any strings attached. Which means that what? Totally unselfish, unconditional.
Now how many of you think you have experienced that kind of love? How many of you have that kind of love in your life right now? To a small measure. How many of you would like that kind of love? Me too, me too. And I hate to say it but I know this morning that I don't experience and live out agape love nearly to the extent that God wants me too. And there all too often, I discover in my heart that, that what I give does have strings attached. Even if they are small ones and even if I try to convince myself that they are not really there.
And because we have such a difficult time with agape love, because so much of our giving is predicated upon what we are going to receive in return, it is very difficult for us to conceive that God is really what he says he is. That he is a being of total agape love. That what he gives, he gives without expecting anything in return, without demanding anything in return. He would like something in return, he longs for his love to be responded to, but even if it isn't, it does not prevent him from loving unconditionally anyway. God loves Charles Manson, God loves Leonid Brezhnev; God loves Momar Gadafy. I'm not sure that I do, really. There are times when I read about atrocities that have been perpetrated by some murderer or by some rapist or some other criminal, either on the international scene or community level. I'll read it in the newspaper or see it on TV and you know what comes into my heart? Rage. The desire for vindication, desire to see that person suffer. And if somebody were to offer me the chance, today, to go on a mission with a hit team to take care of a few people in this world, it would be very tempting.
I find it difficult sometimes to sort out my hatred of sin and my feelings for the sinner. Those same things that produce rage in me, also produce rage in God. But the rage that rises up within God's being is not directed towards the perpetrator but towards that which has been perpetrated. We'll talk a little bit more about this but let me just, suffice it to say here at this point that, there is nothing that you nor I could ever do to cause God to stop loving us. If I murder someone, could God stop loving me? Moses murdered, David murdered, Paul murdered. How about maiming other people? David did it. Peter did it. How about committing adultery or fornication? Lots of people did it in the bible. Not only did God not destroy them, they became great leaders, great spiritual repositories, great examples to you and me today, to this very day. Does that mean that God loves those things, that he doesn't think they are too bad after all, that we can be Christians and do those things?
It's not what it means at all. It means that there is nothing that you or I can conceive in our minds, nothing that you or I can execute, that would cause God's heart or predisposition to love unconditionally to change. We cannot change him. There are times when I have counseled with people who have said," I just..I just can't make it, I can't do it, I've just messed up too badly. I told God that I was going to get my act together and start living a holy life and I keep going, I can't do it". And condemnation has set in and guilt has set in. And there's nothing wrong with the guilt, the guilt is good. It's when you start doing those things and don't feel any guilt, you need to start worrying. The guilt comes because God is loving and gracious. The condemnation comes after we've confessed the sin. We've really felt sorry about it. We've repented of it and there is still no rest. We still toss and turn after we've made it right. That's not good. And I've talked to people who are suffering from both guilt and people who are suffering from condemnation and you need to deal with them differently.
One person needs to deal with these feelings in one way by taking certain action and the other person needs to take a another action. But the point is and this is the thought that has often come to me in times of despair, in times of frustration because I have really messed up. I think to myself and I think to myself this very moment, right now, this moment, God loves me. This very moment in history; in my life, God is willing the very best things for me. He wants my highest right now. He wants to see me prosper.
He wants to see me grow. He wants to see me happy. God wants that for me right now. And for every one of us and there will never be a second of my life where God will ever want anything else. God is Love. Agape love. And in spite of the fact that man apart from God doesn't like him, doesn't even want to know him, doesn't acknowledge his need of God; in spite of that God is benevolent. He's wishing the very highest for every single one of those people. He's wanting the maximum for them. The optimum. And so, fourthly, God therefore attempts to win man back to Himself.
So man's situation again, man does not like God or even what to know him but man needs God for his sustenance and optimum fulfillment. God loves man deeply and wants the best for him and he therefore attempts to win man back to Himself. For Gods own benefit? Does he do this? Not ultimately. God will derive benefit in winning man back to Himself cause he loves man and he wants the fellowship but man desperately needs that relationship for man to be supremely fulfilled and happy; and God's love is a giving love and that is where God derives his greatest pleasure is from giving. And again, when we use this phrase winning man back it does, in a very real sense, betray the fact that man is lost property; and while there's no mistaking the fact today that man is indeed a rebel on the rampage, even a rebel belongs to somebody and try as hard as he may man cannot deface or erase or scratch off the unmistakable markings of a being created in the image of God. And I have often thought of this as I have been confronting somebody who is unlovely; whose attitude left a lot to be desired, whose physical appearance left alot to be desired and sometimes the two go hand in hand. And you meet these people and their personality is just totally unpleasant, and they are rude, and selfish and arrogant. Who wants to be around them?
Let them go, let them walk of a cliff, good riddance, you know. We should take all these people...I have often thought we should do that you know; I have often had strong feelings you know that we should put Jane Fonda on Alcatraz and let her spend the rest of her life there. Get all the hippies and all the weirdos and all the communists and all the murders and rapists - give them a whole continent and let them fight it out among themselves and leave the rest of us normal people alone. When we confront these people can we remind ourselves that these very people, these ugly, unlovely people, are the very objects of a great and an undying love. Maybe I don't love them but somebody does, somebody really does. There are markings upon them, they are human beings, God created them for a purpose. He created them as a potential bride, He created them for intimacy with Himself; He created them to be the receptacles of the overflow of His love. And if God loves them with that kind of a love, how can I cast them off in my heart?
So you see, I'm explaining to you this morning how far I am still to this day from exercising and fully realizing the love of God in my own heart; agape love. It's a great and a mysterious love and its something that we need to learn and that God wants to teach us but can only teach us over a period of time as we spend that time disciplined with him. Where we emulate him. We look at him. We listen to him. We copy him and suddenly his characteristics, I shouldn't say suddenly, over a period of time his characteristics become ours, he starts to rub off on us.
If we want to become like Christ how can you do that unless you spend time with Him; we become like the people we hang around with. man has in a sense has stolen his life from God and given it to moral harlotry. He's left the one who made him and he's left the home where he belongs. Malcolm Muggeridge, is a British social critic and a very old man now, became a believer in his later years, discussed this phenomena that we've been talking about during the early stages of his own conversion experience. He said "I've never wanted a God, or feared a God, or felt any necessity to invent one; unfortunately, I am driven to the conclusion that God wants me." And that's the bottom line, when we begin to talk about reconciliation, that's the bottom line "God wants us".
Let me explain one more thing, share one more thing, because by giving them the next thing..... It's very, very important to pay attention to the language that God uses in the scriptures to describe things. When you stop and think about how wise God is and about how incredibly intelligent he is He would not unthinkingly or carelessly use a story, an illustration or a figurative expression. He uses words and phrases and pictures to get as close to reality as He possibly can in describing things to us. And God uses a lot of terms relating to the human love relationship when he is describing the God-Man relationship. What it isn't, or what it should be, or what it can be. He uses the word "bride" when talking about us, and not just Christians either by the way.
You know we talk about the bride of Christ and we think that it's just the church but you see the church is not complete yet. And Jesus delivered the story of this wedding feast that was planned, that was organized and nobody came. Remember that, the seats were empty. And so he turned to his servants and He asked them to go out into the world, go out into the highways and byways and find people to come to that wedding feast. Of-course this is a picture of the Great Commission. Going out in search of a bride, to find her and to fetch her and to bring her to the wedding feast. So you see as we go out into the community, whether its Pike Streak up in Seattle, or somewhere here in Tacoma, or Mongolia what were doing is that were going out there and walking amongst the potential bride of Christ. But the thing that's really important is the terminology, the word "bride". And other terminology that God factors in would include harlotry or adultery, in a spiritual sense. "I am broken with your whorish heart". What is a whore? It's someone who gives themselves intimately to people they don't belong to. And then as we'll read later, there is the whole example of the situation with Hosea, the book of Hosea and the type of his life. We'll get into that later on as we talk about reconciliation.
When you think about a bride leaving that's quite a picture and that's the picture that..and we'll give several scriptures to this effect a little later on..probably this afternoon. It's a bride that is leaving, that has left him. It's not a situation where after twenty years of turbulent marriage that finally the woman walks out the door in a huff and says "goodbye". I mean that's been known to happen, in fact it happens quite a lot, usually it's not after twenty years, usually it's after two years but how often does it happen with a bride. You see a bride is somebody that is anticipating, a bride is someone who has been cleaned and who has been given to who has been invested in, a bride is someone who has a future, a bride is someone generally who has not been wronged at all, there is no record, nothing has nothing happened yet, everything is bright and rosy and wonderful and exciting and new. And what does it feel like to a bridegroom to be stood up. It's one thing again to have a wife walk out after a lot of fights and a turbulent situation. But what happens when you come to the alter, everything is prepared, a wedding feast is there and she doesn't even show up. Not only does she not show up for you but she breaks your heart because she's not at your wedding, she's out in someone else's bed. "Can a bride forget her ornaments?", the Lord asks, "or her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number."
We need to see how poignant this whole God-Man relationship really is. We need to look at the whole thing from Gods perspective and not from our perspective if we look at it from our perspective we miss the full impact of the thing. We can take our definition of love and place them on Gods back if we want to but we are going to undershoot an accurate understanding of the love of God if we do that. We need to allow God to describe the situation in his own terms. And it comes in two ways. First of all we use the descriptions that He provides for us in the Bible and we get the word pictures and we get some imagery there and it helps us to come before him in the right attitude of heart to receive a Revelation of the holy spirit. And you see that's what God is really wanting to do with us here. Concerning our understanding of the atonement; our understanding of the God-Man relationship, he's wanting to bring us a real revelation of the whole thing through the holy spirit. And we can block that through our own choices. We can block it through apathy. We can come and we can say, "Well heck, this is just another lecture in the course of many lectures during the course of this school and I'll learn a few new things maybe about God or about this particular point of theology." And if you do, you'll be getting something good but you'll be missing the best.
The best teaching, the most lasting teaching that you're going to get in this class is going to come by the holy spirit. Not by any lecturer that ever comes here and stands before you; not by any staff member; some of you are going to get an education that goes way beyond others of you because you will come here and you will open up your emotional life, your intellectual life and your spirit to the holy spirit of God to bring revelation. And even those of you who have gone through this whole series on the atonement before, even I, need to come before God, today, during this time and say, "new revelation, need to see it deeper". And we will receive that which we want and that which we've come for. And if we are struggling with our attitudes and struggling with our sin I believe it's simply because you and I have not understood how much our sin hurts God.
We live in kind of a blurry, anesthetized world where sin doesn't really hurt, you know we can commit it, we can do all kinds of things and go and say "Oh, Lord I'm sorry for that, I really am sorry. But how sorry is He, I mean, what is it putting Him through? How disappointed is He, here He is and He has poured out his very life blood for Him and what do we do in return, after that act of love we give him a plate of disappointment. You're big enough God, you're sovereign, you can take it, you can bounce right back, you're agape love, after all, you're going to keep on loving me, it's alright, I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have done it." God wants to take us deeper than that, he wants to take us deeper than that, he wants to really take us on in into relationship into intimacy. And again, God wants us not to just talk about this kind of relationship, not just to talk about a quietness a kind of understanding but to experience it to embrace it. So let's bring our hearts before the Lord in a new and a special way. Let's really prepare ourselves to receive revelation of the holy spirit. And just do me a favor, okay, allow God only to use me in these next few lectures as a vehicle; the best thing for you is when your attention is totally focused on the holy spirit, while you're hearing things from me I'll go and ask the holy spirit to give me the right things to say but then as you listen to these things you hand them to the holy spirit to break them into revelation. What I am giving you are buds and you let the holy spirit turn them into blossoms.
Let's take a few moments to change gears. We're complex, people and personalities and the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for a lot of things. A time to laugh, a time to be serious. Generally, the two don't mix very well and sometimes when we try to be serious and when it's a time to laugh, it damages us and conversely when we try to laugh when it's time to be serious we miss out and it damages us. So are we all ready to go?