My dear Jewish friend dismisses Jesus as "that itinerant teacher." He does not believe that 2,000 years ago God became man and authoritatively dealt with the sin problem. What is God's answer to these kinds of charges? How many times have you sat in your home and thought that it was created out of nearby trees by a terrible wind storm? How about five million years of storms? What if you threw in a few earthquakes? No one thinks their fine home came about by accident. God essentially says "I created you and the earth, and so you can believe that I am able to become a human and defeat sin." Let's plunge into our Bible study and learn more about the link between the Creation and our salvation!
"Creation and the Gospel" March 23, 2013
Genesis 3:21; Psalm 104:29, 30; John 1:4; Romans 5:6-11; Galatians 3:13; Matthew 27:46
Forgiveness. It's often something that's very hard to give.
A non-profit organization, "The Forgiveness Project," aims at awareness, education, and transformation for those on the giving and receiving end of forgiveness. Their mission is: "To open up a dialogue about forgiveness and promote understanding through awareness, education and transformation."1 They work to accomplish this through their website, newsletter, and restorative and preventative programs in prisons, schools, and communities.
The website makes it clear that, "forgiveness does not condone or excuse the action. It is a gift from one individual to another" and "forgiveness must be a choice." A choice that Reaksa and Elizabeth, whose stories are told on the website, made.
When Reaksa Himm was just 14 years old, he witnessed 13 members of his family murdered by soldiers in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Surviving the massacre, Reaksa swore revenge against those responsible for the death of his family. "The anger against the killers was as great as the grief for my family and it burned inside me like a great ball of fire," he remembers. But something happened years later. After he survived the horrors of refugee camps and death squads, Reaksa became a Christian. His newfound faith gave him a whole new reason to find the murderers: he wanted to forgive them. Now free from the grip of hatred, he serves as a missionary in Cambodia-building schools, planting churches, and training leaders.
Elizabeth Turner was pregnant with her first child when the twin towers were attacked. Her husband, Simon, was at a breakfast meeting in one of the towers on that fateful morning. Not wanting to raise her child full of hatred, she made a choice that she admits was tough. She says, "Choosing the path to stop the cycle of violence is just as difficult as choosing the other path of anger and hatred." Her healing came through writing a book to help others. The Blue Skies of Autumn is a memoir about how she had to hit rock bottom before she could start building a new life for herself and her son.
It's easy to read these two stories and declare, "The perpetrators didn't deserve forgiveness!" But neither do we.
One of the most amazing forgiveness texts in the Bible is Romans 5:8: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." The text doesn't say, "Because we were perfect" or "Since we were saints" but rather "While we were still sinners." Isn't that amazing? When we deserved it the least, Jesus offered the gift of forgiveness.
The Creator had placed Adam and Eve in a perfect place. When they sinned, God could have called it quits with the world. God could have destroyed them and given up on planet earth. But the One who would later save the world gave them a second chance. In an unselfish act of love, Jesus chose to die so that they-and we-could live.
Additional resource: You Tube
1. The Forgiveness Project
Creation and the Gospel
Commentary for the March 23, 2013 Sabbath School Lesson
“…by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men…” Romans 5:12, NIV
In the spring, we can awake to discover a beautiful, warm, sunny day. A few cottony, white clouds may drift across a cornflower blue sky like scattered sheep grazing a meadow in the summer sun. Lilting bird songs imbue the air with joy and life as this year’s generation of feathered offspring joins last year’s and learns to collect the bugs and seeds that nature has timely provided for their nourishment. The landscape is painted with color as flowers riotously display their infinite hues in efforts to attract the most industrious pollinators among whom are the many singing birds and lazily droning bees.
Late spring, summer, and early fall are filled with life and with it comes hope and lifted spirits. We often wish that it could go on forever, relishing every extra day that “Indian Summer” grants us. We are reluctant to leave the warmth and life of summer behind as we head into the gray-scale landscape of winter. But even in the midst of that summer festival of life, we are not sheltered from the constant presence of the very death that winter is so identified with in its silence and bleakness. The beautiful flowers with their vibrant colors too quickly fade and die, sometimes in only a few hours. The honeybees which pollinate them last only a few weeks before their time is also through. But even this lifespan may not be achieved as bugs devour the flowers and other predators in turn devour the bugs, keeping each from reaching their full vigor and measure of life.
We are not immune from this. Though our life spans are much greater than the flowers, the insects and even the birds, we, too, eventually come to walk the pallid pathway of death, often weighed down with parasitic viruses and bacteria that have drained our own life force. We may have even dealt with illnesses that we ourselves have encouraged by our poor choices. We often discover that as we age and approach that terminal gateway, we no longer enjoy the strength or vigor we once did. The candle that we eagerly burned at both ends when we were younger is now burning in the middle and the light and fire it provides is diminished. For all of our scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs, we have accomplished little to extend life beyond the few decades we are granted. We continually fail to come anywhere near the ante-deluvian life spans of several centuries, let alone the near millennial existence of a Methuselah.
Some might consider these early life spans mythological, but when we look around and see the suffering and death that afflicts all life, we cannot help but wonder if it was always so. When we see it so pervasive in our world, we might be tempted to think that this is the natural state of everything and always has been. We might feel that life is about the struggle to overcome these things and that the vitality of all creatures comes from the strength derived from that struggle. While this Nietzscheism may sound very noble, it does not seem so to those who are suffering with chronic illness or the depleted vitality of age. There is not much nobility in casting these individuals aside as the necessary price for the physical and moral advancement of the species. Nobility only comes when the sacrifice is willingly made for a greater purpose. But these have had often had little choice in the matter. Few of them would not eagerly relinquish their suffering or death if they could.
Whether we consider it mythological or not, we can understand that the Bible does offer an alternative perspective. It tells us that the suffering and death currently endured by so many is not part of the original plan. The story in Genesis tells us that provision was made for death never to be a part of human experience. A tree grew in the original garden paradise called the Tree of Life, which had the power to keep one alive forever. The very existence of such a tree would indicate that it was unnecessary to die at one point. Perhaps this is also the purpose of the Tree of Life in the final chapter of Revelation. If so then perhaps guided by these two book-ended references to the Tree of Life is a story of lost life and its ultimate restoration.
If the consumption of the fruit of this tree grants life, then conceivably one might choose not to partake and logically the result would most likely be death. Does such a tree exist? Perhaps, but it may also be an allegorical reference to something far more vital. Perhaps it is simply a representation of Jesus, whom the Bible tells us is the life that all depend on. However, if the Genesis account is mythological allegory, it is a powerful one, for it relates the vital importance of human choice in determining destiny. Rather than a blind dependence on happenstance for a favorable future, the Bible asserts one’s choices may have a very real impact on not only us, but the rest of the world as well.
While science is perhaps the greatest champion at present for an understanding of the universe as absolute randomness, it is, also, paradoxically, the source for much data that supports a less-than-random determinism shaping our present world. The much debated issue of Global Warming is a case in point.
Global Warming posits that we are experiencing a gradual rise in global temperatures as a result of poor choices we have made which, in turn, affect our world. This raises the moral question of whether we should accept responsibility for ethical issues raised by our choices, a position which the Bible would assert. This responsibility based on a determined cause is paradoxical because this theory of warming is based on scientific methodology. However, science has also posited that species evolve as they adapt to environmental factors through random genetic variations that provide this adaptability. Therefore, the favorable genetic code persists in the new environment, enabling the species to also persist, although apparently somewhat changed. This would seem to be a good argument for doing nothing about the environment as inherent genetic adaptability would prevail, or if not, some other species more suited to the environment would replace our own. Nonetheless, a good many scientists are urging that we choose to intervene in this process and counteract our original actions that created the problem in the first place. This seems more in line with biblical perspective than the randomness of a model based on chance.
With that biblical point of view, we find refutation of that randomness through a perspective of personal and corporate responsibility. In short, poor choices epitomized through the experience related in Genesis, chapter three, have consequences. While the consequences may be good or bad depending on the nature of the choice made, the Genesis narrative and indeed much of the Bible tells us that the choices we make on our own tend toward the latter rather than the former.
In that Genesis account, mankind chose knowledge of good and evil rather than life. However, the Bible assures us that the ability to choose has not been lost as a further consequence of bad decision making. Instead, we are told that in the person of Jesus was have divine provision to restore the ability to choose life. Recognizing our poor choices, we can turn from them and to Jesus and receive life again. This is by no means an abrogation of responsibility on our part. Recognizing our responsibility and culpability and wanting to change is a prerequisite to this life restoration. If we can do this, the Bible assures us that we will be restored. Eventually, that restoration will include the entire world around us. The death and predation that now permeates everything will cease.
How wonderful it would be to wake up every morning to a beautiful day filled with positive possibilities. We would not be hindered by death or disease. Infirmity would not limit our plans for a wonderful existence. Those plans would also not be cut short prematurely by death. Every person could achieve their maximum potential and see purpose in existence where now one may be tempted to only see futility.
We are presented with a choice. We can look at the world and consider whether we choose to hope for the possibility of a future utopian existence. Then if we admit that possibility, we can decide which path is likelier to take us there, a random genetic variation or recognition of our responsibility for poor choices resulting in repentance and a change of direction? In the end, as in the beginning, it all comes down to choice. Will we choose knowledge without responsibility, or will we choose responsibility and thereby choose life?
 Genesis 3:22-24
 Revelation 22:2
 John 1:3-4, Acts 17:28
 “Global Warming,” en.wikipedia.org
 Jeremiah 13:23, Romans 3:10
 Acts 2:38, John 1:12
 1 John 1:9
 Revelation 21:1
 Isaiah 11:6
 Deuteronomy 30:19
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