Winter 2015: God's Character: Risking it All
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Summary: God wants to be known as the searching, waiting Father who never gives up on encouraging His children to return home.

The whole point of the Gospel (and the Great Controversy) is to tell the truth about the character of God. That’s the great issue that started the controversy from the beginning. God can be trusted, especially to be fair! Satan would like the world to believe the opposite. Further, God wants to be known as the searching, waiting Father who never gives up on encouraging His children to return home. He never shuts the front door, always leaves the light on for us (Luke 15).

The underlying issue in the great controversy between God and Satan is “freedom.” Over that mysterious word - that word that has summoned unspeakable courage, honor, and unselfishness in its defense - the well-being of the universe has been wrenched and jeopardized. Why did God risk all on freedom? (See Revelation 12; Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28.)

The issues that led created intelligences in heaven to rebel against God the Creator are the same reasons created beings continue to rebel against God, consciously or unconsciously. Satan had certain accusations that could persuade one-third of the angels to distrust God so why did God risk all on letting Satan live?

God responded to Satan’s charges in such a way that the unfallen angels and worlds could see that He is not the kind of God that Satan had made Him out to be. God has a long-range plan to tell His side of the story: Jesus as our Substitute (“atoning Sacrifice”), High Priest (“all-powerful Mediator”), and our Example tells the truth about God and about the destiny of men and women of faith. Why did God risk all in allowing Jesus to become truly man, exposing Himself to possible failure and eternal loss? (See Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16.)

God created human intelligences on Planet Earth to be His laboratory in which the principles of His government and those of Satan’s could be fully displayed. Think about how men and women of faith respond to God’s plan for them and how they help to vindicate God’s character and government. Why did God risk all by putting into the hands of men and women who professed to be followers of Jesus the evidences for His case when He would be put on trial before the universe? God will have a people who will rightly represent Him. They will present His final appeal to the world at a time just before the forces of good and evil come to their final clash and Jesus returns. Is it possible that God would risk all in placing the future of the universe on the final generation who will be the targets of Satan’s fiercest attacks?

The controversy will end after both God and Satan have had sufficient time to display the consequences of their particular plans for governing the universe. What is the core issue that will make the universe eternally secure, once and for all? The evidences that will be presented in favor of God will be the consequences of evil and the rewards of loyalty to God. How will the display of these evidences before the entire universe provide this eternal security? How do the mental/physical habits of the redeemed, who have become so settled into the truth that sin will never arise again, add to this eternal security and demonstrate God’s wisdom in granting freedom to created intelligences? (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, 761).

Even though God saw it all in advance, as soon as He created Lucifer there was no turning back! He was willing to be “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) in order that His grand design of a universe populated with trusting, loving individuals could eventually be realized—in an eternally secure universe where never again would a rebel say “No” to the overtures of love.

Further, in the meantime, God, the cosmic Lover, will not give up wooing His reluctant bride, His chosen people who wanted His name but not always the responsibility of love. God would not give up on His restless, wayward bride. He does everything He can to help her get herself ready for the “wedding.” Imagine that! The Creator and Sustainer of the universe motivated by a love more personal and intense than that of a human lover, more tender than a nursing mother. It boggles my mind. And to think that you and I are the unique objects of His astonishing love! What could be a greater reason to help Him get us ready for the wedding? (See Revelation 19.)

God knows three things:

1. He knows His own ability to be patient.

2. He knows that some in every generation will say “Yes” to His overtures and will rightly represent Him in their profession and character.

3. He knows that with the accumulated record of people living today who are being constantly wooed by His Spirit along with those who have been wooed by Him throughout history, eventually He will have a significant witness through whom and on whom He will rest His case. (See Matthew 24:14.)

God will not rest until He has “sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” (Revelation 7:3), those who have “the Father’s name written in their foreheads. . . . These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes . . . . And in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God” (Revelation 14:1, 4, 5; see also Revelation 22:4). Such people indeed help secure the universe forever!

Love wins, but also loses. Love remains, but some angels and human beings will turn away their faces forever. Such spurning of God’s love has been God’s risk from the beginning. Perhaps Jesus revealed the heart of God most clearly when, just before His own people murdered Him, He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37, 38).

The risk of granting freedom was not only that God should have a forever heartache. He would also put Himself on trial! He would be charged with the meanest, most unfair accusations that could be leveled against anyone! For millennia, it has seemed that Satan, with his accusations, has been winning. More people, it seems, have believed Satan’s lies about God than those who have had faith in His Word, His promises, and His trustworthiness.

We all know how God responded to that awful moment in the history of Planet Earth when Eve and Adam trusted the serpent rather than God: “The Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Haunting call, and every one of us has heard it more than once! God took the initiative to restore this broken relationship. He didn’t wait for Adam or Eve to seek Him! That thought alone is astounding! God seeking men and women, not men and women, somehow, seeking God—even though they were burdened with remorse!

All this leads us to how Jesus, in flesh and blood, entered the picture. In His own words, He described how all this works. Jesus told three parables in Luke 15 that highlighted what our heavenly Father is like. He is the faithful, persistent Shepherd of His sheep. No matter how far a sheep wanders, the sheep will be found, even though it doesn’t know it is lost (Luke 15). This is another way of saying that God in Jesus is that Light which gives light “to every man who comes into the world,” (John 1:9) even before a person knows that he needs the light! And He will keep shining that Light on us, even when we drift into a “far country.”

In the second parable, God is the persevering Housewife who searches for that lost coin of her dowry, never resting until the coin is found--because the coin is still valuable, no matter how lost it may be! This was another way of saying that God in Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost” all those who may feel they are worthless. But not in God’s sight! (Hebrews 7:25).

In the third parable, God is the waiting Father who never gives up on His wayward children. This is another way of saying that God in Jesus always has His everlasting arms outstretched to everyone, saying in words that all can understand, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest“ (Matthew 11:28). No man or woman can ever say that God’s front door was shut and that there was no light left on for him or her. Ever!

Hence, God the Father, God our Lord Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit, together have united to use every method possible to bring us back to Eden, back to that marvelous embrace where straying, sinful men and women see more clearly than ever the kind of God who is running the universe, the kind of God who is forever searching out the children who left home, giving them every reason to trust Him.

God is patiently but deliberately calling His children back home. He wants to ring the homesick bell, as long as it takes, to get a child to come home. But every person must choose to hear and respond to that love or choose to keep going down that road, farther and farther away from home until he/she no longer is attracted by the Father's whisper: "Please come home."

In all my theological adventures, I have discovered that the simplest explanation is always the solution and that solution is always wrapped up in the simple story of the great controversy.

I am reminded of those priceless words in one of my favorite books-- Steps to Christ, pages 10-11:

God has bound our hearts to Him by unnumbered tokens in heaven and in earth. Through the things of nature, and the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us. Yet these but imperfectly represent His love.

Though all these evidences have been given, the enemy of good blinded the minds of men, so that they looked upon God with fear; they thought of Him as severe and unforgiving.

Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice,--one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them. It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men.

It seems to me, getting the character of God right— the character that Jesus came to reveal—provides the framework for all theological studies, especially when framed within the great controversy paradigm. All this is exactly the promise that Jesus gave us in His marvelous prayer in John 17:3—getting the character of God the Father right is the eternal door opener: “This is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

That is our Lord's Gospel in a few words, out of which flows the great controversy story.

Herbert Edgar Douglass, Jr. (16 May 1927- 15 Dec 2014) was a Seventhday Adventist theologian. He earned his Doctorate in Theology at Pacific School of Religion in 1964. He has authored over 24 books and numerous articles. Until his death in 2014, he resided in Lincoln, California.

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