Every Bible writer's burden has been to help us comprehend the love of our Heavenly Father. I believe that this would be a good thing for us to dwell upon on this Father's Day weekend. The love of our Heavenly Father is the ideal for each of us, including Father's. Even though the Bible writers spent much energy in trying to explain the Father's love, we seem to be born with a fear about His love. This fear started with Adam and Eve. Look at Genesis 3:7,8 "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and mad coverings for themselves." Adam and Eve had become afraid of God. They were no longer secure but were worried about His acceptance of them. They had become self-centered, self-protective, and self-justified because they could not face the truth about themselves. They blamed each other and they blamed God.
Adam and Eve made coverings of fig leaves to make themselves acceptable and so that they would once again feel good about themselves. Sometimes we too stop at very little just to feel accepted by God and by others. Depending upon personality and temperament, we vie for acceptance in different ways. Our way gets in the way of another s way until it seems that we are constantly at war. Just like Adam and Eve, we have our own brand of fig leaves.
Have you noticed the Television Commercials? A high percentage offer fig leaves false coverings to hide who we really are so that we will be more acceptable and loveable.
Could there be a Christian brand of fig leaves that has entered into Church? Yes: Legalism and Liberalism. The Legalist is typically conscientious, sincere, strong willed, reads and studies to find ways to recommend themselves to God. They pick up on all the reforms and even carry them to extremes. If two meals a day are good, one is even better. They are very ridged, tow the line, authoritarian, and stress conforming to rules and high external standards. THIS is only a security blanket for their intense insecurity about the Father s love.
The Liberal is typically honest at heart, but weak willed. They know that they have nothing to recommend themselves to God. They don t study deeply into the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy for fear of condemnation. They are afraid to face what is wrong with themselves so they go through life saying God will understand. But at the same time, they are miserable. This is their security blanket for their insecurity about the Father s love.
Both of these false coverings are a result of hope of reward or fear of punishment. THIS IS NOT OF GOD !!!! The legalist will be full of pride if they imagine that they measure up. Thus they develop a judgmental spirit. The liberal shows an apparent unconcern or even rebellion.
We can battle on for decades while either DRIVING precious souls away in despair with legalism or ENTICING them away with liberalism.
So, what is the answer? Balance is not the solution, or even the issue. Neither is trying to find the right percentage of Legalism or Liberalism to finally arrive at the Straight and Narrow Way. The thing that needs to be healed is not our behavior but our hearts! The things that need to be removed are enmity and distrust of our Jesus!
The Jews asked Jesus a question in John 6:28: "....'What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'" They did not believe Him, do we?
Adam and Eve loved their time in the garden with their Father before sin. After their sin, God still came to the garden to look for them! How did God respond to their sin? "ADAM, EVE? WHERE ARE YOU? WHAT DID YOU DO?" No, He came with a broken heart. He responded to their sin with a promise that His life would be given for them. Where they had tried to cover themselves, He covered them with His righteousness.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 "If I speak in the tongue of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." The story of Adam and Eve is the start of how our Father displayed this kind love to bring us back unto Himself. Remember, He came in search of them! When two people are estranged from each other, it is the person in the right which often makes the first move in reconciliation. The person in the wrong is often emotionally unable to do such a thing.
It was the Father s perfect love for us that was to cast out the intense fear that we were all born with. This love is not the human love that we were all born with, but the AGAPE of God.
Even though this type of love was used in dealing with Adam and Eve, it's depth was not seen until the Cross when we saw how far Jesus would stoop for us! What our Father would go through on our behalf! This love was spilled out without measure and gives birth to true faith and a heart-felt appreciation for what God did for you and me personally.
This is a faith that begins to grow in us when we behold Calvary. A faith that is not motivated by fear of punishment or hope of reward. A faith that worketh by love. This gives us freedom to look within and be healed, to see ourselves as we really are because we have seen Him as He really is. We can never look within and be honest with ourselves without first seeing a sin pardoning Savior. If we did, the weight of our sins would crush the very life out of us.
The bondage of our fig leaves is only a matter of survival for the unbelieving. When people are experiencing this kind of bondage, censure and condemnation towards them only causes them to add more layers for some kind of warmth to fight the chill of rejection, They may even experience the feeling of being a martyr. But the true love of the Father strips away these false coverings and systems of works and self justification and covers us with His righteousness, if we permit it.
Some have the attitude that we begin with love and then grow up to more important doctrines. A man named Frank told this story to his pastor. "I grew up in San Pedro. My dad was a fisherman, and he loved the sea. He worked hard and would stay out until he caught enough to feed the family. He was a man, and he was strong from pulling the nets and fighting the seas for his catch. When you got close to him, he smelled like the ocean. He would wear his old canvas, foul-weather coat and his bibbed overalls. His rain hat would be pulled down over his brow. No matter how much my mother washed them, they would still smell of the sea and of fish.
"When the weather was bad he would drive me to school. He had this old truck that he used in his fishing business. That truck was older than he was. It would wheeze and rattle down the road. You could hear it coming for blocks. As he would drive toward the school, I would shrink down into the seat hoping to disappear. Half the time, he would slam to a stop and the old truck would belch a cloud of smoke. He would pull up right in front, and it seemed like everybody would be standing around and watching. Then he would lean over and give me a big kiss on the cheek and tell me to be a good boy. It was so embarrassing for me. Here I was, Twelve years old, and my dad would kiss me goodbye!
"I remember the day I decided I was too old for a goodbye kiss. When we got to the school and came to a stop, he started to lean toward me, but I but my hand up and said, 'No dad.' It was the first time I had ever talked to him that way and he had this surprised look on his face. I said, "Dad, I'm too old for a goodbye kiss. I'm too old for any kind of kiss. Tears welled up in my dad's eyes as he looked out the windshield. I had never seen my dad cry before. 'You're right,' he said. 'You are a big boy....a man. I won't kiss you anymore.'
"It wasn't long after that when my dad went to sea and never came back. It was a day when most of the fleet stayed in, but dad had a big family to feed. They found his boat adrift with its nets half in. He must have gotten into a gale and was trying to save the nets and the floats."
Frank continued, "Pastor, you don t know what I would give to have my dad give me just one more kiss on the cheek....to feel his rough old face....to smell the ocean on him....to feel his arm around my neck. I wish I had been a man then. If I had been a man, I would never have told my dad I was too old for a goodbye kiss."
The doctrine of love is not only the beginning, it is the middle and the end as well.
Some may express a concern for too much preaching about love. They fear that it may cause a lowering of the standards. Without the foundation of love, standards are meaningless. But when based on the foundation of love, the standards will be raised to their highest level!
The issue of the Great Controversy is not over laws or works but whether or not we believe God is love and that that love is for me. There will be a commandment keeping people standing in the last days, but the commandments will only be kept by those who see them as a transcript of God s character of love. Desire of Ages 641 says, When we love the world as He loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for Heaven; for we have Heaven in our hearts. Love is not a soft soap to cover sin but is the only antidote for it.
What is God s love (Agape) and how is it different than human love (Eros)? Eros is the love of something or someone because of its beauty or worth. Agape is not dependent on beauty and worth but is free to love even the bad and ugly. None of us are born with this but all have the capacity to receive it.
The Hellenistic Greeks had a story about a beautiful and talented man named Admitus. Everyone loved him. But the gods wanted him to die unless someone would die in his place. No one volunteered. Finally, his girlfriend stepped forward because The world needed him. The Greeks thought this to be the ultimate sign of love.
But it wasn't. Romans 5:8 says, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." We were worthless to the world!
Human love feels that we must go in search of God. Every pagan and false religion is based upon the idea that man must be clever and persevering enough to search God out. But Luke 19:10 states: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." There is no parable of a sinner having to seek Jesus to be saved. But there are parables like the Good Shepherd who searched until He found.
This idea that we must search for God has invaded the thinking of some Adventists and has perverted their way of seeing our one unique doctrine, the Sanctuary. These say that the Sanctuary Service in the wilderness began when the sinner made the first move by entering through the gate and sacrificing the lamb. But the Sanctuary Service begins somewhere else. They were led by a pillar of fire or cloud. God sought them out and was a visible presence in their lives. When God s love is a visible presence in our hearts, we will be willing to sacrifice whatever it is that tries to separate us from Him.
Even in the Ten Commandments we teach that the first one it Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. But read the preceding verse which we often skip over, I am the Lord your God. Once again, He claims us first.
When we see the Father in this light, it effects the way we relate to each other. When you first came into the message of this church, it was easy to say, I found it, I see it, why can't everyone else. This attitude is the beginnings of self righteousness. But when we see that it was God that came after us, we become humble and grateful and realize that God is seeking every individual on this earth in His own time.
Human love is dependent upon the value of the object. (Story of Johnny Lingo if time permits) The Love of God is not dependent upon the value of the object, rather it creates value in it s object. Isaiah 13:12 say, I will make man scarcer than pure gold.
Human love feels a constant urge to climb higher. A five year old will say: I m five and a half, or, I will be six. Human love thrives upon one upmanship. We are uncomfortable if we are a lot better than someone else because we feel responsible for their condition. We don't like it if we feel real inferior to someone because then we don t feel good about ourselves. We are most comfortable when we are one up on someone else. In school, the Freshmen wish they were Sophomores, the Sophomores wish they were Juniors, the Juniors wish they were Seniors, the Seniors dread college because they are at the bottom again.
Satan wished to be like the Most High. Jesus wished to be the Servant of all. What God wants is for us to accept His true love and permit Him to take off our fig leaves, whether they be leaves of legalism or leaves of liberalism, so that He can put on the true covering of His righteousness so that He can be as close as a true Father.
Emily was six years old. skinny with freckles and big brown eyes. She was in a bed a Loma Linda Medical Center in southern California, brain dead from a severe attack of asthma. Her father, Randy, stood above her before they disconnected the respirator. With tears in his eyes he said, "I never wanted much in life, I just wanted to be your dad."
This is the desire of our Heavenly Father. Wish Him a happy Father's Day by giving Him your heart.
Opening Song: #191, Love Divine Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-19 Closing Song: #183, I Will Sing of Jesus' Love
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last updated 6/23/98 by Bob Beckett.