Tuesday, September 28, 2010
God “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”. It is rainy season in Nicaragua and rain it did as I had the privilege of contributing one week of teaching on the Atonement of Christ at the Bible School for the Nations in Diramba, the home of YWAM Nicaragua.
I was very pleased with the sense that the Lord was blessing our time in the classroom throughout the week of teaching. I was struck quite frequently with the tremendous nature of the provision God has made. With a broken heart over the rebellion of man, with acute awareness of the complications sin has introduced into His creation, the self-sacrificial love of God has wisely given attention to all of the challenges arising when providing pardon to moral rebels. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." When pardon is extended to the guilty, the sentence is never executed and therefore an act that replaces the sentence must take place that accomplishes the same purpose the sentence would have accomplished had it been executed. As one of our summary statements says, “An atonement serves as a governmental expedient to provide for pardon of the guilty and the exercise of mercy in a wise and righteous manner that does not dishonor but, rather, honors law and upholds public justice while using a substituted procedure that accomplishes the same purpose law is intended to accomplish”. Albert Barnes says, “The essential idea in the atonement is, not that God was originally stern and inexorable and that He has been made mild and merciful by the atonement, but that the atonement itself has its foundation in His willingness to pardon; not that He has been made benevolent by the atonement, but that He was originally so disposed to show mercy that He was willing to stoop to any sacrifice but that of truth and justice in order that he might show His willingness to pardon the guilty. He gave His Son to die, not that He might be bought over to love, but as the expression of love”. The following statement is from the writings of Charles G. Finney. “…the benevolence of God would not allow Him on the one hand to pardon sin at the expense of public justice, nor on the other to punish or execute the penalty of law, if it could be wisely and consistently avoided. These facts being understood and admitted, it might naturally have been inferred, that the wisdom and benevolence of God would devise and execute some method of meeting the demands of public justice, that should render the forgiveness of sin possible.” It was not God’s personal desire to be honored, to satisfy retributive justice or to pour out His wrath that generated the atonement. A strong emphasis was made throughout the week that the foundation of the atonement was purely upon the love of God. Love inspired the atonement and the atonement is designed to inspire love. “The atonement…is founded primarily on the benevolence, and not the justice of God; or it is a way by which benevolence can be manifested without impairing or endangering the interests of justice.” (Albert Barnes; The Way of Salvation)
I experienced a sense of great urgency as we considered the mission of the church in connection with our discussion of the atonement. Often, with hopefully good intention, entertainment and a message of personal benefit are used to draw crowds of people to church services. If we are not careful, the above drawing factors actually replace the equipping of the saints and serve only to tickle their ears. We run the risk of merely appealing to their self-interest and never get around to calling them to self-denial. God has called us to take the gospel of the kingdom to all “nations”. I am convinced that this involves our encouraging the rightful rule of God to prevail in all spheres of personal and social life. This requires that a well represented Biblical Theism must prevail over all other personal, philosophical, political, educational, ideologies. I am concerned, to say the least, that our current trend in church growth is woefully deficient for preparing the people of God for such a task. In fact, I am concerned that we do not even see that there is such a task. We presently face the advancement of a postmodern form of Marxist socialism that will only take us into increasingly difficult economic and social struggles. Such struggles will set the stage for further government takeover. The only answer is to have the principles of the kingdom of God prevail. I urge you to realize that we are the people upon whom the end of the ages have come and we live in harvest time. Let us do the necessary and appropriate work as good “spiritual farmers”. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Let us not live to continue fulfilling this statement made so many years ago by our Lord. Let us go forth to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called.
I would like to thank Don and Barb Johnson, as well as past and present staff, for the work they have been laboriously and consistently doing to transform the nation of Nicaragua. The challenges are many and the progress, at times, seems painfully slow but the Lord is pleased and fruit is evident. As the Lord makes us vessels fit for the Masters use, let us joyously give thanks that He has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.