Below is the first half of the talk I’m giving at the Character of God Conference in three weeks. Your feedback is appreciated. There is nothing worse than finding out nobody understood you because you didn’t explain enough. And these are fairly new concepts, so it is important that it’s clear. Thanks.
What does the Atonement say about God’s Character?
To atone is to make up for a wrong or injury, and since we are broken with two natures; we have no ability to fix ourselves, and God clearly has to. But if we think, as I hear so many people say, “The gospel is that Jesus came and died for us,” then the good news becomes small and mostly about us. He saved us by dying in our place. But doesn’t that sound like God killed Jesus so He didn’t have to kill us?
Why did Jesus die?
As I said earlier sin killed Jesus by separating him from God; Satan just set up the physical human part of his death; and that was important for the whole on-looking universe to see. As Lucifer, he had claimed that God caused death. That was also the reason God kept Lucifer and his defectors alive. No one had seen death or even evil before Satan activated The Law of Sin and Death through his choices. If God had allowed natural consequences, they would have died and the watching universe would have thought God killed them.
So what? You may think, They are God They can do as they please. But it would have left fear in minds, wondering if that is how God keeps order–killing those who disagree. That was what Satan claimed.
In fact, Satan probably thought, God said we would die, but we haven’t. He was probably trying to scare us into submission. So perhaps his words to Eve, “You won’t die…” were him pushing God, his test to see what would happen to them. What is death really? Will they die? And what will happen to me and my followers? By now he has probably convinced himself that he won’t die. We come to believe our own lies, and he has watched a lot of humans die.
But God doesn’t want children who serve Them from fear. They want children who love and choose Their way because they love and admire Their character. Children who believe living with others in joy and peace and respect seems like heaven. Because of this They needed to bring us back into one mindset with Them.
At one ment was the atonement God was after. We see it in Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17. That is the one prayer God must answer with a yes for us. When we come asking for oneness with Them, we’ve got it–because Jesus has already secured it with his request.
We also see it in Jesus preaching in Matt 11. “Come to me” he says. Just come. Why? He wants to give us rest. Even our work can be rest. He says his yoke is easy; and what he gives us to carry is light. And then he explains it. A yoke was put on cattle to make their work easier, to keep them in synch and make the pulling lighter. Jesus invites us to put on the yoke that he wears, it has a place for us on the other side, and we will live and work together as one. That’s at one ment! He also assures that it fits our true self perfectly. I’ll say more about your true self next week.
But what about all the scary pictures of God in the Old Testament? They made me want to keep God at arm’s length in my first two decades. He certainly seemed to say “Love me or I’ll kill you.” But that was before I learned that God’s wrath was God letting go–letting us do whatever we want. Think of it: God’s worst anger, Their scariest action, is letting us have our own way. There are a lot of parents raising their children in wrath today!
When God lets us do whatever we want, the enemy usually gets us to go his way. The artistry of his deception and our broken natures wanting the easy way to feel better makes us easy targets.
In the books of the prophets Adonai seemed to do a lot of shouting! Then I learned He was shouting because the people had so little true self. They had been slaves and they wanted to do their own thing so badly that they had a hard time trusting that God really had their best interests at heart. And some of it was just because they could–they were finally free–they wanted to do as they pleased! So God is shouting, “Dangerous curves ahead!” or “Ice on pavement!” or “Fire!”
And God doesn’t expose Satan. They don’t pull his covers. They give him time to show his character. They aren’t going to badmouth him. So Ruach let the prophets write it as if the bad things were coming from God.
Why? This used to really bother me!
They want us to know that there is no shortage in Their power. It isn’t because God’s enemies, or ours, are too strong for God. You can walk with Him and be blessed or you can walk with Their enemies and be cursed with the curse of sin and death. God isn’t cursing you. If that is what you want, you are free to do that, but you will die. And in Hosea 11, Adonai cries “Why will you die? How can I give you up? I want to give you the world (literally) and the moon and the stars!”
Through the whole Old Covenant God was showing us and the universe that even though God’s laws would keep us safe (literally “My commandments will keep you” John 14:15) it wasn’t enough. We have to want a heart relationship with Them like Abraham and Moses had. He was shouting warnings, but they were also invitations full of love and what They want to do for us–make us into our true selves and bless us beyond belief with every imaginable good thing.
But They won’t buy us. They don’t want anyone who doesn’t want Them for a love relationship. They don’t want people to serve Them for the gifts.
(This is the first half. The rest will come next week.)