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Grace = Intervention

Intervention

by Dennis Pollock

Intervene: – verb 
To come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events.

Deism isn't as popular as it once was, at least as a label by which men and women identify themselves, but various forms of deism are still abundant in the world today. Deism provides the comfort of believing in a Creator (you don't have to get too specific about His nature or attributes), without insisting that you must adhere to His laws or even suppose you will ever have any kind of interaction with Him. Deism suggests that some mysterious divinity created our universe, put all things in order, established various physical and psychological laws, and then left it up to us to live and make use of His laws to the best of our ability. In such a scenario, prayer is meaningless. Although there is a Creator, it is foolishness to expect Him to help us in any fashion. Just apply His laws and principles and hope that all goes well. Intervention by the Creator into His creation will never happen. God has set the world in motion and then abandoned it to watch from afar.

The theology of the Bible takes the opposite approach. The words intervene and intervention are hardly seen in most versions of the Bible but the concept of intervention is found throughout the Scriptures. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is constantly intervening both into the laws of His creation and the lives of His created beings. Indeed, as you study the concept of grace in the Scriptures, you soon find that grace is essentially divine, positive intervention in the lives of those who call on God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.

Observable & Repeatable

Although the deists are dead-wrong, it is not so hard to see why they have come to the conclusions they have. Our world is indeed filled with all sorts of laws that repeat themselves again and again. If you are holding a baseball in your hand and then let go, it will fall to the ground 100 times out of 100. If you want to do further study, you can try dropping the ball ten thousands times, and sure enough every time it will fall to the ground. It will never fall sideways or drift heavenward. The law of gravity works continually, and it does not discriminate. If a large man falls off a bridge he will land in the water, as will a small little fellow, a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu and an atheist, a red-haired woman, a black-haired man, and a bald cat.

The seasons come and go with perpetual regularity. Hot days in August in Texas are as sure as cold days in Michigan in January. Trees have budded in the spring every year for as long as men have bothered to notice them, and those same trees will shed their leaves in the fall with 100 percent certainty. All sorts of laws and rhythms and patterns fill our world to the point that many folks just assume the world is on automatic pilot. God needs to do nothing to make these things happen. Having wound the world up, it now runs on its own, with no help from its Creator.

The Scriptures reveal that this is not the case. The Bible does not deny that there are natural laws and patterns in our world, but it declares that God is actively behind them. The same God who made the world with its rhythms and laws continually sustains it and empowers it. The sun rises not because God has endued it with its own power, but because its Creator commands its actions every day. In Psalm 29 we read, "The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth, and strips the forests bare…"  

Scientists can explain the birth of deer with talk of seed and egg, gestation cycles and hormones. But the Bible tells us that it is "the voice of the Lord" that makes all this happen. When a doe lies down on the forest floor to give birth, her Creator is involved. He has commanded her to give birth. And when the forests are stripped bare by the coming of cool weather, this is more than a meteorological phenomenon. God is involved in transitioning summer into fall. It is the voice of God that "strips the forests bare."

Surely God is actively involved in our world, even in the cycles and patterns and laws which can be observed day after day and never seem to deviate. But there are times when the natural course of things and the laws of the universe are not working in our favor. For example, normally when we follow the laws of good nutrition and exercise it works for us and produces superior health and longevity. But sometimes, for reasons we may not understand, there are other physical laws at work that lead to deteriorating health. When doctors tell patients that they have terminal cancer, and they will probably die within six months, they are basing their predictions on laws and cases they have observed in the past. When certain types of cancer reach certain stages of development, natural law predicts a disastrous outcome, apart from some new intervening factor. When marriages are moving toward divorce or young people are moving toward drug addiction, this may very well be the natural course of the situation, but this is not a desirable natural course.

Of course we can try to intervene, using various means and principles that may help, but sometimes we find ourselves in situations where no human remedies have any ability to produce a positive outcome. The natural course of life seems to be pushing us relentlessly and inexorably toward a terrible end. And all of our brainstorming and worrying and Internet searches and research and fuming are having zero effect. This is where God's intervening grace comes in. Our gracious God specializes in intervening into situations where only He can help us. As the Christian song puts it, "God will make a way where there seems to be no way."

Ultimate Intervention

Intervene

 The greatest of God's grace interventions has to do with the spiritual state that is common to all men and women on this earth. Paul writes, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience…" (Ephesians 2:1,2).  The natural state of men and women is to be spiritually dead, to be selfish and utterly insensitive to God and His Holy Spirit. This is very much like a disease, but in this case it is a spiritual disease. If nothing changes this will lead us to a terrible outcome – we shall live out our vain lives of sin and selfishness and then stand before God to be judged and then cast into that mysterious fire that is the second death. This is the natural course of all of our lives. And there are no human remedies for this disease known to man. Positive thinking cannot cure it; therapy cannot fix it. This awful cesspool of sin and lust that ferments deep within us brings ruin to our relationships, failure to our noblest ambitions, and weakness to our strongest resolutions. It dampens our highest joys, causes us to question our convictions, and injects a bitter note of meaninglessness into our finest aspirations. Ultimately it will bring us to what the Bible calls an "everlasting destruction."

This is a fixed law of the human condition – the law of sin and death as Paul puts it. It is as sure our destiny as the ball which falls to the ground every time it is released. Apart from divine intervention 100 out of 100 of us will go this way, indeed the entire human race. It is the natural course of life, courtesy of original sin and the fall of Adam and Eve. What must God do to see to it that every one of us to live out our wicked lives, and end up in that place where the consuming worm never dies and the fire is not quenched? Absolutely nothing. What must a man or woman do to go to hell? Absolutely nothing. We are already well on the way. Nothing further is needed.

The incredibly good news is that God has done something! The Bible tells us, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." When Jesus arrived in this world, intervention appeared. Christ came as a grace gift from the Father: "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Our loving Creator was not content to sit back and allow the natural course of sin and death to take place. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God was very muchproactive toward the human race.

When Jesus died on the cross, He "became sin for us." Peter writes, "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness --- by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). The natural course of the law of sin and death has been upended. God has intervened in our world through Jesus, and now tells us that, "whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins." We can become children of God; we can live forever; we can be free from sin's dreadful power and penalty. Paul writes to Titus, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."

The Throne of Grace

Intervene is defined as "To come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events." This is precisely what Christ has done for us. But divine intervention does not stop with initial salvation. This is to be just the beginning of a lifetime of grace interventions for the child of God. In Hebrews we read, "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). This speaks of the prayer privileges granted to every believer. Because Jesus is our High Priest who always makes intercession for us, and by whose blood we have been justified in the sight of our holy God, we can approach God in prayer boldly when we face needs of various kinds. The Scriptures don't say we come timidly or fearfully or awkwardly; we come boldly! We approach God this way because we know that we are coming to Him in the name of Jesus, and on the basis of Christ's righteousness and not our own.

Prayer, then, is the means by which God's children bring divine interventions into their lives and the lives of others. John Wesley once said, "It seems God does nothing except through the prayers of his people." We know God can do whatever He likes, and certainly doesn't require our permission to intervene into the fixed laws of our world, yet the Bible indicates that He waits to be asked. Matthew Henry put it this way, "Whenever God intends great mercies for His people, He first of all sets them to praying." One of the surest signs that blessings and mercy are headed your way is when God has moved your heart to start praying regularly and fervently for those particular blessings. And the greater the blessing that is about to fall on your head, the stronger the urge to pray. It is the way of God.

God is all about intervention! He is eager to step into the laws and principles He, Himself has established, and overturn them for your benefit when you call upon Him in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. How pathetic the man who only lives by the laws and principles of this world! He must depend upon his own talent, his own cunning, his own ability to apply the laws for his benefit. And although this can work for a time, sooner or later he will come across a situation where the laws are working against him, and all of his cleverness and ingenuity are entirely futile to avoid a terrible end. Jesus is God's key to divine intervention in our lives. The Biblical term is grace, which has sometimes been defined as "God's Riches AChrist's Expense."

In the book of Romans Paul wrote the defining work on the grace of God. Near the end of this magnificent treatise, he speaks a blessing to his readers with these simple and yet powerful words: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." (Romans 16:24).

 

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