Many have seen the movies and read books to children about the knight in shining armor who comes and saves the damsel in distress. As we read we dream of someone caring for us the way the knight cares for the damsel. Would anyone ever pursue us with such desire?
What if I told you, that someone is pursuing you with such desire and even more so? What if I told you that Genesis 3:15 was where the original love story of the damsel in distress and knight in shining armor came from? Writers are not as original as they like to think. Fiction is often based on some truth, because writers have to get their ideas from somewhere. Since the story happened first here, I would guess that all the other books have been copy cats. Nothing beats the original version!
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 NLT
Jesus is talking to Satan, or the dragon, since these stories need a dragon, right? The woman, the damsel has fallen into the hands of the dragon, but Jesus is telling the dragon He is going to rescue the damsel. You could also say the damsel is a princess and the Prince of Peace is going to rescue the princess.
Sure enough the Prince of Peace is faithful to His promise!
Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11 NLT
The prince or knight always comes in on a horse right?
His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. Revelation 19:12 NLT
Pure speculation on my part, but since the understanding of the name is not known, speculation is allowed. I have read of detectives keeping the names of missing people and even their pictures in their wallets because they are obsessed with their rescue mission. Could it be that Jesus has a special name for His damsel in distress inscribed on His person? Even written on His heart? There has never been in the history of love stories, a prince who has desired and pursued a damsel like the Prince of Peace is pursuing you! There has never been a knight in shining armor who has desired a woman like Jesus desires His church!
Please remember. I am not making this rescue look like a fairy tale. Far from it! Fairy tales writers are the ones copying themes from the Bible and failing miserably at it! Hollywood doesn’t know what real love is and could never write a real love story. Let’s go on with the original and only real love story.
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. Revelation 19:19-21 NLT
Jesus keeps good with His promise and comes to the rescue of His damsel in distress. He destroys the dragon and his followers who were putting His woman the church, in distress like a damsel. Now He and His damsel can marry, go to His castle and live happily ever after.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4 NLT
There are so many versions of love stories because everyone loves a good love story. The Song of Solomon is proof God loves a good love story too, but not the cheap imitations. He loves the original story. The original version is the only version where they really do “live happily ever after”!
Please don’t waste time on cheap fairy tale stories that make you dream about someone desiring and pursuing you. Read the real story about a real Prince Who has real love for His damsel in distress which is you! Read in the Bible how He promises to rescue you from the dragon because He really does love you with a love no paper back novel can emulate. There will never be a greater story. There will never be a greater love. There will never be a greater Prince or Knight in Shining Armor. And there will never be another damsel in distress who is loved, desired, and pursued as much as Jesus, loves, desires and is pursuing you! He is too great a gentleman to force Himself. All He needs is your consent, and He will rescue you from the dragon so you can both live happily ever after.
One Friday morning, I was helping in getting a friend’s house “presentable” by pulling weeds in a flower bed when I found in my hands, not a clump of ugly weeds but, instead, a beautiful begonia! I had snapped it at the root, and there was no way I could now save it. In my mind I could hear Jesus telling me,
“See why I don’t let you go pulling weeds in my church? You can’t tell a beautiful begonia from a weed. There is no way I am going to let you destroy a totally innocent member of My church, just because you think they are a heretic. I will do My own weeding thank you. I can tell a weed from a begonia. Obviously you can’t.”
I have become concerned lately how easily some in the church judge others, and use the word “apostasy” in Adventist circles during disagreements. That is a strong word! It is a bit like us doing our own weeding when that has been reserved as God’s role. Apostasy is defined as “a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause.” 1 In Christian circles, it carries an even stronger connotation of not being a Christian at all. Even Jesus, who could read hearts did not accuse anyone in the Bible of being an apostate or heretic. So so why do some of His professed followers do that?
It is not apostasy to accept a doctrine widely accepted by other Christian denominations. Remember, the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of many denominations. Our church’s founders agreed with a great many doctrines that were first held in other churches. Rachel Oakes, a Seventh-day Baptist introduced the Sabbath. It was adopted by the group because they found the practice to be biblical. Baptism by immersion likewise was accepted from the Baptists, but immortality of the soul was rejected. Our system of governance is largely based on the Methodist model. Doctrines were accepted or rejected on a biblical basis and not on whether they were believed by other churches or not.
Our mandate is clearly described in 1 Thessalonians 5:21
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
Good doctrine is determined by the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by which denominations believe or don’t believe it.
Opposition to some doctrines seem to be based on the idea that our purpose is to disagree with the teachings of other churches. But the purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not to disagree with everybody else. For example, the doctrine of the trinity is held in common with most Christian denominations. Indeed it was the Catholics who first used the term trinity to describe the mystery of the Godhead as we understand it. The Seventh-day Adventist Church accepts this doctrine, not on the basis of who believes it but the fact that it is supported by strong Biblical evidence.
In fact we hold many of our beliefs and practices in common with the Catholic church. We do not stop praying for our loved ones in hospitals because Catholics do it. And we do not stop honoring Christ because Catholics do it.
Good doctrine is not determined by what our pioneers taught.
Just because our pioneers believed something at one time, does not make it right. We need to remember that our pioneers came from various backgrounds and brought their beliefs with them, and it took some time for them to study the Bible together and come to a unified understanding of what the Bible really teaches. If we determine good doctrine on the basis of pioneer beliefs, we are making idols of our pioneers. And we are likely to adopt some views that our church later found to be unsupported by the Bible.
It helps to remember that “All that’s old is not gold. All that’s new is not true!”
Basing our teachings only on what our pioneers believed would be basing our teachings on traditions of the past, just as the Pharisees did. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not do away with the teachings of Moses, but He brought greater insight and light to such teachings as murder and adultery than Moses had. Jesus replaced traditions in the church with simple Scripture. While it was not Jesus’ aim to do away with the church of His day, it was His aim to get it back on track with the Word of God.
Luther did not intend to destroy the church, but to get it back on track with the Word of God, as Jesus did. Jesus taught the church of His day to worship God instead of Moses. Luther taught the church of his day to worship God instead of dead saints.
I believe that God wants His last-day remnant church to worship Him (First angel’s message) instead of the Adventist pioneers, and test truth by Scripture rather than the beliefs of our pioneers.
Paul commended the Bereans for being “more noble” than the people of Thessalonica, because they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
I pray that in our discussions we will take the “more noble” approach of the Bereans and heed Paul’s counsel to the Thessalonians to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (Thess 5:21)
- Definition of Apostasy from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/apostasy ↩
Ever have one of those days where it seems nothing is going right? I had one of those a while back. I went to my regular barber shop, wrote my name on the waiting list and sat down to wait. But my name was never called. People were coming and signing in after me and getting waited on before me. So I went to another nearby barbershop, only to find the wait was too long.
I had no more time, as I had to get to a Bible study on the other side of town. After the Bible study I saw a barber shop nearby. I got waited on right away. The barber asked me where I worked, and I told him I gave Bible studies. He told me he wanted to learn more about the Bible. He did not want personal studies, but he did want the Bible study guides and some literature I had in my car. As I drove away I realized why the first couple of places never waited on me. The Holy Spirit was working on the barber’s heart across town, and so He worked things out to get me where I needed to be. Something Similar happened to Paul and Silas.
Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Acts 16:6 NLT
I wonder if Paul and Silas saw it that way? Did they realize it was the Holy Spirit that was preventing them from preaching in Asia or did they blame it on the devil? What may have looked like a victory for the dark side was actually a victory for God. Often when I lose control of a situation and things don’t go my way, I am tempted to think that evil is getting the upper hand, when in reality God is still in control. He is just not doing things my way!
God had a plan to save Asia, but Paul and Silas’s current missionary tour was not a part of God’s plan at that time. Earlier I asked if Paul and Silas saw it that way, and maybe they did. However, I know many times today when we set out with goals, we get discouraged when they are not realized according to our plan. It’s not necessarily that things did not go according to God’s plan; they just did not go according to our plan. God had another plan.
Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. Acts 16:7-8 NLT
Wow, nothing seemed to be going right!
Several years ago I lost my job and my fiancee, and nothing was going right at my new job. It was so bad it made me wonder if I was even supposed to be born, or if I was an accident that God did not know what to do with! Looking back now, it was just a little bump in the road to better things and the best years of my life. Stay with me here.
That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there. Acts 16:9-10 NLT
Ah! That is why there was a roadblock on the way to Asia, Mysia and Bithynia! It wasn’t the devil getting the upper hand, just like it wasn’t the devil getting the upper hand when I could not get my hair cut. The Holy Spirit was using those roadblocks to get Paul and Silas to where they needed to be!
Remember God has a plan for your life, even when it seems things are going wrong. Remember when everything seems to be going wrong, God is still very much in control. He just may not be doing things our way.
The Holy Spirit is working on hearts all over the world. Instead of telling the Spirit where to work, we need to be willing to work wherever the Spirit is working. That may mean going to another side of the world, or another side of town.
In this presentation Graham Maxwell examines the question, “Why did Jesus Have to Die?”
Please feel free to use the Comments section to post your response after viewing the video.
Memory Text: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:14-15, NKJV).
As the Israelites were being bitten by snakes in the desert, God instructed Moses to make a bronze one and place it on a pole so that whoever was bitten could look at it and be saved.
What healing properties can a bronze snake have? None. Healing came only from God. By looking at the bronze statue, however, the Israelites demonstrated their faith in God as their only hope of life and salvation.
The Lord wanted to teach them a spiritual lesson. He transformed a symbol of death into a symbol of life. That bronze serpent was a symbol of Christ, who became the Bearer of our sins in order to save us. By faith, we can all look to Christ lifted up on the cross and find a cure from the deadly sting of the old serpent, Satan. Otherwise, we are fated to die in our sins. The Word of God expresses what should be painfully obvious: as human beings, we are sinners in need of grace. That grace has been offered to us in Christ Jesus.
This week we will look at Jesus’ teachings regarding the simple practical steps needed for salvation.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 2.
God sent Allen and Kelley Fowler a dream to minister among the Navajo people of northern Arizona, U.S.A. They went as volunteers, praying that God would use them to reach the people they loved. They ministered to the Navajos living on the reservation and in the nearby town of Page in any way they could.
When we saw a need, we prayed for a way to fill it, Kelley said.
The couple invited mission teams to help rebuild rundown hogans (houses) and supplied struggling families with coats, warm blankets, and baskets of food. They invited medical personnel to spend their vacations offering free medical care to those who couldn’t afford it, and they held health classes to teach people how to prevent diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
There was much to do on the reservation, but God called them to serve in the city as well. Page is the hub of a thriving tourist area. But half the population is Native American, many of them living in poverty.
The couple visited trailer parks and run-down homes, seeking to meet the needs of the people. And once the Navajo people realized that this couple really cared for them, they were willing to learn about God.
Soon the couple had 70 people who wanted Bible studies. They organized evangelistic meetings in Page. Twelve Navajos were baptized following the meetings.
But they had no church. The group met in the community center that volunteers had built outside town. And they prayed for a church, a dream that seemed impossible to fulfill short of a miracle. Land was expensive and hard to find, and a church would take years to build.
The North American Division offered to help the struggling work among the Navajo with part of a Thirteenth Sabbath Offering. Hope soared. Then an Adventist visitor to town discovered an unused church building. No sign had been posted, but the church was for sale. Members prayed, negotiations continued, and the church, a parsonage, and a vacant lot were purchased within the amount allocated to that project by the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.
We saw the hand of God moving, the Fowlers said.
And people around the world helped make God’s dream a reality. Thanks to your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering, the little miracle church was dedicated to God on a clear, cold day in December 2012. Thank you!
Please keep praying for volunteers to continue answering God’s call to work among the Navajo, so they can learn that God loves them and wants to spend forever with them.
Looking upon the crucified Redeemer, we more fully comprehend the magnitude and meaning of the sacrifice made by the Majesty of heaven. The plan of salvation is glorified before us, and the thought of Calvary awakens living and sacred emotions in our hearts. Praise to God and the Lamb will be in our hearts and on our lips; for pride and self-worship cannot flourish in the soul that keeps fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary.
He who beholds the Saviour’s matchless love will be elevated in thought, purified in heart, transformed in character. He will go forth to be a light to the world, to reflect in some degree this mysterious love. The more we contemplate the cross of Christ, the more fully shall we adopt the language of the apostle when he said, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Gal. 6:14. — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 661.
- Salvation is a gift, which means that it’s free. At the same time, does it not cost something? What does it cost to accept this gift, and why-whatever that cost-is it more than worth it?
- On Monday we read texts showing that salvation is the result of God’s initiative. He makes every effort to save us. Yet, Jesus also said that we need to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). His words Strive to enter through the narrow gate (Luke 13:24, NKJV) imply that we need to seek our salvation. How do we explain this?
- How does Christ’s death on the cross reveal God’s justice? How does it also reveal God’s mercy?
- If we could work our way to eternal life, through our own efforts and good deeds, and even our own law-keeping, what would that say about the seriousness of sin? Instead, think about just how bad sin must be that only the death of Jesus could atone for it.
- Religious Jews see in the Sabbath a foretaste of what eternal life will be like. In what ways does that idea-eternal life prefigured in the Sabbath-make good sense?
Because of our sins, we deserve to die. But Christ took our place on the cross and paid the death penalty that, otherwise, rested on us. He, being innocent, took on our guilt and received our punishment so that we, being sinful, could be declared innocent. Through Him, instead of perishing we receive eternal life. John 3:15 makes this amazing promise to us. It says that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (NKJV), a promise repeated at the end of John 3:16.
Some think that, even after accepting Christ as Savior, the promise of everlasting life will be real only after His second coming. However, the promise of salvation is expressed in the present tense: He who believes in the Son has everlasting life (John 3:36, NKJV). Whoever believes in Christ has everlasting life now, and shall not come into judgment in the final day, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24, NKJV). Thus, even if we die and sleep in the grave, this temporary rest doesn’t take away from the reality of eternal life.
When Jesus becomes our Savior, our life acquires a whole new meaning, and we can enjoy a richer and a fuller existence. I have come, stated Jesus, that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10, NKJV). Instead of transitory worldly pleasures, which fill us up without really satisfying us, He offers us a life lived in a completely different way, full of inexhaustible satisfaction in Him. This new abundant life includes our whole being. Jesus performed numerous miracles to restore the physical life of many people. But above all, He wanted to give them a renewed spiritual life, clean from sin, filled with faith in Him and the certainty of salvation.
Meditate on the concept of eternal life. It is not only an imperishable existence but above all a blessed, satisfying, and happy life in loving communion with God in the new earth. Although we are still living in this world, how can we start to enjoy, even partially, what it means to have eternal life?
I was in a Sabbath school class recently when, during a discussion about salvation, a long-time member raised a hand for comment. “We should never say that we’re saved!” A partial but oft-quoted Ellen White statement was the basis of the admonition to the class. Thus began a lively exchange about the assurance of salvation.
Rebuttal texts like the following were then quoted:
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
So when did we become hearers of the Word but not doers of the Word when it comes to our belief in our own salvation?
Unconsciously we base our feelings of being saved on our actions of the moment. We know, rightly so, that we are sinners in need of a complete and total transformation. We see the example before us of the spotless Son of God. We are told that He must be our example in all things, and we look at ourselves and cannot imagine that it is possible for God to ever bring that kind of change into our lives. Our feelings are driving our experience instead of the abundant promises of God’s love and powerful workings in the lives of surrendered individuals.
The net result of our unbelief is a spasmodic Christian experience. We are up one day and down the next. One day we believe God will fight our battles and next we bemoan our defeats when we feel He does not. One day we believe that He is guiding our lives and opening doors that no man can shut. The next day we are feeling lost and asking God why He has brought us into a wilderness to die.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:8
Our doubts about our ultimate salvation bleed into doubts about the keeping power of God over our lives. We are figuratively crossing our fingers, hoping to be saved. Our confidence in the promises of salvation must be more than that.
This week’s lesson on Salvation is a perfect time for us to reexamine the gift of salvation and the immutability of God’s promises to us who are the objects of His affection.
Believe in Jesus, trust in Jesus with living, constant faith, and rely without doubt upon Jesus to keep and save you. One mighty to save has hold upon you; and as long as you will submit to be led by Him, to learn of Him, to confide in Him, He will keep you from falling; and when God engages to keep you, He is a sure defense. He is a strong fortress, and as you confide in Him, you are perfectly secure. His word is pledged in your defense, if you will believe in Him. Simply trust in God, and obey His commandments, and you are saved by the merits and intercession of Jesus Christ. Ellen White, 14 Manuscript Release 72
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does Salvation mean to you?
- When does a person become saved?
- What part, if any, do we play in salvation?
- Is it true that we should never declare that we are saved? Explain your answer.
- Is it true that we will not know if we are saved until Jesus comes? Why do you say yes or no?
- Describe the difference, if any, between a person who is saved and one who is not.
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: If you sin knowingly you no longer have salvation. Explain your answer.
- How can one tell if they are saved?
We close this week with words from the Apostle John, full of inspiration and encouragement:
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. I John 5:11-13
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!
Without Christ, we were slaves of sin, slaves to the evil impulses of our fallen human nature. We lived in a self-centered way, pleasing ourselves instead of living to the glory of God. The unavoidable result of this spiritual slavery was death, because the wages of sin is death.
But Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives . . . , to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18, NKJV). These aren’t literal captives but spiritual prisoners of Satan (see Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:1-2). Jesus did not release John the Baptist from Herod’s prison, but He did release those who were bound by the chains of sinful lives and delivered them from the heavy burden of guilt and eternal condemnation.
What great promise is found in the following verses? See John 8:34-36.
The use of the word indeed in verse 36 shows that there is also a false kind of freedom, a pseudo-freedom that actually shackles human beings to further disobedience to God. Jesus’ hearers trusted in their ancestry of Abraham as their hope for freedom. We run the same risk. The enemy wants us to rely upon anything-for instance, our doctrinal knowledge, our personal godliness, or our record of service for God-anything except Christ for our salvation. But none of these, however important they may be, has the power to free us from sin and its condemnation. The only true Liberator is the Son, who was never enslaved by sin.
Jesus delighted in forgiving sins. When four men brought a paralyzed man to Him, He knew that this man was sick as a result of his dissolute living, but He also knew that the man had repented. In the pleading eyes of this man, the Lord saw the longing of his heart for forgiveness and his faith in Jesus as his only Helper. Tenderly, Jesus said to him: Son, your sins are forgiven you (Mark 2:5, NKJV). Those were the sweetest words this man ever heard. The load of despair disappeared from his mind, and the peace of forgiveness filled his spirit. In Christ he found spiritual and physical healing.
At a Pharisee’s house, a sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed them with perfume (Luke 7:37-38). Perceiving the Pharisee’s disapproval, Jesus explained to him that her sins, which are many, are forgiven (Luke 7:47, NKJV). Then He said to her: Your sins are forgiven (Luke 7:48, NKJV).
Your sins are forgiven. Why are these the best words any of us will ever hear?
You can view a discussion of the current lesson in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below. You can download the video, the MP3 audio, and the lesson outline from the HopeTV Sabbath School Site. You might also want to bookmark the HopeSS Youtube channel.
Key Thought : As we review the gift of God’s grace through Christ, let us renew our faith in Jesus as our personal Savior.
[Lesson plan for Salvation July 21, 2014]
1. Have a volunteer read Luke 18:9-14.
a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. What does this story teach us about our attitude toward God and toward His grace?
c. Personal Application: If God gave you what you deserved, what would it be? Why? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “Is this saying that we shouldn’t be good people, pay tithe, and help others? Aren’t those indications that we have God’s Spirit in us?” How would you respond to your relative?
2. Have a volunteer read Luke 15:3-7.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. What does this parable teach us about God’s efforts to save those outside the flock?
c. Personal Application: How devoted and concerned are you about those “lost sheep” that are outside the flock of God? How do you seek them out? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “How do you explain the difference in Christ seeking for us and other religions where the person is seeking to find God and make Him happy? Aren’t we supposed to seek God while He can be found? What’s different?” How would you respond to your neighbor?
3. Have a volunteer read John 8:34-36.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. How does Jesus make us free? Free from what?
c. Personal Application: Have you ever felt guilty from shame and guilt? Did it lead you to salvation? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “What things stand in the way of people accepting Jesus’ offer of freedom and salvation?” How would you respond to your friend?
4. Have a volunteer read John 6:47-51.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. What does it mean to eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood?
c. Personal Application: What happens when people focus on forgiveness only and don’t think about overcoming sin? How do we maintain a balance between the two? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.
John the Baptist described Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, NKJV). This image was easy for any Israelite familiar with the sacrifices offered in the temple and the sacred history recorded in the Old Testament to understand. Abraham had revealed his faith that God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering (NKJV); and the Lord did provide the animal to be sacrificed in place of Isaac (Gen. 22:8, 13). In Egypt, a lamb was slain by the Israelites as a symbol of their divine deliverance from the bondage of sin (Exod. 12:1-13). Later, when the sanctuary service was established, two lambs were to be sacrificed on the altar each day, continuously: one in the morning and the other at twilight (Exod. 29:38-39). All these sacrifices were symbols of the coming Messiah, who was led as a lamb to the slaughter because the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:6-7, NKJV). Therefore, by introducing Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, NKJV), John the Baptist was revealing the vicarious nature of Christ’s atoning death.
During His ministry, Jesus repeatedly announced His death, even though it was hard for the disciples to understand why He had to die (Matt. 16:22). Gradually, Jesus explained the great purpose of His death.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13, NKJV); this holds true even if they do not understand nor accept that sacrifice. On the cross, Jesus shed His blood for many for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28, NKJV).
It is important to notice that Jesus died voluntarily. As the Father gave His one and only Son, so the Son gave His own life to redeem the human race. Nobody forced Him to do so. No one takes it [my life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself, declared Jesus (John 10:18, NKJV). Even Caiaphas, who openly rejected Jesus and led the plot to kill Him, involuntarily recognized Jesus’ substitutionary death (John 11:49-51).
Think of how much ingratitude humans have toward God and what He has given us in Christ. How can we make sure we don’t fall into that trap? Why is this so easy to do, especially when we are going through difficult times?
A simple reading of the Gospels shows that we owe our salvation entirely to God. Jesus did not come to this world because we invited Him, but because the Father, out of love for us, sent Him. The Father’s initiative is confirmed by Christ’s frequent use of the phrase He who sent Me and the Father who sent Me (NKJV). (Read John 7:28, John 8:29, John 12:49.)
What else does the Father do for our salvation, according to John 6:44?
In spite of the fact that we were sinners and did not love God, He loved us and provided the means for our sins to be forgiven through His Son (1 John 4:10). This wondrous love is what draws us toward Him.
Not only is the Father involved, but the Son also has a very active role in our salvation. He came with a definite mission. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10, NKJV). Whenever we contemplate Him lifted up from the earth, He draws us to Himself (John 12:32).
How far is the Lord willing to go in His efforts to save us? See Luke 15:3-10.
These twin parables show that God is not waiting passively for us to come to Him but actively seeks us out. We have a seeking God. It does not matter if we are astray, far away in a dangerous place or even lost at home; the Lord will seek us untiringly until He finds us.
No sooner does the sheep go astray than the shepherd is filled with grief and anxiety. He counts and recounts the flock. When he is sure that one sheep is lost, he slumbers not. He leaves the ninety and nine within the fold, and goes in search of the straying sheep. The darker and more tempestuous the night and the more perilous the way, the greater is the shepherd’s anxiety and the more earnest his search. He makes every effort to find that one lost sheep.
With what relief he hears in the distance its first faint cry. Following the sound, he climbs the steepest heights, he goes to the very edge of the precipice, at the risk of his own life. Thus he searches, while the cry, growing fainter, tells him that his sheep is ready to die. At last his effort is rewarded; the lost is found. — Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 188.
In John 3:16 two verbs are used to describe what God did for our salvation. How do these verbs relate to each other? What do they reveal regarding the origin of our salvation?
The English verb to love, especially the casual way it is often used today, is totally inadequate to express the depth of solicitous interest expressed by the Greek verb agapao, to love. In the New Testament, this term and its related noun agape, love, reveal God’s deep and constant love toward His creatures, who are completely unworthy of this love. Love is the preeminent attribute of God’s character. He not only loves us, but He is love (1 John 4:8).
God’s love is not an impulse based on His feelings or preferences. His love is not selective, nor does it depend on what we do. God loves the world, that is, all human beings, including those who do not love Him.
True love is known by the actions it generates. Sometimes as human beings we may say we love someone, while our actions demonstrate the opposite (1 John 3:17-18). The same does not occur with God. His love is reflected in His actions. Out of love, He gave His only begotten Son for our salvation. In so doing, God gave us all He had, which is Himself.
Read Luke 18:9-14. What does this story teach us about what our attitude toward God and His grace should be?
We have probably read this parable so many times that we are not surprised by Jesus’ verdict: I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other (Luke 18:14, NKJV). However, those who heard Jesus when he pronounced the verdict must have been astonished. Wasn’t this an unjust outcome?
Yes, it was completely undeserved. That is the way salvation is. It is a gift from God. Gifts are not earned; they are simply accepted. We cannot buy salvation; we can only receive it. Although Jesus never used the term grace, He clearly taught that salvation is by grace, and grace is being given that you don’t deserve.
If God gave you what you deserved, what would it be, and why?
Memory Text: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16, NKJV).
Death, we often say, is just part of life. No, death is the negation of life, not part of it. Yet, so used to death, we mislabel it, calling it the opposite of what it really is. However we understand it, one point is certain: without divine help, eternal death would be the fate of us all.
Fortunately, that help has come. God, in His infinite love, offers us salvation through Christ. When the angel announced the birth of the Messiah, he named Him Jesus (from a Hebrew word that means salvation), for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21, NKJV).
This week we will consider Jesus’ saving work. First, our attention will focus on the basis of our salvation and later on the results of it.
The Bible is clear. We have only two choices regarding our sins: either we pay for our sins in the lake of fire, or we accept Christ’s payment for them on the cross. As we review the generous gift of God’s grace through Christ, let us once again humbly renew our faith in Jesus as our personal Savior.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 26.