March 3 - 9
Prayer: Listening to Jesus
HUDSON TAYLOR, GREAT MISSIONARY TO CHINA, carried staggering burdens-the mission of bringing Christ to all of China, despite personal sickness, persecution, and heavy administrative responsibilities. When in communion with Christ, these burdens seemed light. When separated from Christ, he felt like a diver under water without air, or he felt like a fireman on a burning building with an empty hose. "I continually mourn that I follow at such a distance my precious Master," he wrote to a trusted friend. "I cannot tell you how I am buffeted sometimes by temptation. I never knew how bad a heart I had." Nearness to Christ had been so precious that any distanceany clouding of the Master's facewas unbearable.
The reply he received from his friend changed his life. He gathered his fellow workers around him to tell them what the Lord had done for his soul. "I looked to Jesus," he said, and "Oh, how joy flowed!" Thus, other hearts were moved and blessed and "rivers of living water" flowed forth that still flow today.
As you study this week's lesson, learn more about the reply Taylor received and how it can transform your life.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. Sitting Down With Jesus (John 14:1).
II. The Future Is Now! (John 14:1-3).
III. No Real Separation (John 14:4-6; 15-23).
IV. "I Am the Vine; You Are the Branches" (John 15:1-11, NIV).
V. How to Bear Fruit (John 15:1-16).
MEMORY TEXT: "Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me" (John 15:4, NKJV).
If you wanted to sit down for an intimate conversation with Jesus, you probably would not choose the evening of His arrest and trial. Jesus, though, reserved those last hours for a special season of fellowship with His disciples. This week, let us join Him in our own "upper room" of communion with Him as we learn that prayer is not just talking with Jesus. It also is listening to what He has to say to each of us individually.
On that last evening alone with His disciples, what was Jesus' concern for them? John 14:1.
Instead of being overwhelmed with His own approaching ordeal, He sought to dispel the gloom that had fallen on them all. His actual words were "Believe into God-believe also into me." The peculiar expression believe into is found only in John's gospel. Believing into Jesus means more than intellectual belief. It means entering into intimate fellowship with Jesus, becoming one with Him (John 17:20, 21). When we have such a relationship, it will be second nature for us to spend time listening to Him.
When our hearts are troubled by our daily cares, it is impossible to trust in Jesus. Without this trust, it is impossible for us to listen to Him.
What comforting promises did Jesus give His disciples to prepare them for the long separation from Him? John 14:2-4.
In Jesus' day, when a young man was betrothed to a woman, he would go back to his father's house to prepare a home for her on his father's property. After the home was ready, he would bring her to the house he had prepared. Jesus applied the language of betrothal, the language of love, to His disciples. He was going to His Father's house in heaven to prepare a place for His bride, the church. Some day, He will come to claim her, "that where I am there you may be also."
While the bride-to-be is separated from her fiancé, surely every thought centers upon him in some way. This is how it should be with us while we wait for Jesus to return. If we are so focused on Him, His voice will be the first and only sound we hear in our "upper rooms."
Most of us are well acquainted with John 14:1-3. Deeper meanings, however, lie in these verses than we usually see. John, more than the other Gospel writers, caught a magnificent element of Jesus' teaching that scholars sometimes call "present eschatology." Eschatology is the study of last-day events, such as the judgment, the resurrection, Jesus' ascension to heaven, the gift of eternal life, and dwelling with Jesus. In Jesus' teaching, all these events occur in the present, as well. He often speaks with double meanings so the spiritual invades the literal, heaven invades earth, and the future invades the present. Following are two examples:
1. We read in John 13:30 that "Judas ... went out and it was night" (NIV). Literally, it was night. However, Judas also entered a spiritual night from which he would not return.
2. In John 12:32, Jesus says" 'I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself' " (NRSV). Jesus was lifted up physically on the cross. He also is highly exalted through the Cross.
When we are alone with Jesus in our "upper room," listening to what He has to say, these deeper meanings become especially clear and appropriate to us personally.
Explain the spiritual meanings in the following verses.
John 13:10 ________________________________________________________________________
John 1:51 _________________________________________________________________________
John 5:25; Eph. 2:1-5 _________________________________________________________
Jesus loved to bring the blessings of eternity into the present. We pass from death to life at the resurrection, but the spiritually dead can come to life and receive eternal life now (John 5:24, 25; 3:36; 6:54). This does not mean unending life on the horizontal level but a vertical connection with God that transforms our earthly existence. We recognize these blessings, receive them, and nurture our connection with God in our "upper rooms," where "we allow inner distractions and frustrations to melt away before him as snow before the sun"; where we "allow him to calm the storms that rage within by saying, 'Peace, be still.'Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), p. 162.
The promise of reunion with Jesus at His second advent comforted the disciples. Jesus knew, however, that this was not enough to cheer their sad hearts. Therefore, He also promised to give them, in this life, the blessings of the future He had just listed. After Jesus told the disciples He was going away, He added, "And you know the way where I am going" (John 14:4, RSV). Which way was that? Thomas confessed total ignorance (vs. 5).
Read Jesus' explanation in verse 6. Explain in your own words how to go to the Father.
Notice how Jesus shifted from a literal journey toward the Father's house to a spiritual journey. Going to the Father's house is not just a future experience when Jesus comes the second time. By believing "into" God and Jesus (vs. 1)by becoming one with Themwe go to the Father.
Jesus said, "I will come again, and receive you unto myself" (vs. 3). How does He come to us now?
John 14:16-18 _______________________________________________________________
Here is an amazing fact about the members of the Godheadwhen you have One, you have the Others too. Just as the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus (Col. 1:19), so the whole Godhead comes when the Spirit enters in (compare with John 14:23). Jesus comes to each of us when His Spirit comes to our hearts.
Where is God's special "dwelling place" now? John 14:23.
Jesus' going away "is not really a departure but the opening of a door into a new age where the presence of the Father, Son, and Spirit is eternally guaranteed to the believer."Walter R. L. Scragg, Adventist Review (Nov. 27, 1980), p. 5.
|In your "upper room," the Holy Spirit attunes your ears to the special words God desires to say to you only. What can you do to open yourself to this intimate relationship with God? What things can interfere?|
Jesus continues His private instruction with the disciples in the upper room by teaching them that He is the vine and they are the branches (John 15:5). Explain what He means.
total vine, and we, as branches, are part of Him! Christ is one with His people like a husband and wife are one, like a temple with its foundation are one, and closer yet, like a person with a body united to its head is one (Eph. 5:31, 32; 2:19, 20; 1:22, 23).
It was this concept of the vine and its branches that transformed Hudson Taylor's life. Shortly after his transformation, he met his friend Mr. Judd, who had replied to his letter. Mr. Judd later recalled Hudson Taylor exclaiming, " ' "Oh, Mr. Judd, God has made me a new man! God has made me a new man!..." ' " Later, Hudson himself rejoiced, " 'I have not got to make myself a branch The Lord Jesus tells me I am a branch. I am part of Him, and have just to believe it and act upon it. If I go to the bank in Shanghai. . . and ask for fifty dollars, the clerk cannot refuse it to my . . . hand and say that it belongs to Mr. Taylor. What belongs to Mr. Taylor my hand may take. It is a member of my body. And I am a member of Christ, and may take all I need of His fulness.' " Mr. Judd commented," 'He was a joyous man now, . . . a bright, happy Christian. He had been a toiling, burdened one before,.. . with. . . not much rest of soul. It was resting in Jesus now, and letting Him do the work-which makes all the difference!' "Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission (London: China Inland Mission, 1955), pp. 172, 173.
Is the vine a symbol of Jesus and the individual or of Jesus and the body of believers? John 15:5-8. Explain your answer.
All the "you" pronouns in the Greek are plural. The closest bonding that human beings can possibly experience occurs when hearts are united through mutual love for Jesus.
|The goal of being alone with Jesus in your "upper room" is to be so united with Him that you will be one of the living, vibrant branches growing from the Vine. To be so, a necessary part of prayer is being still and knowing that He is God (Ps. 46:10). Then we are nourished as the vine nourishes the branches.|
Explain our function as branches of the Vine. What effort does a branch make to bear fruit? John 15:4, 5.
Jesus made us the loveliest part of the vinethe part that bears flowers and fruit. A branch does not bear fruit by struggling but by its connection with the vine.
In John's Gospel, what is meant by fruit? Look at the following verses in their setting: John 4:35; 12:24; 17:20.
How does one abide in Jesus? What role does the Word have in this process? John 15:7. What role does love have? Verse 9.
"The scion is engrafted into the living vine, and fiber by fiber, vein by vein, it grows into the vine stock. The life of the vine becomes the life of the branch. . . . The sinner unites his weakness to Christ's strength, his emptiness to Christ's fullness, his frailty to Christ's enduring might. Then he has the mind of Christ. The humanity of Christ has touched our humanity, and our humanity has touched divinity."The Desire of Ages, p. 675.
What privileges come with abiding in Christ? John 15:7, 16. See also John 14:12-14; 16:23, 24.
When our mind is one with the mind of God and our will is in harmony with His, we can approach the Lord with faith and assurance. "He is well pleased when [His people] make the very highest demands upon Him, that they may glorify His name. They may expect large things if they have faith in His promises."The Desire of Ages, p. 668.
Our highest wish and the Father's greatest pleasure will be that we bear fruit that will remain through all eternity (John 15:16). To stand by the throne of God and see souls that we have won and whom they, in turn, have won will be pure joy!
|What is it about prayer that makes us more open to the Lord? What does prayer do to us that enables the Lord to work in our lives? What happens to a Christian who neglects prayer?|
FURTHER STUDY: This week's lesson has only sunk a few test holes into the riches we can mine from John 14 and 15. For deeper insights, read both chapters in their entirety. As you do, constantly ask yourself how you can apply Jesus' promises in these chapters to your life.
Also read "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled" in The Desire of Ages, pp. 662-680.
"In all who are under the training of God is to be revealed a life that is not in harmony with the world, its customs, or its practices; and everyone needs to have a personal experience in obtaining a knowledge of the will of God. We must individually hear Him speaking to the heart. When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. He bids us, 'Be still, and know that I am God.' Ps. 46:10. Here alone can true rest be found."The Desire of Ages, p. 363.
"Be still. Literally, 'let be,' 'desist,' 'give up.' God Himself speaks these sublime words. The first clause of this verse [Ps. 46:10] has been paraphrased: 'Hush! Cease your tumult and realize that I am God.' We talk too much and listen too little."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 745:10, "Be still."
SUMMARY: Though Jesus has departed from this world, He has not left us alone. He has promised that the entire Godhead will come and make Their home with us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Our greatest responsibility and privilege is to abide continually in Jesus. One way of doing so is to meet with Him in our "upper room," where we can shut the door against the clamor of life and listen to what He has to say.
Merlinton Pastor de Oliveira
BRAZIL-José and his friend were riding their motorcycle to a party when they were struck by a car. José was not seriously injured, but his friend suffered massive head injuries and lay unconscious in the intensive care unit of the nearest hospital.
After being released from the hospital, José went to the police station to file an accident report. It was after midnight when he finally started for home. He had not called his mother to tell her of the accident, because he knew she would worry.
As he made his way home along the quiet city streets, José thought about the accident, thought about his friend's life, which hung on a thread because of another driver's inattention. José realized that his own life could have ended that same instant. He knew that if he had died his life would have been without purpose and without God.
He remembered the times he had made fun of God and of his mother's faith. But now he was ready to turn his life over to God.
Arriving home, he opened the door and found his mother waiting up for him. She stared at him, dirty and torn and bruised, while he told her what had happened. When he finished he looked at her and said, "Mother, I want to give my life to Jesus." Mother and son knelt together, while José asked Jesus to take over his life.
José's friend died a few hours later. And in a sense, José also died that day. His former life of pleasure and carelessness in regard to sin died, and in its place was born a new life in Christ, a life that had purpose and meaning.
José had quit school, but after the accident he resumed his education with a new zeal and purpose. Today, three years after the accident that took the life of his friend and forever changed his own life, José is studying at the Adventist college in northeastern Brazil, where he is preparing for the ministry. He wants others to know what can happen to them if they choose to live a life of self-seeking and carelessness. But José also wants them to know that with Christ living in their hearts their lives can become a wonderful adventure with God.
José das Neves Louro Filho is studying theology at Northeast Brazil College, where Mérlinton Pastor de Oliveira is a pastor.
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