*June 22 - 28
Preparing for the Apocalyptic Consummation
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 5:18-24; Isa. 53:5, 6; Acts 2:38; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; 1 John 1:9; 2:1, 2.
MEMORY TEXT: "He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household" (Ephesians 2:17, 19, NIV).
THE RETURN OF CHRIST MEANS OUR ULTIMATE FULFILLMENT as Christians. All that we believe leads to this event, the consummation of all our hopes as believers in Jesus and benefactors of His atonement. Without it, what could being a Christian mean? When we die, our fate would be no different than that of a lion, a frog, or even a tree. It is only the hope of the Second Coming, made real by what Christ did at His first coming, that gives our faith meaning, purpose, and a direction.
Thus, Christ calls us, even now, to be prepared for the moment when He comes. Yet, the invitation does not come alone; the means of accepting it are provided, as well. Not only does Jesus call, but the Spirit comes to enable us to heed that call. For our part, we must answer that call and bring our lives into harmony with God through surrender of ourselves to Christ's work of reconciliation and justification. This surrender is to be followed by a growth in grace and by a life of communion and constant fellowship with our Savior.
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 29.)
Sunday June 23
"That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:12).
"Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3:25).
The invitation to prepare to meet our Savior in glory comes directly from God (1 Thess. 2:12); it was most forcefully, and dramatically, extended to us at the cross of Christ (Rom. 3:25). The gospel, then, is not just our invitation to the kingdom but our only means of access to it.
Sent originally from God, the gospel does reach us in different ways. God could send the invitation through a friend or a relative; He may use a radio or TV program, a magazine, or any other agent. Right now He could be using this lesson to invite you to prepare to meet Him, to accept His call to salvation. Among the many things that Christians have in common, perhaps the most important one is that they have all accepted the invitation.
What is the role of the Holy Spirit with respect to this invitation? John 16:8.
What persuades people to accept the invitation is not human reasoning or a natural disposition of the heart. On the contrary-the human heart, by itself, would spurn the invitation. Therefore, God has a supernatural agent working in the heart of every person, moving each one to accept God's call. This is the Holy Spirit, who Jesus said "will convict the world of guilt" (John 16:8, NIV).
The Greek verb elencho, translated "to convict," means "blame, punish, correct." The Spirit awakens the conscience and makes us feel guilty, lost, and separated from God (some theologians call it a sense of "estrangement"). Then the Spirit points to the Cross and invites us there, to find the answer to our deepest needs.
The Spirit has the difficult task of confronting us with our true condition and, then, and even more importantly, with the remedy for it. And though the Spirit will convict, He never forces. The choice to heed or to reject is always left up to the individual.
|What is it about the human heart that makes it so resistant to salvation? Why does everyone not immediately, and positively, respond to the offer of eternal life?|
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).
The human problem is located at the very essence of our existence. Thus, it is not an exterior phenomenon, some mere cosmetic aberration that can easily be removed, like warts. Some individuals tend to be indifferent to spiritual matters; others consider Christ irrelevant for their lives. Still others are in open rebellion against God, denying even His existence and rejecting those who follow Christ. All need a change from within. That change is called "repentance." The Greek verb metanoeo means "to change one's mind." Our preparation for the coming of Christ begins with a change from rebellion to submission. Repentance is a gift from God, but like all gifts, it can be rejected.
What was David's reaction when confronted with his sin? 2 Sam. 12:1-6, 13.
Repentance and confession are inseparable. Those who accept the gift of repentance will confess their sins. To confess sin is to break with it, to acknowledge that our sins offended and inflicted pain on Christ and, perhaps, others. How encouraging to know that God's answer to our confession is the forgiveness already made available by Christ's death. Indeed, there is no sin that cannot be washed away by Christ (Acts 2:38) when we come to Him in faith and repentance.
What invitation did Christ extend to the human race? Matt. 11:28.
Repentance and confession describe our attitude toward sin; they show that we have rejected it through the blood of Christ. Conversion describes the positive side of that experience. Christians are not only against something but in favor of something. We say No to sin but Yes to Christ. Conversion is returning to God; it is turning around and going back to the One who is our Creator and Redeemer.
|Does repentance happen only at the beginning of the Christian life, or is it a spiritual state that should constantly accompany the believer? If you believe that repentance is ongoing, what function does it play in our lives?|
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).
It has always been God's intention to resolve the sin problem peacefully. He offers to all of us reconciliation; He tells us that there is no reason to perish. God is not interested in charging our sins against us; He'd much rather forgive us those sins (the Cross proves that). Forgiveness becomes a reality in our lives the moment we accept it; only then are we ready for the Second Coming.
How is it possible for God to forgive our sins? Isa. 53:5, 6; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21.
God had a problem: how to eradicate sin without eradicating sinners. Through the Cross, God solved that problem. "God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV). God placed our sin on Christ, who died in our place, as a ransom for our sins (Isa. 53:5, 6; Mark 10:45). In other words, God has already punished our sin, but He did it in the person of Jesus Christ. Consequently, God can declare that those who put their faith in Christ are righteous, innocent, free of condemnation (Rom. 3:23, 24), which is why we can face the Second Coming with hope and confidence, not because of ourselves but only because of Jesus. Those who are waiting for the return of Christ have put their faith in Him as the only means of salvation.
|What do each of these texts tell us about what Christ has done for
us at the Cross, and why should they give us confidence that we can be ready
to meet Jesus when He comes?
Isa. 53:11 _________________________________________________________________________
1 Cor. 5:7 _________________________________________________________________________
Gal. 2:20 _________________________________________________________________________
1 Pet. 2:24 ___________________________________________________________________
Read the following textsJohn 14:15; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Philippians 3:12; Hebrews 12:14; 2 Peter 3:18and then answer the question, Is sanctification a past or a present experience? Or both? Give reasons for your choice.
When we are justified by faith, we also receive the gift of the Spirit (Gal. 3:2), and the process of sanctification begins. However, as we understand the process of sanctification, a few points need to be remembered:
First, sanctification, or holiness, is a state in which Christians exist. Consequently, it is described as a past event, granted to us when we believed (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11). By accepting Christ we were separated for Him, and He cleansed us from sin (Eph. 5:25, 26).
Second, sanctification is also a process of spiritual and moral growth (Heb. 12:14). We will always need to be in constant spiritual development (Phil. 3:12).
Third, the two main goals of sanctification are (1) to restore in us the image of God (Col. 3:9, 10) and (2) to reveal to others, through our lives, the love, kindness, and wisdom of our God (Eph. 3:10; 1 John 4:7-13).
Fourth, sanctification requires our willingness to accept God's will for us, but it is never meritorious. Sanctification is always growth in God's grace, never anything apart from it (Heb. 13:20, 21; 2 Pet. 3:18).
What are we advised to do if during our growth in holiness we still fall into sin? 1 John 1:9; 2:1, 2.
The Christian is a person who is led by the Spirit and is no longer a slave of sin (Rom. 8:9). With His power we can overcome sin in our lives (Gal. 5:16). Before, we were unable to obey God's law (Rom. 8:6), but now we are enabled to fulfill it (vs. 4). Submission to the law of God is a humble expression of our love to Christ our Savior (John 14:15) and to our neighbor (Rom. 13:8-10). Obedience is not subjection to the law in an effort to be accepted by God; it is, rather, God Himself trying to express His love through those who are freely justified by faith. If during this time we fall, the biblical admonition is to repent and confess our sin.
|If we already are, at conversion, ready for the Second Coming, why is growth in grace so important as we await the Lord's return?|
How was Enoch's life different from that of his contemporaries? Gen. 5:18-24.
There has been a lot of discussion in the church over the years about the final generation, the 144,000, the generation that lives to see Christ return. Much of it has been useless banter, excessive speculation about things we can, in the end, only speculate about.
The bottom line for all who love God, who seek after holiness, is that we walk with Godevery day. Wherever we go and whenever we get there, regardless of whether or not we live to see Christ return in the clouds of glory, we should seek to have the same walk with the Lord that Enoch had.
What does it mean to "walk with God"? How have you, personally, understood what that means? Could you honestly say that you "walk with God"? If so, write out what that means. If not, ask yourself what changes you need to make in order to be able to have that walk. Can those who walk with God sometimes stumble in that walk?
The Bible combines in different ways the verb to walk with God. One of those is "to walk before/in the presence of the Lord" (see, for example, Gen. 24:40). The phrase expresses God's providential care for His people. The image is that of a child who wants to walk by herself, and the father allows her, with the understanding that she will walk only in front of him. He wants to keep his eyes on her in order to protect her in case of danger.
We also find the phrase "to walk behind/after the Lord" (see, for example, Deut. 13:4). It was customary to carry the image of a god in a procession while the worshipers followed it. To walk after God was considered an act of worship. The Israelites were expected to walk only after the Lord.
The third phrase, "walking with God," came to express intimacy, communion, fellowship. Now God is placed at the center of the life of the individual. The expression suggests that God and His human companion will go together to the marketplace, to the mall, to the school, to church, to recreation places, to the home, and to work. Life is a walk, we are pilgrims, and our companion is Christ.
The remnant people of God will develop a strong bond of communion with Christ and, like Enoch, they will walk with God every day of their lives . . . even if, at times, they stumble or fall along the way.
FURTHER STUDY: Read the following chapters in Ellen G. White's Steps to Christ: "Repentance," pp. 23-36; "Confession," pp. 37-46; "Consecration," pp. 43-48; "Faith and Acceptance," pp. 49-55.
Please note the following in conclusion to this week's lesson study:
Holding communion with Christ. "By prayer, by the study of His word, by faith in His abiding presence, the weakest of human beings may live in contact with the living Christ, and He will hold them by a hand that will never let go."Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 182.
SUMMARY: Our preparation to meet Christ at His second coming consists of a surrender of our lives to Him, who died for us. Out of that faith commitment will develop a transformed life that will reveal the goodness and love of our God to the world and even to the forces of evil. The extent to which God will use us as channels of His love will depend on the quality of our daily walk with Him.
J. H. Zachary
As a young man, Jeorge Ratarciuc joined a radical religious group in Romania called God's Army. For some 30 years he and his wife were active members. Jeorge sincerely tried to understand and follow the teachings of the Bible, but as he studied, he discovered that the organization to which he belonged did not follow God's commandments. Jeorge wondered if any religious group followed everything the Bible taught.
He asked his priests, "Why do we not follow the Bible in our church?" The priests had no satisfactory answer, so Jeorge asked other priests. Again he received no clear answers.
Jeorge's study convinced him that reverencing the icons, pictures of saints, violated the second commandment. He asked his priests for scriptural support for this practice. But they could provide none.
As a lay preacher in his church, Jeorge presented sermons when the priests were not available. He could not conscientiously teach others to follow traditions he himself did not believe in. So when he preached, he urged his listeners to search the Bible for answers to their questions. But soon Jeorge decided that he could no longer be a leader in his church. He decided to leave God's Army.
Jeorge knew a few Adventists in his village, but he did not at first consider seeking them out, for he was not convinced that they kept all of the Ten Commandments. After all, they did not honor Sunday, the day he understood to be the Lord's Day. Jeorge visited other Protestant churches, but he could not find one that followed the Bible and honored the Ten Commandments.
Then he attended some evangelistic meetings, and there he discovered that the Adventist Church honored all of the Ten Commandments and ordered their lives and worship according to the Bible. Jeorge joyfully called his family together and told his 11 children and their spouses that he planned to become an Adventist. After studying together, Jeorge rejoiced when all of his children and their spouses joined him in his decision. Recently, the entire family [was] baptized together.
Jeorge is reaching out to his friends in God's Army, praying for them and inviting them to become soldiers in the Lord's real army.
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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