|LESSON 12||*December 15 - 21|
|Dying Like a Seed|
Read for This Week's Study:
|1 Sam. 2:12-3:18; 13:1-14; Zech. 4:1-14; Rom. 12:1, 2; Phil. 2:5-9.|
| "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the
ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces
Jesus' picture of a kernel of wheat dying is a fascinating analogy of our submission to God's will. First, there is the falling. The kernel that falls from the wheat stalk has no control over where or how it falls to the ground. It has no control over the ground that surrounds and then presses over it.
Second, there is the waiting. As the kernel lies in the earth, it does not know what the future holds. It cannot "imagine" what life will be like in the future, for it is only a kernel of wheat.
Third, there is the dying. The kernel cannot possibly become a wheat stalk unless it gives up the safe, comfortable situation as a kernel. It must "die"; that is, it must give up what it has always been before it may be transformed from a seed into a fruit-bearing plant.
The Week at a Glance:
|If we know that God's will is best for us, why do we have such a hard time accepting it? What example of submission has Christ left for us? How do you see the analogy of the kernel of wheat applying to your own life?|
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 22.
Submission for Service
Read Philippians 2:5-9. What important message is there for us in these verses?
Contemporary culture urges us all to demand and assert our rights. And all this is good and is often the way it should be. But, as with Jesus, the will of God may ask us to freely give up our rights in order to serve the Father in ways that will make an eternal impact for God's kingdom. This process of giving them up may be difficult and uncomfortable, creating the conditions of a crucible. Look at how Jesus did this (Phil. 2:5-8). These verses describe three steps that Jesus took in submitting Himself to the Father's will. And at the beginning, Paul alarmingly reminds us: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (vs. 5, NIV).
In order to be in a position to save us, Jesus gave up His equality with the Father and moved to earth in the form and limitations of a human being (vss. 6, 7, NIV). Jesus did not come as a great and glorious human being but as a servant of other human beings (vs. 7, NIV).
As a human servant, Jesus did not live a peaceful and long life but "became obedient to death." But He did not even die in a noble and glorious manner. No, He was "obedient to death-even death on a cross!" (vs. 8, NIV).
In what areas of life is this example of Jesus a model for us? If rights and equality are good and should be protected, how would you explain the logic of sometimes needing to give them up? Now read verse 9. In what way does this verse help us to understand the logic of submission to the Father's will?
While we wait, we can concentrate on one of two things. We can focus on the things that we are waiting for, or we can focus on the One who holds those things in His hands. What makes such a difference when we wait for something isn't so much how long we have to wait as it is our attitude while we wait. If we trust the Lord, if we have placed our lives in His hands, if we have surrendered our wills to Him, then we can trust that He will do what's best for us when it's best for us, no matter how hard it is sometimes to believe it.
|Pray for wisdom from the Holy Spirit, asking, What rights am I holding on to right now that actually might be a barrier to submitting to Jesus' will in serving my family, my church, and those around me? To what extent am I willing to endure discomfort to serve others more effectively?|
Dying Comes Before Knowing God's Will
Many Christians sincerely seek to know God's will for their lives. "If only I could know God's will for my life, I would sacrifice everything for Him." But even after promising God this, we still may be confused about that will. The reason for this confusion may be found in Romans 12:1, 2. Paul is describing how we can know God's will, and he makes an important point: If you want to know what God's will is, you have to sacrifice first!
12:1, 2. Paul writes that we will be able to "test and approve what God's
2, NIV) when:
1. We have a true understanding of "God's mercy" for us (vs. 1, NIV).
2. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God (\).
3. Our minds are renewed (vs. 2).
It is only the renewed mind that truly can understand God's will. But this renewal hinges on our death to self first. It was not enough that Christ simply suffered for usHe had to die. It is the same with us.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas in which you are not completely "dead." What things does the Holy Spirit need you to give up in order to become a "living sacrifice" for God?
When areas of our lives are not completely dead to self, God permits crucibles to bring them to our attention. However, our suffering not only helps us confront our sin, it also gives us an insight into Jesus' giving Himself up for us. Elisabeth Elliot writes, "The surrender of our heart's deepest longing is perhaps as close as we come to an understanding of the cross. . . . Our own experience of crucifixion, though immeasurably less than our Savior's, nonetheless furnishes us with a chance to begin to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings. In every form of our own suffering, He calls us to that fellowship."Quest for Love (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fleming H. Revell, 1966), p. 182.
|Read and pray over Romans 12:1, 2. Think about the things you need to give up in order for you to become a sacrifice. How does this help you to understand the sufferings Jesus faced for you on the cross? How can this knowledge help you enter into fellowship with Jesus and His sufferings?|
Willingness to Listen
"The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, `Samuel! Samuel!' Then Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant is listening' " (1 Sam. 3:10, NIV).
Have you ever heard that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit but ignored it? Consequently, everything went wrong, and you thought to yourself later, Oh no, why didn't I listen?
First Samuel describes a story of an old man and two wicked sons who didn't listen to the Lord and a little boy who did. Though there were strong warnings from God, those who needed to change their course didn't.
Read their story in 1 Samuel 2:12-3:18. What contrast is made apparent here between those who listen to God and those who don't?
Eli's sons had other things on their minds than the things of God. And even when Eli, after hearing what God wanted, spoke to his sons, he didn't seem to do anything else. And his sons were obviously not ready to submit the details of their lives to God's will. What a contrast to the young Samuel!
Preacher Charles Stanley describes how essential it is to cultivate openness to God's voice in what he calls "shifting into neutral." He says: "The Holy Spirit ... does not speak for the sake of passing along information. He speaks to get a response. And He knows when our agenda has such a large slice of our attention that it is a waste of time to suggest anything to the contrary. When that is the case, He is often silent. He waits for us to become neutral enough to hear and eventually obey."The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, 1992), pp. 179, 180.
|What do you think Stanley means by becoming "neutral enough"? When you think about your openness to God, what things often prevent you from being "neutral enough to hear and eventually obey"? What do you need to do in your life to cultivate openness to God's voice and a decisiveness to be obedient to His direction?|
When Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, it wasn't simply because she doubted God's word. At the heart of the problem was her belief that she had enough wisdom to decide what was good and right for herself. She trusted her own judgment. When we rely on our own judgment as opposed to trusting God's Word, we open ourselves up to all sorts of problems.
The story of Saul describes the steps to self-reliance and the tragedy that so quickly follows. Samuel anointed Saul as God's king (1 Sam. 10:1). Then he gave Saul specific instructions (vs. 8), but Saul disobeyed.
Read the next part of the story in 1 Samuel 13:1-14. What did Saul do that led to his own downfall?
There are three steps that led Saul down the road to self-reliance so soon after having been made king. The problem is that none of the steps were that bad in themselves. Yet, they contained the seeds of tragedy because they were each taken independently of God. Notice the order in which Saul's fall occurred.
1. Saul said, "I saw" (N/V)the scattering of his troops and Samuel's absence (vs. 11). Saul was under pressure, and he evaluated with his own eyes what was happening.
2. Saul moved from "I saw" to "I said"that the Philistines would conquer them (vs. 12, NKJV). What he saw with his own eyes shaped what he said, or surmised, about the situation.
3. Saul moved from "I said" to "I felt"compelled to offer sacrifice (vs. 12, NKJV). What Saul thought now shaped his feelings.
All of us have done this: We rely on our own human eyesight, which leads us to rely on our own human thinking, which leads us to rely on our own human feelings. And then we act on these feelings.
|Why do you think it was so easy for Saul to follow his own judgment, even though he had God's clear instructions still ringing in his ears? If we know that we are so fragile and have such imperfect knowledge, why do we still try to rely on ourselves? What can we do to learn more to trust in the Lord's commands than upon ourselves?|
As we saw yesterday, submission to God's will can be undermined as we rely on our own strength. It also is possible to rely on other substitutes for God. When some people feel depressed, they go shopping for something to make them happy. When some feel inadequate, they pursue fame. When others have difficulties with their spouse, they look for someone else to give them intimacy and excitement.
Many of the things we use can relieve the pressure, but they do not necessarily solve the problem nor teach us how to handle the situation better the next time. Only supernatural help from God can do that. The problem is that many times we try to depend on substitutes for God rather than on God Himself.
Here are three substitutes that we may use instead of God:
1. Using human logic or past experience when we need fresh divine revelation.
2. Blocking problems from our minds when we need divine solutions.
3. Escaping reality and avoiding God when we need communion with God for divine power.
Zechariah helps us to focus on what really matters when we are tempted to use substitutes. After many years away, the exiles had finally returned from Babylon and immediately began to rebuild the temple. But there was an incredible amount of opposition to this (some background can be found in Ezra 4-6). So Zechariah came with this message of encouragement to Zerubbabel, who was leading the work.
Read this message in Zechariah 4:1-14. What does God mean in verse 6? How could the completion of a building project be affected by the Holy Spirit? What does this teach us about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the practical things that we do?
|Read Ellen G. White, "Eli and His Sons,"
pp. 575-580; "The Presumption of
Saul," pp. 616-626, in Patriarchs
Submission to God's will comes as we die to our own desires and ambitions. This opens the way for true service to others. We cannot live for God without becoming a sacrifice and living in continual openness to God's voice. For us to truly submit our wills to our Father's will, we must recognize the dangers of relying on ourselves and on substitutes for God's Word and power. As submission to God's will is at the heart of a Christlike life, God may allow crucibles to teach us dependence on Him.
"The neglect of Eli is brought plainly before every father and mother in the land. As the result of his unsanctified affection or his unwillingness to do a disagreeable duty, he reaped a harvest of iniquity in his perverse sons. Both the parent who permitted the wickedness and the children who practiced it were guilty before God, and He would accept no sacrifice or offering for their transgression."Ellen G. White, Child Guidance, p. 276.
| As a class, talk about the incredible condescension
of the Son of God in coming to earth as a human being in order to die for
our sins. What does it tell each of us about what self-sacrifice and self-denial
for the good of others means? Though we certainly can't do anything like
that, the principle is there and should always be before us. What ways can
we, in our own spheres, emulate the kind of submission and self-sacrifice
shown to us by Jesus at the Cross?
For many people, submitting to God without knowing what will happen next can be a terrifying thing. How would you counsel someone who is relying on themselves rather than God? What would you say to help remove their fears of not knowingor being able to controlthe future?
As a class, spend some time praying for people you know who have difficulty in submitting to God's will, that they may see that trusting God's will is the only route to a lasting peace. At the same time, what practical things can you do for these people to help them see that they can surrender to God and that His way is the best? In other words, how can God use you to help others know of His love and willingness to provide?
|I N S I D E Story|
|Invited by an Angel
by BENJAMIN D. SCHOUN
In the Muslim country of Azerbaijan, one family of new believers is convinced that an angel guided them to the Adventist Church.
A young woman named Gunel and her family had just lost their grandfather. Her mother cried quietly as she rode the city bus to the family's grave site. A woman came to comfort her, saying that God is good, that Jesus will come again, and that there is hope for the future. Then the woman told Gunel's mother about a church where she could go to learn more about these things.
A month later Gunel's mother again saw the woman on the bus. The woman again encouraged her and gave her the address of the church. Gunel's mother asked Gunel to go with her one Saturday morning to this church. They had never been inside a Christian church before and hesitated to enter. Then one of the church greeters saw them arid invited them in, where they were welcomed with hugs and kisses.
Gunel and her mother enjoyed the worship. After the service Gunel's mother asked about the woman she had met on the bus. She described the woman in detail, but no one recognized the description. The pastor, who knew every Adventist in the city, listened carefully. He did not recognize the woman's description and suggested that Gunel's mother had met an angel.
Gunel and her mother continued attending church and studied the Bible diligently. First Gunel's mother was baptized, then Gunel and her brother and sister followed. Now they host a small group meeting in their home. Gunel's father, still a Muslim, is favorable to Adventists.
Gunel's Muslim friends harass her because she has become a Christian. But Gunel is not deterred. Recently she took an Adventist World Radio seminar to learn how to produce radio programs. Perhaps Gunel will be part of AWR's outreach into her homeland, where today just a handful of believers live.
GUNEL (left). BENJAMIN D. SCHOUN is president of Adventist World Radio.
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