SDA Sabbath School Lesson
|Light Against the Darkness|
Read For This Week's Study: 1 John 1:5-10.
Memory Text: "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no Darkness at all" (1 John 1:5, NKJV).
Key Thought: God is the source of light and truth, and His true followers cannot be part of darkness and error.
God Is Light Light And No Darkness Living In Both Light And Darkness Living Without Sinning - Is This Deception How God Deals With Our Sinfulness Making God A Liar Further Study And don't miss: The Inside Story
Sabbath Afternoon April 5
God Is Light. "The best way to see divine light is to put out thy own candle," said Thomas Fuller. If we are busy making our own way to heaven, then the quicker we look to the true light and not our own, the better. God identified as light means the source of life itself, the basis of truth and the only way of salvation-healnig.
Knowing this, we cannot live in the two worlds of light and darkness at the same time. We must live in the light-the life-giving, all transforming, glorious light of the Creator-Redeemer God. "No one is a light unto himself" (Antonio Porchia).
There are significant consequences to this. Sin has to be spelled out. I remember my landlady being horrified at a poster I put in my window when I was a student that read, "Repent: for all have sinned." She confronted me and said, "You can't say everyone's a sinner. I'm not a sinner!' From my observations of the kind of life she led (without being judgmental), I found it hard to agree with her! But she well illustrates so many who refuse to accept their sinful state. Until we accept our sinfulness, we make God a liar and refuse His help.
Sunday - April 6
Light And No Darkness (1 John 1:5).
What is God like? 1 John 1:5; Ps. 27:1; Isa. 60:20. How are light and darkness symbols? Write a few examples.
John announces what he has heard and knows to be true. What he has to say is no philosophical speculation-it is the revelation of God Himself. Identifying God as absolute light in whom there is no darkness at all immediately creates a striking image in the mind. We are not nocturnal animals. We look for the light and cannot exist without light. Light is a symbol of so many things: vision, growth, knowledge, and understanding-even life itself. As an illustration, it reveals God's divine character in all its beauty, wisdom, and majesty.
More than this, light is equated with moral good and ethical right. Darkness, in contrast, is seen as the kingdom of the enemy, and the home of evil. And so comes the challenge-where are you living? You cannot live in both darkness and light. You cannot split your time between two opposing principles. Nor can you say that light is darkness, or the opposite.
The thought of light also echoes the Genesis account and the first creative act of God in saying, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3). God is seen as the Creator who is light; He is described as being surrounded by glorious light, and in His appearances to humanity is always associated with blazing light (Eze. 1:26-28).
Why do you think that John adds "in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5)? Wasn't it enough to say that God is light?
"It is in the ethical sense that John here affirms that 'God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.' God, that is to say, is the source and essence of holiness and righteousness, goodness and truth; in Him there is nothing that is unholy or unrighteous, evil or false." - F. F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering and Inglis, 1970), p 41. "It is typical of John to make a categorical statement such as, God is light,' and then to reinforce it with a denial of the opposite (cf. vs 6, ;8 c.h 24:; oJhn1 :3, 20; 10:28)." - SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7.p . 360.
This verse also makes it clear that God is neither the author of nor responsible for evil. Some philosophies teach that God is the creator of evil - but this John emphatically denies.
For reflection: What does the phrase God is light really mean? What relevance does this have for you?
Monday April 7
Living In Both Light And Darkness (1 John 1:6,7).
Why is it not possible to belong to both God's kingdom and the devil's kingdom? 1 John 1:6.
Can you live a split existence between two worlds that are so opposite? And yet so many try to perform this acrobatic feat! John does not mince his words here. Anyone who claims to be a Christian and yet lives in darkness he calls a liar-not just in words, but in actions too.
Why is this so serious? It is because we fool ourselves into thinking we can have "the best of both worlds" when there is nothing good in the darkness. And we also fool others by giving out such confusing signals.
For reflection: Think of some examples of how our lives are inconsistent with what we say we believe.
Three tests of true belief: in 1 John 1:6, 8, and 10, John sets up three tests so we can discover how deep our commitment is to the truth of God. The first is the failure to reject evil. In retaining our home in the darkness of the devil's evil deceptions, we demonstrate where we belong spiritually. The second self-deception is to deny our sins, to make out that we are right when we are not. If we do this, says John, there is no truth in us-we are lying again! The third test is to suggest that we do not even have a sinful nature-we never sinned which actually makes God Himself into a liar and denies the whole reason for the plan of salvation.
But by living in the light we share together in God's blessings and can experience the mutual friendship of true believers in the Lord. At the same time, this does not mean the immediate achievement of total goodness, for an ongoing process of purifying from sin continues.
When we speak of the blood of Jesus, what do we really mean? How would you explain this vital aspect of Christian belief to the person in the street who know nothing of religious ideas? How does the blood of Jesus cleanse us "from all sin"? (1 John 1:7, RSV) Does this mean: (1) our fallen natures are destroyed; (s) our fallen natures are subjected to the control of the Holy Spriit; or (3) we are given victory over sinful behavior? Are more than one of these alternatives involved in Jesus' cleaning power?
Tuesday April 8
Living Without Sinning - Is This Deception? (1 John 1:8).
What is being said in 1 John 1:8? How do you relate this verse to the statement at the end of the previous verse, that "the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (verse 7, RSV)?
The ideas of perfection and sinlessness have been much fought over - and the very term fought should alert us to the unchrist like words and actions of some. John is not denying the working of God, which as he has just said, "purifies us from all sin." The focus in verse 8 is on our saying that we have no sin. This arrogant lie is a self-satisfied confidence that we have achieved the state of sinlessness, and even that we did it by ourselves for ourselves. This makes a mockery of God's gift in Jesus Christ.
How should you respond to those who make claims of sinlessness?
A friend of mine told of a letter his father had once received. At the foot was PS: "I have lived without sinning these last 45 days."
Suggest how you would have responded.
As a church, we have had to relate to those who have claimed sinless perfection. Ellen White wrote: "The words of John came forcibly to my mind, 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' 1 John 1:8. I was shown that those who triumphantly claim to be sinless, show by their very boasting that they are far from being without taint of sin. The more clearly fallen man comprehends the character of Christ, the more distrustful will he be of himself, and the more imperfect will his works appear to him, in contrast with those which marked the life of the spotless Redeemer. But those who are far from Jesus, those whose spiritual perceptions are so clouded by error that they cannot comprehend the character of the great Exemplar, conceive of Him as altogether such a one as themselves, and dare to talk of their own perfection of holiness. But they are far from God; they know little of themselves, and less of Christ. - Life Sketches, p. 84.
For reflection: How do you view yourself when you consider the character of Christ?
Wednesday April 9
How God Deals With Our Sinfulness (1 John 1:9).
What steps are spelled out in the way God deals with our sinfulness? 1 John 1:9.
Step one: We have to confess. We cannot be like those in the previous verse who simply deny their sin. If we do not admit and accept that we are sinners, God cannot help us. We must identify our need of God to heal us from our sinfulness.
Step two: Because by nature He is "faithful and just" (or "utterly reliable and straightforward," as Phillips puts it), God forgives our sins. Sometimes God's forgiveness is made out to be some way in which He makes allowances or bends the rules. This misses the whole point. God forgive, us because it is the right thing to do, and God is always right. The devil is the one who complains about the correctness of forgiveness, but forgiveness is at the heart of the nature and character of God. God sees the true motives of the heart, accepts the sincerity of repentance, and consequently forgives-which means accepting us back as if we had never sinned.
Commenting on 1 John, Ellen G. White makes this vital point: "The plan of redemption is not merely a way of escape from the penalty of transgression, but through it the sinner is forgiven his sins, and will 'be finally received into heaven-Tiot as a forgiven culprit pardoned and released from captivity, yet looked upon with suspicion and not admitted to friendship and trust; but welcomed as a child, and taken back into fullest confidence."- Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 950.
Step three: God purifies us from all our unrighteousness ("wrongdoing," NIV). In fact, God's forgiveness includes purification. "God's forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin. It is the outflow of redeeming love that transforms the heart." -Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 114. Sometimes in our gratitude and amazement at God's gracious forgiveness, we stop there and miss the essential third step. God does not leave us simply as "forgiven culprits." He sets to work to heal the damage sin has caused, and to remake us into His image. He not only sets us right, but keeps us right. (See also the Ellen G. White article, "God Made Manifest in Christ." Signs of the Times, Jan. 20, 1890).
Think of how these three steps have worked in your experience. Do you realize the accepting and transforming nature of God's forgiveness?
Thursday April 10
Making God A Liar (1 John 1:10).
How do we make a liar out of God? 1 John 1:10.
Note Phillips' pointed translation of this verse: "For if we take up the attitude 'we have not sinned,' we flatly deny God's diagnosis of our condition and cut ourselves off from what he has to say to us."
More than this--we buy into the lies of the devil, who assured Eve that she would not die as a result of her sinful action, but rather would be godlike. The devil has always tried to clothe God in his own evil nature. How can we refute the following allegations?
God is a liar. (See Gen. 3:4.) The devil directly contradicts what God has said.
God is selfish. (See Gen. 3:5.) The devil insinuates that God is keepin-A the best for Himself by not allowing Adam and Eve access to the tree, for they would then be like God.
God is a bad governor of His universe. (See Isa. 14:13, 14.) Lucifer claims he can do a better job than the Most High.
God exhibits favoritism?. (See Job 1:9, 10.) Satan accuses God of being partial, and claims that those who follow Him do so only for material and personal gain.
God asks for worship that is not deserved. (See Matt. 4:9.) In contrast, Satan asks for that worship to be directed to himself.
"And many other charges are demonstrated by the work that Satan carries Out and his attitude to God revealed in Scripture: God is hostile, cruel, unforgiving, antagonistic, vengeful, severe, unjustand all the other qualities that the devil transfers from himself to God. . . . No wonder then that God is 'defaced,' and is rejected so often by those whose picture of God has been given them by the archliar, They have swallowed the distorted, perverted picture of God fed to them by the antagonist, so that God's name continues to be blackened and blasphemed. 'On rumour's tongue continual slanders ride.' (Shakespeare.)" - Jonathan Gallagher, Is God to Blame? (Grantham, England: Stanborough Press, 1992), p. 38.
"Why have we had so hard a judgment of our Heavenly Father? From the light that God has given me, I know that Satan has misrepresented our God in every possible way. He has cast his hellish shadow athwart our pathway, that we might not discern our God as a God of mercy, compassion, and truth. . . . We thus put our kind Heavenly Father in a false light. All this should change. We must gather up the rays of divine truth, and let our light shine upon the darkened pathway of others." - Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Feb. 26, 1889.
Friday April 11
For Further Study: Review the introduction to the Gospel of John and the comments on 1 John 1:1-5 in the SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 891-899.
Further on "God is light ": "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If there were no light, there would be no shade. But while the shade comes by the sun, it is not created by it. It is some obstruction that causes the shadow. So darkness emanates not from God, but is the result of an intruding object between the soul and God....
Disregard of the light that God has given brings the sure result. It creates a shadow, a darkness that is more dark because of the light which has been sent.... If a man withdraws himself from light and evidence, and yields to Satan's seducing arts, he himself draws the curtain of unbelief about him, so that light cannot be distinguished from darkness. More light and evidence would only be misunderstood by him."-Our High Calling, p. 26.
Further on how God deals with our sinfulness: "In ourselves we can see nothing but weakness, nothing to recommend us to God, and Satan tells us that it is of no use; we cannot remedy our defects of character. When we try to come to God, the enemy will whisper, It is of no use for you to pray; did not you do that evil thing? Have you not sinned against God and violated your own conscience? But we may tell the enemy that 'the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.' 1 John 1:7. When we feel that we have sinned and cannot pray, it is then the time to pray. Ashamed we may be and deeply humbled, but we must pray and believe. 'This is a faithful saving, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.' 1 Timothy 1:15. Forgiveness, reconciliation with God, comes to us, not as a reward for our works, . . but it is a gift unto us, having in the spotless righteousness of Christ its foundation for bestowal." - Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 115.
Summary: Only by living in the light that is of God can we experience the true Christian life. There is no darkness in God - no moral darkness or error of any kind. We are invited into this lifegiving light as God deals with our sinfulness and wins us back to love and trust in His gracious concern for us.
Don't Let Our Church Close!
James H. Zachary
"Dear Lord, help us keep our church open," Cheryl Hodge and Marie Pesak of Rochester, Indiana, prayed. Their little church was the only Adventist church in the county. During World War 11 it had been home to 60 members, but over the years people moved away or slipped away until only two members remained. But the women were determined to do all they could to keep their church alive.
Then one Sabbath morning Patrick Noonan walked into the church. "I want to be baptized," he announced. The surprised women listened to his story of how family problems had driven him to find the Lord.
"Praise God!" Marie and Cheryl said. "You can be our elder!" The church had just increased its membership by 50 percent, to three active members!
For five years Patrick met with the two women to pray, "Lord, help us keep the light of truth shining in this county." Then in 1993, another member joined the church; Cheryl was married!
Besides their constant and earnest prayers, the four church members worked hard to draw interests from the neighborhood. They held a prophecy seminar that resulted in six new members, more than 100 percent growth! Encouraged, they planned another seminar that helped bring in four additional members.
Other Adventists saw the church members' zeal and transferred their memberships to the Rochester church. Then Pastor David de Pinto was assigned to the little congregation. Impressed by the group's dedication to evangelism, the pastor and his wife settled in, determined to stay and help the church grow.
More seminars, more outreach, and lots more prayer have brought other new members to the church. Today some 30 believers worship and fellowship in the Rochester church. "It is sharing the love of Jesus that attracts people," Marie Pesak says with a smile. "The light of God's truth is shining brighty in Rochester, and to the Lord's blessing and eight years of praying, 'Lord, help us keep this church open.
James Zachary is Global Evangelism coordinator for the Quiet Hour.
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