SDA Sabbath School Lesson
May 11 - May 17
Love One Another
Read For This Week's Study: 1 John 3:11-24.
Memory Text: "Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18, RSV).
Key Thought: Love is not revealed only in words and claims; it is proved and demonstrated in what we actually do. God's love is manifested in action-and this should apply to us too.
How Great a Love Children of God We Shall Be Like Him Law and Sin Destroying Demonic Deceptions Like Father, Like Child Further Study Also see: Lesson Helps for study material used in this lesson. And don't miss: The Inside Story
Sabbath Afternoon May 10
Love in the Church "I'm sick of all this talk about love in the church," one long-standing member once said. "All the other churches do the same, and we shouldn't be like them." And then he went on to tell how he had joined the Adventist Church.
"I went to one," he began. "They were preaching the love of God."
"Then I went to another. They were preaching the love of God too."
"So I went to yet another. They were preaching the love of God too."
"Eventually, I went to the Adventists. They weren't preaching the love of God, so I joined them."
Do you feel uncomfortable over that story?
Of course the 27 fundamentals are important. So are the prophecies. So are all the other aspects of Seventh-day Adventism. But as Paul so clearly says: "If ... I have not love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2, NIV). A loveless Christian is the worst representative of God.
What Jesus said still applies to us today: "All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35, NIV).
Sunday May 11
From the Beginning (1 John 3:11,12).
What is the beginning and basis of Christlike religion? 1 John 3:11, 12.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, so you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34, 35, RSV).
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you" (John 15:12, NIV). The words of Jesus are summed up in the message "We should love one another" (1 John 3:11, NIV). The kind of love is clearly defined: as Christ loves, we must love. The result of that love is demonstrated: if you love, everyone will recognize you as a follower of Christ. The origin of this love-message is identified: this is the true message that convinced you in the very beginning.
Commenting on 1 John 3:11, Westcott writes: "The words do not simply give the contents of the message, but its aim, its purpose. The fundamental declaration of Christ's life and work is directed to this end, that men should be moved by it to self-sacrifice."-B. F. Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (Abingdon, Berks: Marcham Books, 1966), P. 110.
Why did Jesus emphasize "love one another" as a command?
Ellen White states quite categorically that "He [God] desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened.-The Desire Of Ages, p. 22. So if love cannot be commanded, why does Jesus make love a command? Obviously, because this is what Jesus most wants us to do--it is so important that He phrases it as a command, even though all know that love cannot be commanded, demanded, or exacted. Since only by love is love awakened, God "first oved us" (1 John 4:19) to try to draw the response of love from us. That which God most wants-the freely given love, admiration, and trust of His beloved children-can be achieved only by revealing Himself as He truly is, for "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Majesty may evoke awe, power may draw our amazement, but God works not by might nor power, but by the sweet influence of His loving Spirit. (See Zech. 4:6.)
Experiment: Try it out--command your friends to love you. See what kind of response you receive.
Monday May 12
The Contrast of Spiritual Life and Spiritual Death (1 John 3:13-15).
Why is it true that the person who hates others "abides in death" (1 John 3:14, NKJV)? 1 John 3:14, 15.
All want to be loved. But, living in this world of sin, we cannot expect always to be appreciated: "So do not be surprised, my brothers, if the people of the world hate you" (1 John 3:13, TEV; see also Mark 13:13; John 15:18, 19).
Why does hatred between Christians destroy the effectiveness of their witness? 1 John 2:9-11.
"[1 John 1:5-10; 2:9-11, quoted.] Could any description be more sharp and clear than John has given us? These things are written for us; they are applicable to the churches of Seventh-day Adventists. Some may say, 'I do not hate my brother; I am not so bad as that.' But how little they understand their own hearts. They may think they have a zeal for God in their feelings against their brother, if his ideas seem in any way to conflict with theirs; feelings are brought to the surface that have no kinship with love. They show no disposition to harmonize with him. They would as lief be at swords' point with their brother as not. And yet he may be bearing a message from God to the people-just the light they need for this time."-Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, p. 104
What is the proof that "we have passed from death to life"? 1 John 3:14.
"As the presence of murderous hatred is a token that one does not belong to the family of God, the presence of brotherly love is a sure sign that one does belong to it, that one has, through the new birth, 'passed out of death into life' (cf. John 5:24).... Love is the supreme manifestation of the new life, so much so that any one who fails to manifest it shows that he has never entered into the new life; he 'abides in death."--F. F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering and Inglis, 1970), pp. 95, 96.
For reflection: Surely there is more to it than that? Why should love for others be considered enough proof? Is this all the evidence that is necessary?
Tuesday May 13
Action (1 John 3:16-18).
What is the result of Christlike love? 1 John 3:16-18.
Christ's love led Him to come to this world, to a ministry of preaching and healing, to death and resurrection, to ascension and ministry in heaven, and to promise to return. Love has results! The people with whom John had difficulty were those who said, "Oh yes, I'm a loving Christian" and yet demonstrated quite the opposite in their lives, not seeing actions as being important at all. And there are still people like that in the church.
A group in one church had a severe set of rules and regulations as to how life was to be lived. They certainly were not of the hypocritical type; they really practiced what they preached. And yet they had no love, none whatsoever. Theirs was a harsh and loveless religion that preached a harsh and loveless God. And they never smiled.
How did Christ describe the kind of benevolence we should practice? Mark 5:42; Luke 12:23; John 13:35.
Jesus spoke approvingly of total self-giving. Our best happiness comes in dedication to others and to God. Jesus spoke of the poor widow and her two mites: "I tell you the truth ... this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on" (Luke 21:3, 4, NIV).
And if Christ gave His life for us, what right have we to refuse sacrificial love?
Talk is cheap, say many today, even of Christians. John wrote: "My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action" (1 John 3:18, TEV).
"The religion of Christ is something more than talk. The righteousness of Christ consists in right actions and good works from pure, unselfish motives. Outside righteousness, while the inward adorning is wanting, will be of no avail."-Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 528.
"It is not enough to believe the theory of truth, to make a profession of faith in Christ, to believe that Jesus is no impostor, and that the religion of the Bible is no cunningly devised fable."-The Acts of the Apostles, p. 563.
For reflection: What action have you done recently to demonstrate that your love is more than just talk?
Wednesday May 14
God's Answer to Emptiness (1 John 3:19, 20).
These two verses describe Christian experience in a nutshell. Some years ago a group of young people wanted to witness to their age group. Their slogan was "The Gate"-based on Jesus' statement that He was the gate of the sheepfold, and the only way. But they also devised G.A.T.E. as an acronym: God's Answer to Emptiness.
How do you find peace and assurance? 1 John 3:19, 20.
The answer is sure and certain: Through loving "with actions and in the truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (1 John 3:18-20, NIV).
We often feel self-condemned. But, as when Jesus was faced with the woman taken in adultery, God says to us, "Neither do I condemn you," with the added command, "Do not sin again" (John 8:11, RSV). And should you feel worried about what you have done, and hesitant even to mention this in prayer, remember that God knows everything, and He is greater than our hearts. There is nothing God cannot forgive except that for which we do not ask forgiveness. We cannot embarrass God. We can set our hearts at rest in His presence knowing that, by His power, we can practice love in action and in the truth.
The conscience is a useful tool to help us recognize sin. But what can't it do? 1 John 3:19, 20; Heb. 9:14.
"Even if our conscience condemns us, God is greater than our conscience" (1 John 3:20, NEB). To have our conscience shouting, "Wrong! Guilty! Sinner!" can be distressingly depressing. The problem with the conscience is like that of pain nerves. Once you have received the message of pain, you want to say, "OK, I get the message. You can stop now." But the pain does not stop!
So too the conscience. You appreciate its warning signals, but you need to move on. The condemnation of the conscience can lead to spiritual discouragement. But remember that God is greater than our conscience. He is the one to whom we are responsible, and He is the forgiving, healing God who is changing us into His trustworthy friends.
For reflection: When you feel condemned beford God, what should you do? Give some specific answers.
Thursday May 15
Confidence Because of Love (1 John 3:21-24).
On what is our confidence to be based?
On God: "Because we obey his commands and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:22, NIV).
On Jesus Christ: "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ" (verse 23).
On love: "And to love one another as he commanded us" (verse 23).
Because God loves us and we love Him, we can have complete confidence in living our lives in harmony with His will. As John says later: "This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14, NIV).
What does this tell us about the way we are to act? We may complain about being unloved and unappreciated, but how much do we love and appreciate those around us? While the church is to be more than a mutual-admiration society, the demonstration of Christlike love will solve many of those petty problems that so divide us.
Why do our hearts condemn us? Job 9:20; Rom. 7:23.
"Our hearts condemn us when our emotions overpower our intellect. We respond to situations on the basis of how we feel, rather than by relying on what we know.... When our hearts condemn us, we allow our emotions to get behind the wheel; our intellects are thrown into the backseat. When this happens, we must remember two things. The first is that 'God is greater than our hearts'; the second is that 'He knows everything' (v. 20). This is why we must live by what God says, and not only by how we feel."-Roy Matheson, Loving God's Family (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1985), pp. 112, 113.
Feelings can be both a help and a hindrance in the Christian life. When you are having a mountaintop experience, the emotion of praise and joy can be absolutely wonderful, a thrilling and inspiring sense of God's presence that uplifts and sustains. But when you are down in the valley, the negative feelings can lead to spiritual discouragement and depression. Like David in the Psalms, we need to call to mind what we know to be true and trust in God, however bad we might feel.
For reflection: Where is your confidence? In yourself and how you feel from day to day? Or is your confidence in the promises of God?
Friday May 16
For Further Study: Take a modern concordance and look up the word love in the New Testament. See how love is almost always associated not with words, but with doing something. List some examples.
Christians to Reflect God's Character: "Many seem to think that they must beg pardon of all the world for being a Christian. John did not regard it so. He says, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1). The Christian does not take a step down to a low level; he is constantly progressing forward, and the religion of Jesus Christ never degrades the receiver. It refines his taste; it sanctifies his judgment. Why should it not, when he is in connection with a pure and holy God, and the power which is invested in God He imparts to His sons and daughters. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.... And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:17, 18). Here is the promise that we shall become members of the royal family, that we shall be children of the heavenly king." -Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, p. 406.
1. How do love one another when we don't even want to?
2. What is the use of talking about love when there are no real results How can the church put its love principles into action?
3. At times, most Christians feel empty and self-condemned. We may know the truth, but we don't feel saved. How can this be remedied?
4. How useful is the conscience? How can it help, and how can it hinder?
Summary: Christian love must be far more than talk; it must be demonstrated in actions. This love in action may not be well received, indeed Christians may even be hated. Internal condemnation can also lead to discouragement. But the in the God who is greater than our hearts.
Hong Kong: The very name brings images of ultra-modern high-rise apartments and office complexes on the tiny nation that sits on the border of China. Hong Kong residents seem to have everything-a modern, fast-paced lifestyle, every convenience, a beautiful city. But most people in Hong Kong do not have Christ.
With the majority of residents living in high-rise apartments, it is difficult to make contact with them. Non-residents cannot enter an apartment building without an invitation. So how do Christians reach others for Christ? That's the challenge. And with the impending reversion of Hong Kong to China, it is a challenge that must be met soon.
Recently a group of Adventists began a small-group program called cell-group evangelism. Members began meeting in their apartments to study the Bible and to pray. They began inviting friends, and the cell groups grew. When groups reached a given number of members, they divided and formed more groups. There were women's groups, students' groups, health groups, and others. Each group reached out to others, especially non-Christians, with similar interests. Friendships formed, and trust grew.
Then a series of evangelistic meetings was planned. Normally, thousands of dollars of advertising would bring only a few non-Christians to such meetings. But this time the focus was on cell-group members and contacts. Without a single pamphlet or tract, nearly 1,000 people attended each meeting, and more than 50 persons were baptized.
One new member is Christine, whose junior high school teacher invited her to a cell-group meeting. This was her first contact with Christianity. She liked the spiritual emphasis, and eventually enrolled in Hong Kong Adventist College. Then came the evangelistic meetings, where she gave her life to Christ. But she did not know how to have devotions or to find fellowship with other Christians. She was introduced to a student cell group, where she learned how to study the Bible more deeply and share with others her feelings about life and God. She found encouragement, support, and training in the cell group. It wasn't long before Christine was baptized.
Join with our members in Hong Kong as they pray for the millions who do not know Christ. Time is short, and the challenge is great.
Johnny Yip is director of the Evangelism Research Center of the Hong Kong-Macao Conference in Hong Kong.
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Last updated on May 14, 1997