Lesson 4July 20 - 26

God's Grace Changes Our Direction

Read for This Weeks Study:  Matt. 7:24-27; 12:43-45

Memory Text:  "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock"  (Matthew 7:24, NIV).

Key Thought:   God's love for us compels Him to search for us. Our reaction to His finding us changes forever the course of our lives, If we accept His offer of salvation, His grace enables Him to forgive us and to transform our characters into His likeness. 



For those of you who like to make notes as you study, this lesson incorporates an answer/comment form for your personal use.  You can enter your responses to questions posed by the lesson or make comments at the end of each section. It may be appropriate to copy/paste a text or enter your own response.

You need to enter your email address below to have your comments returned to you.  When you are done for the session, press the [Send] button.  The form will be sent to a server which will anonymously (to the best of my knowledge) send it back immediately formatted as a web page and shortly as an email message.  If you want a printed copy of your responses, print the returned web page or the email message.  

Those who study the lesson in several sessions may find it convenient to combine the email messages from each session into one document, editing out the extraneous material with a word processor or text editor.


TRANSFORMED DESIRES. Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, described his conversion to Christ this way: "Five years ago faith came to me: I believed in the doctrine of Jesus, and all my life was suddenly changed. I ceased to desire that which previously I had desired, and on the other hand, I took to desiring what I had never desired before. That which formerly used to appear good in my eyes appeared evil, and that which used to appear evil appeared good."

All people who accept God's offer of salvation exchange their pride for humility, their hatred for love, their selfishness for generosity, their temper for sweetness, their anxiety for peace. With God's help, they develop a character like His.

Are you undergoing this process of exchange? Have you begun the process, but stalled somewhere along the way? The parables we will be studying for the next few weeks will help us understand the importance of this process. This week we will learn about the foundation necessary to undergo the process of change and the power God gives us to reflect His character.

SundayJuly 20


The parable of the two builders concludes Christ's Sermon on the Mount. What is this sermon's main point?  Matt. 7:12; Matt 5:17-20. What principle does Matthew 7:12 restate? 1 John 4:21 .

"The entire Sermon on the Mount ... is illustrative of this great truth."-SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 357. Matthew 7:12 summarizes the last six of the Ten Commandments. Those people whom God admits into His kingdom will have lived according to Matthew 7:12. How we treat our fellow human beings indicates our attitude toward God (Matt. 22:34-40; 1 John 3:14-24). The great truth in Matthew 7:12 is the righteousness to which Jesus calls us in Matthew 5:20. It is the righteousness of His character (Exod. 34:4-8; Lev. 11:44). The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees "consisted in external adherence to the letter of the law; Christ called for insight into, and cooperation with, the underlying principles of the law." -SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 333.

The parable tells us about the means by which we may live our lives according to Matthew 7:12. In the first part of the parable, whom/what does the rock symbolize? Ps. 89:26; 1 Cor. 10:1-4; 1 Cor 3:11; Isa. 40:8.

As the people heard the parable, they could see the streams that wandered through the valley to the Sea of Galilee. As summer advanced, these waterways withered into dusty troughs. But as winter's rainy blasts increased in number, these streams swelled into turbulent courses that often swept away the flimsy houses the peasants built upon the grassy plains.

In contrast, Jesus' listeners could also view houses built upon the high rocks surrounding them. People had constructed these houses with greater difficulty. But the houses on the rocks had withstood years of severe weather.

Through this parable, then, Jesus teaches us that we are to be like the people who built upon the rock. When we accept Jesus and vow to live by His principle of love, we make Him the foundation of our characters (symbolized by the houses). He then becomes the means by which we live according to Matthew 7:12.

Luke 6:48 says that the man who built upon the rock dug deeply to secure his foundation. How deeply do you dig into Christ's Word to secure your spiritual foundation?

MondayJuly 21


In the study we began yesterday about the parable of the two builders, we learned that only in building our characters upon Christ the Rock are we transformed into His likeness. The parable also illustrates the importance of doing so, for when the harsh weather beat against the house on the rock, it stood firm. The same weather, however, completely destroyed the house built on the sand.

Compare the fate of both houses with the destiny of those people who choose to build upon Christ and those people who do not. Rev. 21:1-8.

"A man's character is like a house.... Every thought is like a piece of timber in our house of life, every habit like a beam, every imagination like a window, well or badly placed; and they all gather into some kind of unity, seemly or grotesque....

"[Christ] is the architect: Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them. Only on his truth can the life of men or nations stand. We discuss our psychological methods, or our systems of national defense and world government, and we do not take seriously this claim of Christ; but history's logic falsifies us, and confirms him. The house cannot be built except on his vertical, the line between God and man which he has traced; and on his horizontal, the dealings of man with man which his truth requires. Those two lines are in his cross, one the grace of God toward man and man's answering obedience, the other a crossbeam running through every man's life in love." The Interpreter's Bible, vol. 7, pp. 334, 335.

If the rock represents Christ and His Word, what do you think the sand represents? Eph. 4:14. What might the foul weather symbolize?

Just as a well-built structure standing on a stable foundation can withstand natural forces, so can a person who depends on Christ withstand the forces of evil. None of us, whether we are grounded in Christ or not, can escape temptation, sorrow, and trial. But only those of us grounded in Christ can withstand devastation from the blast of this stormy trio.

Just as the builders chose the foundations for their houses, so God made us free to choose to live by His principles. Upon which foundation will you build?

TuesdayJuly 22

CLEANING HOUSE (Matt. 12:43-45).

The parable of the two builders teaches us that grounding ourselves in Christ transforms our character into His likeness. For the rest of this week, we will study parables that teach us the role of the Holy Spirit in the process of that transformation.

To whom did Jesus specifically address the parable of the seven unclean spirits, and why? Matt. 12:22-45.

"This wicked generation" (verse 45). In general, Christ refers to the people of Israel living during His time. Specifically, He is addressing those scribes and Pharisees who were in the process of rejecting Him as their Redeemer. They had swept their lives of outward sins. But they remained barren of any loyalty beyond themselves. On a more personal level, He was warning the man whom He had just cured of a demon (Matt. 12:22). Empty houses do not remain empty for long. Quickly, the nooks and crannies succumb to spiders and dust, as vermin scurry across the floorboards.

The parable is also "particularly applicable to those who have listened to the gospel message gladly, but have not yielded to the Holy Spirit.... These had not yet committed the unpardonable sin [blasphemy against the Holy Spirit], and Jesus warns them not to."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 398.

What type of ground in the parable of the sower does the man in today's parable remind you of, and why?

"Joined himself."  The Greek word means "to glue together."  In desperation, the younger son basically sold himself to someone who could only offer him a job no self-respecting Jew would accept.  A Jewish curse stated, "Cursed be the man who keeps swine."  Doing so meant that he would be in contact with unclean animals (Lev. 11:7, 8).

The man released from one devil had good intentions. But he did not expect the return of that devil, let alone seven others. Therefore, he declined to submit himself to Christ's control. "The Spirit of God must come into the life and be placed in control of the thought and conduct (see 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:22)." - SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 399. Thus we see once again that it is not only release from sin that Jesus offers us but re-creation and renewal. Such renewal, gained through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, will empower us not only to avoid evil, but to devote ourselves thoughtfully and industriously to that which is pure and just. Christianity does not consist merely of prohibitions, but of a positive, constructive force for good (Amos 5:15; 2 Thess. 2:10).

What "devils" do you need to clean from your house? Ask the Lord now to help you replace them with His Spirit.

WednesdayJuly 23

HARD AND DRY VERSUS SOFT AND POROUS (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20,21).

The parable of the leaven also deals with the role of the Holy Spirit in transforming our lives. To the Jews, it must have been a shocking tory. Because Jewish thought usually connected leaven with sin (Matt. 16:6; 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9), preparations for the Passover included removing every piece of leaven from the house and burning it. Yet this shock surely must have aroused their interest!

Perhaps the people most likely to grasp His meaning were the women who spent their days baking. Any woman who used leaven knew that it made bread soft, porous, and delicious, as opposed to dry, hard, and tasteless. Thus, this illustration "came nearer home than in any other because he [Jesus] took it from the kitchen of an ordinary house."-Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, p. 79.

Leaven completely transforms dough. In what ways does the Holy Spirit transform us? Gal. 5:16-26; Gal 6:2; Eph. 4:17-24, Eph. 4:31-5:1. How do these texts relate to Matthew 7:12?

Christianity transforms the individual, improving life for many groups of people, as well. In its infancy, Christianity improved life for the following:

  1. The ill.It was common to view such people as an annoyance. But Christians founded the first free dispensary, home for the blind, and hospital. How did Christ treat such people?
  2. The agedwho also were considered a nuisance. Read what the Bible says in Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 23:22; 1 Peter 5:5. Can you find other verses?
  3. The child. In the early Christian centuries, divorce was rampant. The lot of women was often very difficult. In such situations, having children could be disastrous. How did Christ view marriage and children?
  4. Women. In his morning prayers, a Jewish man thanked God that he was not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. How did Christ treat women?

As the Holy Spirit transforms your life to reflect Christ's character, how can you improve life today for a person In one of the above four groups? (Remember, however, that only with the second coming and the destruction of Satan will all ills be cured.)

ThursdayJuly 24

HOW DOES IT WORK? (Matt. 13:33).

Yesterday we began studying the parable of leaven. We noted that just as leaven transforms a lump of dough into delicious bread, so the Holy Spirit transforms our lives into people who reflect Christ's character. Today we will compare the way leaven works with the way the Holy Spirit works.

Where does the woman put the leaven? Matt. 13:33. Relate this to how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

"As the leaven . . . works from within outward, so it is by the renewing of the heart that the grace of God works to transform the life. No mere external change is sufficient to bring us into harmony with God. There are many who try to reform by correcting this or that bad habit, and they hope in this way to become Christians, but they are beginning in the wrong place. Our first work is with the heart." - Christ's Object Lessons, p. 97.

What element in the parable symbolizes the heart?

Leaven also works in the following ways:

  1. The leaven works unseen. Likewise, the Holy Spirit works unseen. But we can see the work it does. The leaven turns an inert lump of dough into a bubbling, growing mound. The Holy Spirit has the power to change our lives just as dramatically. (See John 3:1-8.)
  2. While the leaven can do its work only from inside the dough, yet it comes from outside the dough. The dough has no ability of its own to change itself. Neither can we change ourselves. When we try and fail (and we will fail), we plunge into the clutches of legalism. We need a power outside of ourselves. And that power is the Holy Spirit.

As we commit ourselves to studying and obeying God's Word, the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin and transform us to Christ's image. Then we will be equipped to do God's will and share with others what Christ, through His Holy Spirit, has done for us and can do for them.

Make a list of things you do each day. Note how much time you spend on each item. How much time do you spend studying the Bible? How might you find more time to do so?

FridayJuly 25

FURTHER STUDY:Study the lives of Saul and Judas: 1 Sam. 10:9-13; 1 Sam 16:14; 1 Sam 18:10, 11; 19:9; 31:1-6; Matt. 10:1-4; Luke 22:3-6; John 13:21-30; 18:2-5; Matt. 27:3-10. How were they like the man in the parable of the seven unclean spirits? What had both men failed to do with their lives?

Review Monday's and Tuesday's lesson. Then read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. How has your study of the parable of the two builders helped you to understand better this great chapter?

Read Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, "Not Judging, But Doing" [comment on Matthew 7:25], pp. 147-152; Christ's Object Lessons, "Like Unto Leaven," pp. 95-102.

"The leaven hidden in the flour works invisibly to bring the whole mass under its leavening process; so the leaven of truth works secretly, silently, steadily, to transform the soul. The natural inclinations are softened and subdued. New thoughts, new feelings, new motives, are implanted. A new standard of character is set up-the life of Christ. The mind is changed; the faculties are roused to action in new lines. Man is not endowed with new faculties, but the faculties he has are sanctified. The conscience is awakened. We are endowed with traits of character that enable us to do service for God."- Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 98, 99.


1. How does the parable of the two builders define wisdom and foolishness? (Review Matt. 7:24-27; see also Ps. 14:1; Prov. 1:7; 3:7; 12:15; 1 Cor. 1:20; 3:20-23.)

2. Review the parable of the seven unclean spirits. What illustrations might be used today to illustrate the same point?

3. Finish the following: Leaven transforms dough into soft, porous, delicious bread. The Holy Spirit transforms our lives into ...

SUMMARY:  God forgives us. But He doesn't stop there. His grace also transforms us so that we reflect His Son's character. This transformation is produced by the power of the Holy Spirit as we ground ourselves firmly on Jesus Christ, the Rock of Salvation.

Atul Invited Us, Part I

V. J. Khandagle

Atul Auchite (OW-she-tay) has every reason to be unhappy. Childhood polio left him unable to walk or play as other boys. He cannot work with his father or help his mother carry water. But Atul., who lives in a small, two-room house in a village in Maharashtra (Ma-ha-ROSH-tra) State in western India, is a happy, outgoing 12-year-old. He enjoys school and is an eager learner.

Until three years ago, Atul.'s family worshiped Hindu gods. Then an Adventist minister came to his village. He visited Atul.'s parents and told them about God and His love for them. As Atul. listened, he became excited. He wanted others to hear these stories, as well. He beg-ed his parents to invite the pastor back.

When the pastor returned, he found the family's small home crowded with people waiting to hear the stories about Jesus. When he asked who had invited them, the visitors answered, "Atul. invited us." He had crawled or been carried from home to home and invited relatives and friends to learn about Jesus. Atul.'s eyes glistened with excitement as the pastor praised his efforts.

The pastor visited Atul.'s home regularly, teaching the people about God. Each time the pastor came, people crowded into Atul.'s home. Hindus, who had not known God, grew to love Him, and Christians of other faiths began to study their Bible more as they learned new truths from the Bible. Many began keeping the Sabbath.

When the pastor announced evangelistic meetings in the village, Atul. invited everyone he knew-school friends, relatives, Hindus, and Christians. More than 60 people crowded into Atul.'s small home for the meetings. And 25 accepted the pastor's -invitation to accept Jesus and be baptized, including Atul.. Following further studies, the new believers were baptized in a public ceremony, all because a young boy who had every good reason to be unhappy with the world found his joy in Jesus.

(Continued next week)

V. J. Khandagle is director of Sabbath School and personal ministries in the Southern Asia Division. This story originally appeared in the Mission quarterly. Next week read what Atul is doing today to witness.

For Current Newsbreak.  Call 1-800-648-5824

Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group.  You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning (usually 9:30 AM) with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.

Last updated on July 8, 1997
Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Web Team
Copyright © 1997 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.