Lesson 11 December 7-13
Jesus the Champion of Choice and Liberation
Read For This Week's Study: Mark 1:40-45; John 3:16, 17; 5:2-9; Luke 15:11-24; Matt. 15:21-28.
Memory Text: "If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17, RSV).
Key Thought: Christ's greatest desire is that all human beings will experience the joy of full restoration to the family of God. All are His creation, all are loved unconditionally, but only those are given eternal life who accept the gift provided for them on Calvary's cross.
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Sabbath Afternoon December 6
Our Great Healer Asks Us to Choose Him A significant part of Christ's healing ministry was to liberate people from the misconceptions cultivated by their religious leaders. He dispelled the notion that illness is always God's expression of anger or disapproval in response to an individual's sinful conduct.
Christ died to give us an option, a choice. The cross provided expiation for the sins of every human being (1 John 2:2). But our sins were not forgiven at the cross. The death of Christ provided for the forgiveness of all our sins, because "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24, NIV). We are invited today to "receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness" (Rom. 5:17). The condition of forgiveness, cleansing, and healing still stands: "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
Sunday December 7
Sin and Suffering (Mark 1:40-45).
What popular misconception did Jesus dispel when He healed the leper? Mark 1:40-45.
In the story recorded in Mark, chapter 1, Jesus healed a man suffering with leprosy. It was commonly believed that leprosy was God's punishment for sin. The leper became an outcast from society and was pronounced unclean by the church.
Christ was constantly seeking to dispel the common misunderstandings about God. God was pictured by religious leaders as harsh, exacting, and judgmental. But Jesus, "God with us," touched, healed, and restored people, indicating that illness is very often not a judgment by God, but the natural, inevitable result of humanity's fallen condition, resulting from the wrong choice of our first parents. It was His purpose to restore our relationship with God and to make us whole.
"The souls who came to Jesus felt in His presence that even for them there was escape from the pit of sin. The Pharisees had only scorn and condemnation for them; but Christ greeted them as children of God, estranged indeed from the Father's house, but not forgotten by the Father's heart. And their very misery and sin made them only the more the objects of His compassion. The farther they had wandered from Him, the more earnest the longing and the greater the sacrifice for their rescue."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 186.
How does our understanding of God's character influence the way we view suffering and sickness?
What can we do to help suffering people understand that God loves them infinitely, and that He wants them to be part of His family on earth and in heaven?
"Mark wrote for the Romans, whose watchword was power.... Mark is eloquent with, and exhibits the omnipotence of the mighty miracleworker, and likewise the omnipotence of love as the crowning passion and resurrection of God's Servant. Miracles are prominent rather than parables or discourses. At least 20 of Christ's astonishing miracles are given in detail, and in ten instances Mark adds general statements without going into particulars (1:34). Almost half the book is taken up with some comprehensive summing up of Christ's ministry of power." --Lockyer, p. 226.
The Chosen (John 3:16, 17).
How extensive is God's love? For how many did Christ die? John 3:16, 17; 1 John 2:2.
Scripture makes it clear that God is seeking after every person because He claims this world and its inhabitants as His rightful possession.
The problem of sin must be seen in the setting of the great controversy. Human beings are saved by an act of God totally outside of their own actions or capabilities. Christ came, He died, was raised to life, and on this basis offers to all humanity the gift of eternal life. God has provided for all humanity to be saved. Some choose to accept the gift, while others choose to reject it (Rom. 5:17).
In John 3:15, 16, "the added elements are the love of God and the consequent giving of his Son, who is described as the only begotten. This means unique, one of a kind. Sons by adoption do not become members of the Godhead. The breadth of the divine love is emphasized in that its object is the (whole) world. Though the coming of Christ involved judgment, as the rest of this section attests, the direct purpose of that coming, resting on the divine love, was not condemnation but salvation (3:17)."--Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1079.
"He gave Him not only to live among men, to bear their sins, and die their sacrifice. He gave Him to the fallen race. Christ was to identify Himself with the interests and needs of humanity. He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken. Jesus is 'not ashamed to call them brethren' (Hebrews 2:11); He is our Sacrifice, our Advocate, our Brother, bearing our human form before the Father's throne, and through eternal ages one with the race He has redeemed--the Son of man. And all this that man might be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin that he might reflect the love of God and share the joy of holiness."--Steps to Christ, p. 14.
Why is it that Jesus loves each of us as "family" members but that we, the family, sometimes don't demonstrate love for one another? Why was Jesus so helpful to people? In what areas could you be a volunteer to help others?
Being "the hand of God" to fallen, sinful human beings often forces us outside our comfortable environment and ways of being. It challenges us to seek effective ways to minister to those who do not know Him.
Total Freedom (John 5:2-9).
Christ frequented the places where the suffering were to be found. In the story of the healing by the pool, Jesus healed a man who had been ill for 38 years. The context suggests that the man's sins may have caused his illness. Yet, on the Sabbath day, Jesus touched him and made him whole.
What does the story of Jesus' healing the sick man by the pool of Bethesda reveal about God's love for sinful human beings? What does it say about acts of charity and healing and the true meaning of Sabbath keeping? John 5:2-9.
"Let us turn to the story of the paralytic at Bethesda. The poor sufferer was helpless; he had not used his limbs for thirty-eight years. Yet, Jesus bade him, 'Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. The sick man might have said, 'Lord, if thou wilt make me whole, I will obey Thy word.' But, no, he believed Christ's word, believed that he was made whole, and he made the effort at once; he willed to walk and he did walk. He acted on the word of Christ, and God gave the power. He was made whole.
"In like manner you are a sinner. You cannot atone for your past sins; you cannot change your heart and make yourself holy. But God promises to do all this for you through Christ. You believe that promise. You confess your sins and give yourself to God. You will to serve Him. Just as surely as you do this, God will fulfill His word to you. if you believe the promise--believe that you are forgiven and cleansed God supplies the fact; you are made whole, just as Christ gave the paralytic power to walk when the man believed that he was healed. It is so if you believe it."--Steps to Christ, pp. 50, 5 1.
God obviously desires to open to each of us the wonderful blessings of being His child. In the midst of a chaotic world, God can set us free; free from the fears that life brings, and free from the fear of meaninglessness. He can make us whole.
Acceptance of God's gift of life and His healing touch sets us free to live to the fullest extent both now and in the future.
In what ways do you experience a sense of freedom and liberty? How do those feelings relate to your sense of being saved?
What kind of responsibility to our friends and acquaintances comes with the freedom we experience?
Why Must I Choose (Luke 15:17-20).
In the trilogy of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15, Jesus teaches that each person is infinitely valuable to Him. He constantly seeks and desires us to choose Him and His kingdom. But we still have the authority to say No to God and be lost.
What choices did the prodigal son make that enabled his father to restore him to the family? Luke 15:17-20.
"in this renowned chapter--'a masterpiece of writing and an inspired revelation of the heart of God'--the combined work of the Trinity in redemption is beautifully illustrated in three incomparable stories. In that of the Lost Sheep, we have the love of the Son, who gave His life for the sheep. In the Lost Coin, 'the silver piece, part of the woman's dowry which every married woman wore as a chain across her forehead,' we can discern the love of the Spirit for sinners. In the Lost Son, we have a glimpse into the Father-heart of God. Joy is associated over the recovery of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Do we share the joy of angels over the return of lost souls to God?"- Lockyer, pp. 237, 238.
Why would God leave such an important decision up to each person? John 7:37; Rom. 10:12; Rev. 22:17.
"All are by their own choice deciding their destiny."--Education, p. 178.
"Every man is free to choose what power he will have to rule over him. None have fallen so low, none are so vile, but that they can find deliverance in Christ. The demoniac, in place of prayer, could utter only the words of Satan; yet the heart's unspoken appeal was heard. No cry from a soul in need, though it fail of utterance in words, will be unheeded."--The Desire of Ages, pp. 258, 259.
Freedom of choice has always been intrinsic in God's creation. His character will not allow Him to force anyone, even if salvation is at stake. Satan has raised questions about God's character. He has accused God of arbitrary control and harshness. But Jesus constantly demonstrated the opposite characteristics.
To what extent do people of differing personalities and life situations have the ability to make choices? How can we prevent circumstances from making our choices for us?
Outsider/Insider (Matt. 15:21-28).
Why did the religious leaders of Christ's day make so many people feel like outsiders, and how did Jesus make individuals feel like insiders? Review the story recorded in Matthew 15:21-28.
A woman who is considered an outsider by the Jews comes seeking help from Jesus--a Canaanite wanting help for her daughter. Jesus tells her that He has not come to help her, but the Israelites. But then Jesus declares that she is a woman of great faith and heals her daughter.
Why did Jesus at first treat this woman in the way that seems so rebuffing and alienating?
The people of Israel were convinced that they alone were God's chosen; all others were outside God's grace. Jesus taught that faith is the key to being an insider.
"In proportion as the woman's supplication became more intense, so our Lord's remonstrance became more strong. He at first was silent; then He calls the Jews His sheep, and says that He was sent only to them; then He calls them His children and the Gentiles dogs. And on this rebuke the woman frames her reply; she shows a patience and faith, although she might seem to be treated with scorn. Let them be children and me a dog; yet as such, I am not forbidden to eat of the crumbs which they let fall. Our Lord had foreknown that she would answer thus; and therefore He at first refused, and rebuked her, in order that He might bring out her faith and humility as an example."--Wordsworth, p. 251.
Why do we tend to treat others as outsiders if they do not believe, think, or act as we do?
This woman made a choice. She believed that Jesus could heal her daughter, and she would not allow national prejudice to keep her from her heart's desire.
"Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children.... The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son."--Steps to Christ, p. 100.
Friday December 12
Further Study: Compare Job 11:1-6 with Luke 4:16-20. Job's friends were convinced that the illness he experienced was caused by his lack of commitment to God, and because of his sins. Sins and punishment were believed to go hand in hand. Is illness or tragedy ever a judgment from God? If so, when?
"The gospel of Jesus means relief for the poor, light for the ignorant, alleviation of distress for the suffering, and emancipation for the slaves of sin. Any person who took an interest in relieving the poor was thought to be particularly righteous, and almsgiving became synonymous with righteousness .... It was often the case that almsgiving was practiced, not out of sympathetic interest in helping the poor, but from a desire to earn righteousness .... However, genuine, sympathetic concern for the feelings and needs of our fellow men is one of the best evidences of 'pure religion' (see James 1:27), of sincere conversion (I John 3:10, 14), of love for God (see I John 3:17-19; 4:21), and of readiness for entrance into the kingdom of heaven (see Matt. 25:34-46)."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 728.
Summary: Physical suffering is inevitable in a fallen world in which all humanity inherits the inevitable results of our first parents' sin. Therefore, very often illness is not the result of personal sin, but of hereditary weakness or of some calamity not of our causing. Even when illness is the direct result of our personal sins and indiscretions, through Christ we can have forgiveness, spiritual cleansing, and acceptance by God.
By Faith, Not by Sight, Part 2
When Velaphi returned home following his first year at Solusi Elementary School, he eagerly told his parents that he wanted to be a pastor someday. Because they were not Christians, they laughed. "How can a blind boy from a little village become a pastor?" they asked.
But Velaphi's sister, Dezzy, did not laugh. She asked him to tell her about God. Whenever they had a chance, Velaphi and Dezzy sat under a thorn tree while Velaphi taught her the songs he had learned in school and told her stories of God. She was eager to learn.
Soon vacation ended, and Velaphi returned to Solusi. For several years the familiar rhythms of school filled his days. When he visited home, his parents did not force him to eat unclean foods, and they no longer laughed at his Bible stories, but they still did not want to know about God. But Dezzy was always eager to listen. And when Velaphi was 12 years old, he helped Dezzy give her life to Jesus.
The children's parents were angry that Velaphi had taught Dezzy about God. Dezzy was sent to her own room, and Velaphi was told not to talk to her about Jesus.
Velaphi also told his cousin about God. The two would go into the bush to search for wild fruits, and there Velaphi told him stories from the Bible and taught him songs he had learned. The boy wanted to become a Christian, but his parents refused to let him. Velaphi promised to pray that one day his cousin could decide for himself.
Velaphi's parents never gave up hope of finding a cure for Velaphi's blindness. During one school vacation they arranged for a traditional healer to anoint his eyes to cure his blindness, but when Velaphi learned that the healer was a witch doctor, he would not let her touch him. "I am a Christian," he told her. "I believe in Jesus Christ, not in traditional medicines. Let me remain blind now. When Jesus comes, I will be able to see."
His parents were so angry, they refused to continue paying for Velaphi's school tuition. But the blind boy returned to Solusi on faith. He still wants to become a pastor and often gives Bible studies and encourages other young people at Solusi to witness for Jesus as well. He testifies, "God has supplied everything that I have; He has made me everything that I am. I thank Him and want to give my life back to Him."
Velaphi Gumbo is 18, and a second-year student at Solusi Secondary School.
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