Lesson 12 December 14-20
Christ the Great Connector
Read For This Week's Study: Matt. 4:18-20; 11:19; Luke 10:29-37; Acts 16:23-34; Phil. 2:1-8.
Memory Text: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men"" (Matthew 5:13).
Key Thought: What picture do you have of God? Is He a police- officer, a judge, a disciplinarian? Jesus gave us another picture: our Father. The throbbing heart of the creation is the love of God for His world, the love made known in Jesus Christ.
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Sabbath Afternoon December 13
Christ Demonstrated How To Be In The World Yet Not Of The World. He associated with the social outcasts, as well as the highly respected and accepted. He was clear about his mission to save all human beings.
Jesus did not separate Himself from those He came to save. Through His healing ministry, He was able to meet the needs of the powerful and the powerless. When sickness and death threaten, there is no distinction between rich and poor.
Christ desires His children to be the salt of the earth, a leavening influence for good in human society. Opportunities abound for that mixing to take place in activities and acts that promote healthful living.
This lesson deals with Christ the great Connector, the One who unites people to Himself and to one another.
Sunday December 14
A Disposition of Mind (Phil. 2: 1-8).
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.... But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:5, 7).
Read Philippians 2:1-8. What dispositions of mind or ways of thinking are evident in this passage? Verses 3 and 4 hint at disconnectedness. Verses 5-8 describe connectedness.
Through the incarnation, God took our human flesh. Jesus was the great Connector of people through the incarnation. By the disposition of His mind and His character qualities, including His behavior, Jesus Christ is the great Connector between God and humanity.
What insights can we draw from Christ's incarnation? John 1:1-5, 9-18.
God has not rejected this world. This is our Father's world, and although it is marred by sin, we can still find evidences of His character. Christians have an obligation to discover and understand the principles of nature that govern physical life, as well as the principles that govern moral and spiritual life.
The Eternal God is our Father. Through the incarnation, Christ has assured us that He enjoys our company and wants our friendship.
"Our sufficiency is found only in the incarnation and death of the Son of God.... All who are one with Christ through faith in Him gain an experience which is life unto eternal life.... Christ became one with humanity, that humanity might become one in spirit and life with Him. By virtue of this union in obedience to the Word of God, His life becomes their life."--Selected Messages, book 1, p. 302.
The apostle Paul made two contrasting statements. Romans 7:24 states, "O wretched man that I am." Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ." Which statement describes the tone of your life? If the Romans 7:24 problem persists, how can it be overcome? Compare Romans 8:1-17.
What is meant by the statement "I can do all things through Christ"? Does this mean all things in the absolute or all things that God asks of us?
Monday December 15
Connected With Our Neighbors (Luke 10:29-37).
By both His life and His preaching, Christ demonstrated that we are all connected with one another. "No man is an island." Life as God would have us live it is community existence, in which neighbors serve one another without the cramping restrictions of religious, social, political, or ethnic prejudice.
What did Jesus intend for us to understand by the term neighbor? Luke 10:29-37.
How we regard ourselves determines whom we will regard as our neighbor. "The priest and the Levite thought of themselves, esteemed themselves, primarily as priest and Levite; and the wounded man was neither. The Samaritan, however, thought of himself not primarily as a Samaritan of a certain class, or even as a Samaritan at all, but as a human being, and therefore to him the important thing was not that a Jew was in need of help, but that a man was."--Interpreter's Bible, vol. 8, p. 194.
Would you describe yourself as a Seventh-day Adventist, a Christian, or simply as a human being concerned about others? Does how you frame the question make a difference?
On seeing the wounded Jew, the priest and the Levite seemed to ask, What will happen to me if I stop and help? The Samaritan, on the other hand, seemed to ask, What will happen to him if I don't stop and help? The difference was one of personal orientation--to self or to others.
"One ship drives east, and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that flow
'Tis the set of the sails and not the gales
Which tells us the way to go."
--Ella Wheeler Wilcox, "Winds of Fate"
What examples can you find that illustrate the negative and positive outcomes of different, personal orientations? Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 18:9-14.
Considering where you live and the people you often meet, what insights can be gained from the story of the good Samaritan? Are the acts of "pouring oil" and "binding up the wounds" adequate and acceptable Christian witness? Can God use those who are not "in the fold"?
Tuesday December 16
The Connection (Matt 11:19).
"There is so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us."--Author unknown
Through friendship Jesus was the great Connector of people throughout a wide cross-section of society (Matt. 11: 19).
Research has shown that the longer people are members of the Adventist faith, the fewer the friends they maintain who have different or no religious affiliations. Why? Is this tendency something to resist or to accept as inevitable?
Whenever individuals with different values, beliefs, and assumptions interact with each other, there is a potential for conflict. A commitment to Christ's value system and lifestyle can create a set of personal habits and tastes that can be at odds with other sets of habits and tastes. But Christ's example challenges every Christian to cultivate the talent of friendship in spite of the tension that may exist between individuals with different lifestyles and values. Someone has observed, "It is not by driving away our brother that we can be alone with God." There are occasions when the obligation to be courteous in a social setting brings us in conflict with some facet of our belief system. "Driving away our brother" is one way to solve this problem of conflicting obligations--obligation to friendship versus obligation to uphold a religious belief.
Develop some guidelines to resolve conflicting obligations. Are some of these obligations more important than others? Why? Matt. 12:1-13; 28:19, 20; Micah 6:8.
"Are there no modern parallels to this disproportion In Pharisaic religion? What of the woman deeply concerned for temperance in the matter of strong drink, but most intemperate in her prejudices and condemnations? What of the businessman who is meticulously polite and most regular in church attendance, yet champions glaring inequalities in the social structure and drives a hard bargain in trade? The chief priests would not put Judas' blood money in the treasury because it was unclean (Matthew 27:6), but they paid it that Christ might be betrayed!"--lnterpreter's Bible, vol. 7, p. 536.
Wednesday December 17
Linked By A Common Motive (Matt. 4:18-20).
What common attraction and common cause united Jesus' disciples in ministry? Matt. 4:18-20.
"Jesus satisfied their longings.... His eagerness caught their youth, his certitude their loyalty, his tenderness their love; and some divine solitude in him called to the deeps of their soul."- -Interpreter's Bible, vol. 7, pp. 276, 277. He, the great Connector, linked their longing to a great cause.
What insights can we gain about the commitment involved following Jesus from these New Testament passages? Matt. 10:34-37; John 6:1, 2, 25-30, 60-71.
Following Christ begins with personal choice, but it is maintained only by the right motive. One does not truly follow Christ if motivated by personal gain. We are not really linked to each other except as we find purpose and meaning outside of ourselves in His cause.
How would you describe Christ's cause? Luke 10:25-28. What kind of people did Jesus summon to His cause? Mark 3:17-19; Luke 22:24; Matt. 26:56, 73, 74.
The great cause that links us together does not instantly rid us of our human frailty. Individuals who have been blessed with outstanding strengths may also suffer with obvious weaknesses. It is our duty to understand not only the nature of discipleship, but the nature of the disciple. God's cause gains nothing by maligning His disciples because of their imperfections. Our mission, like His, should be to open wide the gates of acceptance.
How can we best relate to our children who do not conform to the beliefs and practices of the church as we taught them? What approaches are most likely to lead them to further rejection and alienation? Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21.
"Every one of us should weed out of our conversation everything that is harsh and severe. We should not indulge in condemning others, and we will not do so if we are one with Christ. We are to represent Christ in our dealings with our fellowmen."--Testimonies to Ministers, p. 225.
Thursday December 18
Interpersonal Connections (Acts 16:23-34).
Jesus "brought the consciousness of the presence of God not only on the heights but in the valleys also.... not only in those moments when life soars up on wings but in those other moments when it walks with lame and weary feet upon a heavy road.... Whenever sad people think of him, something happens to their sadness. They may not understand it any better; but there is newness in the way they feel. Their iciness is melted; all that was hard and frozen turns into a stream of gentle emotion which water s in their souls a garden where flowers of a fragrant peace begin to grow. They are not afraid of sadness now, for the love of God is walking by their side."--Interpreter's Bible, vol. 8, p. 91.
Jesus is the great Connector through His healing power. That healing may be a dramatic restoration of physical health, or it may be a healing attitudinal change. He connects us intrapersonally so that we are at peace with our inner selves. We experience the peace that passes all understanding through His healing power.
Think of examples from the Bible and life that demonstrate Christ's healing. Acts 16:23-34; John 14:27.
Through the ministry of healing, Christ also connects us interpersonally. Through our ministry of healing, we build bonds of friendship, love, and trust. Typical of this bonding is the letter written by the spouse of a cancer patient at an Adventist hospital:
I could write you all a long and ongoing letter in an attempt to give my thanks to you for your love and caring of my wife, Donna. But in turn I will only say you all are a part of me now. I love all of you as Donna loved you all. The first time Donna was able to leave the hospital, she cried while leaving, and I asked, "Honey, what is it?" Donna stated, "I hate to leave, I love them all so much." I told her you all would always be a part of our lives. I love you, I love you all for being who you are and for loving Donna the way she deserved to be loved. Enclosed is a poem Donna wrote at age 15 years. I hope and pray you all will make a copy and keep it always in your hearts as she deserves so much more than she got, and yet now is free from her pain. Donna was a champion and always will be. God Bless.
Share a story that illustrates how Christ brought "integrated healing" to someone you know.
Friday December 12
Further Study: By reviewing the story in John 8:3-11, meditate on Jesus as the great Connector through compassion and understanding.
Jesus' life and ministry challenged the popular thinking of the day and encouraged men and women to be more connected with one another by being more compassionate and forgiving. Compassion and understanding must not be limited to offering forgiveness when we are wronged. For the Christian, it must include building relationships.
"All who receive the life of Christ are ordained to work for the salvation of their fellow men. For this work the church was established, and all who take upon themselves its sacred vows are thereby pledged to be co-workers with Christ....
"Ministry does not consist alone in preaching. Those minister who relieve the sick and suffering, helping the needy, speaking words of comfort to the despondent and those of little faith. Nigh and afar off are souls weighed down by a sense of guilt. It is not hardship, toil or poverty that degrades humanity. It is guilt, wrong-doing. This brings unrest and dissatisfaction. Christ would have His servants minister to sin-sick souls."--The Desire of Ages, p. 822.
Summary: During the course of this week, we have studied the life of Christ as the Great Connector. He is the Great Connector:
through incarnation--what He became,
through precept--what He teaches,
through friendship--how He relates,
through invitation--what He says,
through healing--what He does,
through compassion--what He is.
Healing the Wounds of Hate
It seemed to Daniel Vitkovic that everyone in the former republics of Yugoslavia hated anyone who was not of the same nationality or religion. He was tired of the hating, especially over religion. He wasn't even sure there was a God.
Then Daniel heard a radio report about ADRA, an organization that was helping people on all sides of the war in the former Yugoslavia: the Serbs, the Croats, and the Muslims, without taking sides. Daniel was impressed that anyone could love everyone the same. At the end of the story, the announcer said that ADRA was sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Daniel was impressed. Here was true Christianity.
One regular radio program featured interviews with leaders of various churches. Most leaders attacked one another and accused others of following false doctrines. But one pastor refused to attack other denominations. Instead he answered the questions given him with verses from the Bible. Daniel recognized the church's name: Seventh-day Adventist.
Daniel was not inherently religious; he wasn't even convinced that there was a God. But if there was, he felt that Adventists must really know Him. After hearing an Adventist scientist defend creationism, Daniel decided he wanted to know more about this church.
Daniel telephoned the local Adventist church and asked about two books that had been offered on the radio. When the pastor delivered the books, Daniel signed up for the Bible correspondence course. The pastor invited him to attend church the next Sabbath, and Daniel agreed. He found that the people loved one another regardless of their race. He was baptized in April 1996.
Daniel was not looking for God, but God found him. He did not know that the emptiness in his life was a hunger for God. Before he met Adventists, he had not seen anything in religion that interested him. So what attracted him to the Adventist Church?
"When everyone else was hating," Daniel said, &ADRA and the Adventists showed love." Daniel wants to show that love to others. Perhaps this way he can help heal the wounds that hatred has caused.
Daniel Vitkovic is studying business and accounting in Podorica, Montenegro.
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