May 1 - 7
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: : Gen. 1:26, 27; 3:1-8; Isa. 1:1-6; John 1:11-13.
MEMORY TEXT: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: How did the entrance of sin affect human nature? Can the original state of human beings be regained? If so, how?
GOD'S PLAN. As we have studied previously this quarter, God created women and men in His own image, intending that they reflect His attributes, mirror His love and kindness, and govern. this planet with the same care He would. But after Lucifer was cast out of heaven, he determined to ruin God's lovely creation.
In the book Education, page 17, we read that "every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creatorindividuality, power to think and to do." How have Satan's efforts undermined your individuality, your power to think and to do? As you study this week's lesson, ask yourself this question as it relates to you personally. But don't just leave it there. Also ask yourself how you can resist Satan's efforts to make sure you are not reflecting your Creator. It is a battle for the human heart and destiny. Satan's plan is to plunge people further into their fallen state, leading them to their eternal destruction. God's plan is to help them regain what they had lost and ultimately be restored to His image.
Why was Satan so angry with the human race? 1 Pet. 5:7, 8; Rev. 12:10-12.
Satan tempted Adam and Eve to sin that he might secure their cooperation and continue the warfare against Christ that he had begun in heaven.
"The trial of our first parents was permitted as a test of their loyalty and love. This test was essential to their spiritual development, to the formation of character. Eternal happiness would have been the result for them if they had come out of the test unscathed. "SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 229.
Read Genesis 3:15. Explain what it means to "put enmity" in men and women. What is the source of that enmity?
It is the grace of Christ that implants enmity in the soul against Satan. Without this grace and renewing power, we would be willing captives of Satan, ever ready to do his bidding. But God's grace makes us hate sin and any form of inhumanity, thus creating conflict between good and evil.
"God's message brought encouragement because it announced that though Satan had brought humanity under his evil spell, ultimately he would be defeated. The covenant was made between God and humanity. First God promised through His grace a bulwark against sin. He would create a hatred between the serpent and the woman; between Satan's followers and God's people. This would disrupt man's relationship with Satan and open the way for a renewed relationship with God ... All who accept God's offer of grace will know an enmity against sin that will make them successful in the battle with Satan. Through faith they will share in the Saviour's victory at Calvary."Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . , p. 93.
Read Romans 16:20. At first it seems strange that such a thing as enmity could be a reason for hope, a vehicle through which God's grace can work. But such is the nature of God's promise to us in Genesis 3:15. How has the enmity between Satan and God's followers "opened the way for a renewed relationship" between God and yourself?
Explain the difference between Adam and Eve being created in the "image of God" and Seth being born "in their own image." Gen. 5:1-5.
While Adam was created in the "likeness" or "image" of God, Adam and Eve had children "after their own likeness." Seth did not inherit the natural goodness with which his parents were created. Instead, he inherited their sinful human nature. But because of the grace of the promised Redeemer, Seth was different from his older brother Cain. Soon there was a marked distinction between those who were subject to God and those who were not.
Scripture teaches that children inevitably suffer the consequences of the sins of their parents. But they are not held guilty or punished for the parents' sins, except as they participate in them. It is usually the case that children walk in the footsteps of their parents and in this sense, by inheritance and example, they partake of their parents' sins. Perverted appetites, corrupted morals, wrong tendencies, as well as disease and degeneracy are passed on from parents to their children. However, in this moral darkness shines the light of Jesus Christ, who makes His grace available to everyone who comes into the world (John 1:9).
How would you apply the second commandment to the degeneration of the human race? Exod. 20:4-6 (also see Ezek. 18:1-18; 2 Tim. 3:13; Rom. 5:17-21).
"God appeals to us to put Him before all else, to put Him first in our affections and in our lives in harmony with our Lord's injunction in the sermon on the mount (Matt. 6:33). Mere belief alone will not do, nor even the acknowledgment that He is the one and only God. We owe wholehearted allegiance and devotion to Him as a personal Being whom it is our privilege to know, to love, and trust, and with whom we may have blessed fellowship. Dependence upon something else than God, whether it be wealth, knowledge, position, or friends, places us in peril."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 602.
Consider your wealth, knowledge, position, or friends. How might you be dependent upon them?
|If you feel you are more dependent on the people you know than you are on God, what can you do to remedy the situation?|
Describe what Paul said about himself prior to his conversion. Acts 26:1-4; Phil. 3:1-6.
Paul came from the tribe of Benjamin, which gave Israel its first king. Being a Jew by birth, he went through the covenant rite of circumcision at the proper age, was educated under the great teacher Gamaliel, outstripped his contemporaries in the knowledge and practice of the law, and eventually became a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. At that point in his life, Paul believed that righteousness equaled obedience to the law, "not only the written law with its 613 precepts but the oral tradition, transmitted by generations of rabbis." According to Paul's post-conversion assessment of himself, as a Pharisee he thought of himself as blameless, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. (See The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Edgar W. Smith, Jr., ed. [Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986], vol. 3, p. 710.)
Explain why God's law convicted Paul that he was a sinner. Rom. 7:7-12.
The law produces a consciousness of sin, particularly the tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet. . . ." Did Paul select one of the commandments at random just as an illustration of how sin convicted him? No. To "covet" means to "desire." And through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Paul discovered that he was doing the right thingeagerly obeying Godfor the wrong reason. While his outward actions appeared to be flawless, his motives were distorted. The tenth commandment unifies the law by evaluating our desires in relation to each of the other nine. Jesus made this point quite clear when He said that hatred is only a preliminary step to murder, desire is the precursor to adultery, and that the absence of positive action toward one's neighbor breaks the intent of the law (Matt. 5:21-48). There is only a short step between desire and action. The only missing ingredient is opportunity with immunity. In this sense, Jesus calls us to a most radical kind of obedience, an obedience that reaches into our very hearts.
|Think it through: Is it possible you might be keeping the commandment to accumulate merit without realizing it? If so, what can you do about it?|
Explain what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:24-26 when He said we should take up our cross and follow Him.
To put God first in our lives is not always easy. Again and again, we will have to decide to do so, especially when we are faced with temptations. There is no genuine faith without sacrifice of some kind. If God could have resolved the sin problem any other way besides Calvary, He would have done so. Yes, discipleship is costly. We will always struggle between comfort and sacrifice, between needs and wants, between what is legitimate for us to do and what is not legitimate for us to do. Such was Paul's experience.
Explain the experience of Paul as he enlarges upon it in Romans 7:13-24.
Do these verses refer to his preconversion experience, postconversion experience, or both? Explain your answer.
There is no doubt Paul was a man of conflict, possessing the same sinful human nature we all possess. He was very much aware of the sacrifice and discipline it took to conform to the legalistic standards of the Pharisees and later to the spiritual standard of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Before his conversion, his zeal for God, as he understood it, caused him to persecute the church. He thought he was doing what was right but later discovered he was not. After his conversion, and in spite of his zeal for Christ, he found that he still had not attained (Phil. 3:12-14).
Paul was aware of the fact that while his inner conflict was resolved "in Christ," he was still "in the flesh." Though Christ has fought and won the decisive battle between good and evil, the war will continue until He returns triumphantly and "delivers the kingdom to the Father."
Never think that because we stumble along our Christian walk, our best is not good enough. God loves us. He gave His Son to die for us. We will never live long enough to be good enough to be saved. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, who alone was "good enough" and whose perfect obedience is credited to us free of charge. We respond in grateful obedience, not to be saved but because we are saved, because Christ died to save us. That is the good news of the gospel.
|Despite the stumblings and faIls in our Christian walk, what rich promise does Christ offer in Jude 24, 25 to those who lean on Him?|
Describe how Paul resolved the conflict of sin within himself. Rom. 7:25-8:5.
Paul's cry of despair hardly prepares us for the triumphant pronouncement that follows. While he is aware of the fact that his sinful human nature will always be with him, he has made up his mind to be a joyful slave of Christ. He recognizes that even though the law of sin still operates in fallen human nature, it is superseded by the law of the Holy Spirit, whose presence frees us from the inner compulsion to serve self. He resolves the conflict within himself by focusing on Christ and the truth that there is no condemnation to those who walk not according to the dictates of the "flesh" but according to the guidance of the Spirit.
Discuss how we need to balance what Paul says about "walking in the Spirit" with what he says about it in Galatians 5:16-26 and with what Jesus says about the function of the Holy Spirit.
Explain what Jesus had in mind when He referred to the Holy Spirit as a Helper. John 14:15-19; 16:7-13. How is the Holy Spirit to help us?
The Greek word comforter is variously translated as "helper," "one who stands beside us," and one "who is called beside us." In the latter sense, some have translated it "attorney." But the word reflects a more active role than just merely comforting us or standing beside us. He reproves us, which means "to exhort," "to convict," or "to convince." The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, convinces us of the need of right-doing, and He will also tell us of things to come.
Implied in this verse is the promise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-31; Eph. 4:7-16). One of these gifts is the gift of prophecy through which we receive a glimpse of the future through many passages in Paul's letters and the book of Revelation. In these last days, He also has given us a view of the future through the gift of prophecy given to Ellen White. This view is found in many of her Works, but especially in The Great Controversy.
|Gem thought: "When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man's best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit."-Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, June 16, 1890.|
FURTHER STUDY: Compare Galatians 5:16-26 with Ephesians 4:17-5:21. How does the Ephesians passage help us to resolve the conflict between the law of sin and the law of the Holy Spirit that wars within ourselves.
Read The Story of Redemption, "Temptation and Fall," pp. 32-41 and "The Plan of Salvation," pp. 42-51.
"After the transgression of Adam, God might have destroyed every opening bud and blooming flower, or He might have taken away their fragrance, so grateful to the senses. In the earth seared and marred by the curse, in the briers, the thistles, the thorns, the tares, we may read the law of condemnation; but in the delicate color and perfume of the flowers, we may learn that God still loves us, that His mercy is not wholly withdrawn from the earth."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1085.
SUMMARY: Satan marred God's plan for the human race when Adam and Eve fell. They in turn passed on their sinful human nature to their descendants. God does not condemn us for having such a nature. Instead, He has made a way for us to escape it. That way is through Jesus Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Zeng Qing Peng
I am a high school teacher in China. During my free time I enjoyed going to game parlors, where I could watch TV, play mahjong or poker, and listen to music. At first I enjoyed the music and relaxed with the rhythm. But gradually the music and atmosphere of these places began to depress me. It seemed that a voice told me, "Leave this place and never return!"
I studied electronics and opened a home appliance repair shop. But I still played poker with my friends. I did not realize it, I was addicted to gambling. I struggled with jealousy and hatred too. And once, because of my gambling habit, I was even jailed. When I got out of jail, my old friends laughed at me. But they still wanted me to gamble with them.
I began to think seriously about life and realized how many people in modern China are seeking after money. More and more people have become self-centered and jealous. Principles of truth and right living have become blurred in people's minds as they have become slaves to money!
I knew what was right and wrong, and I decided to listen to my conscience and follow its leading. But my good intentions left me friendless and lonely. Then I remembered a gospel radio program I had heard on shortwave radio.
I found the program on the dial and began I listening. Hope returned to my heart. Since October [ 1996] I have been listening to the Voice of Hope radio from Hong Kong.
Ever since I began listening to these Christian programs my spiritual life has taken shape and is growing. I am thrilled about the privilege of knowing the Lord. Now I have hope and meaning in my life. I would like to give thanks to Jesus first, but also to the radio speakers and all of you who have made those wonderful programs that proclaim the good news.
I believe in God; I am seeking truth; I am thirsty for truth. I want be baptized and cleansed by the Holy Spirit so that I can grow strong in the Lord. With God's mighty power I believe I can be a strength to others in chasing away evil. I yearn to help people to walk in the path that leads to life eternal.
Zeng Qing Peng lives in China. He wrote his testimony in a letter to Adventist World Radio. AWR broadcasts some 119 hours of Chinese- language programs to East Asia every week.
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