June 12 - 18
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 2 Tim. 1:3-5; 3:13-17; 4:1-4.
MEMORY TEXT: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: When Satan was unsuccessful in getting Christ to sin and when he saw that he could not stop the spread of the gospel, what did he do?
TRADITION OR SCRIPTURE? For centuries, the teachings of the Christian church were a mixture of Scripture and tradition. In God's providence, the time had come to give Scripture its rightful place and to make the Bible available to the people. The man whom God used to bring about this change was Martin Luther, in Germany. One example of the abuse of tradition was the sale of indulgencesthe payment to the church for the forgiveness of personal sins as well as the sins of those suffering in the flames of purgatory. One seller of indulgences boasted, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." To Luther, this was bad theology. It prompted him to nail his 95 objections to the church door in Wittenberg. Thus he ignited the spark that flamed the Reformation and put him in direct confrontation with papal authority. Luther stood firm by his two great convictionsthat salvation was by faith in Christ alone and that the Scriptures are the only standard for Christian faith and behavior.adapted from Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language (Waco, Tex.: Word Book Publishers, 1982), pp. 258, 259.
As the Reformation continued, so did Satan's attacks. Since he was not able to stop the spread of Scripture, he attempted to undermine its authority by leading men and women to misunderstand and misapply what it said. For instance, Luther had recommended that Thomas Muntzer, one of the ablest and best educated leaders of the lower classes, be a pastor of one of the Protestant churches. While pastoring this church, Muntzer developed his doctrine of the "inner light," or the direct and continued revelation of the Holy Spirit to each believer by means of dreams and ecstatic visions. He also criticized Luther for being slav-ishly bound to the Bible. This soon led to fanaticism and violence in what has been called the Peasant's revolt.Harold J. Grimm, The Reformation Era (New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, 1954), pp. 173, 174.
Luther denounced this fanatical movement and said, "To them the Holy Scriptures were but a dead letter, and they all began to cry, 'The Spirit! the Spirit!'"
Compare Satan's misuse of Scripture during the Reformation with his misuse of Scripture during his second temptation of Christ. Matt. 4:5-7.
Satan has not hesitated to quote Scripture. But while he is doing so, he manipulates it to suit his purpose and to make it appear as if the Scripture he quoted approves a sinful course of action. In the case of his temptation of Christ, while he quoted Psalm 91:11, 12, he took it from its context to mean that God would protect Christ no matter what He did because He was His beloved Son. But the psalm clearly teaches that God will protect His children only if they walk in His ways, not their own. (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 313.)
Discuss the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Isa. 8:19, 20; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 John 4:1. Why must the two never be separated?
As you walk the Christian path, commit yourself to the following advice: "Beware how you follow impulse, calling it the Holy Spirit. Some are in danger of doing this. The word of God urges us to be sound in the faith, able to give to everyone who asks, a reason for the hope that is in us."Gospel Workers, p. 306.
Satan's efforts to undermine the gospel, and especially the authority of Scripture, did not stop with the Reformation. When the Advent movement of the nineteenth century began, he focused his attention on people committed to keeping all the commandments of God. His methods deserve careful attention, particularly since all of us have the same human nature to which Satan can appeal.
Moses Hull was a successful, young Adventist evangelist in the 1860s. During these early years, debates were used to draw crowds and spread the truth about the Sabbath. Hull was successful at this and began debating spiritualists, even converting one of them. Encouraged by this, he agreed to debate W. F. Jamieson, a spiritualist lecturer. During the debate, Hull came under the influence of an "evil spirit," whom he called Downing. And he soon felt, as he expressed it, that he was growing out of his Advent clothes and getting on higher ground. Before too long, he left the Adventist ministry, rejected the full authority of Scripture, and became a spiritualist.
From what she had seen in vision, Ellen White warned Elder Hull that he was standing on the brink of an awful gulf, that if he took one more step it would be final and his eternal destiny would be fixed (see Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 427). But more important than this, she said, "Already had evil angels telegraphed to Satan's agents upon earth that Brother Hull would soon leave the Seventh-day Adventists and join their ranks, and the Spiritualist medium with whom he discussed must be all gentleness, and charm him and fascinate him. He was almost continually in the company of this Spiritualist medium, and Satan exulted at the conquest he had made."Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, "The Progressive Years" (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1986), vol. 2, p. 56.
Discuss the advice Jesus gave when His disciples returned with reports of soul-winning success and how the devils were subject to them. Luke 10:17-20.
Have you been attracted to some new religious fad or sensation?
Are you easily swayed by the charm of someone supposedly preaching truth? How do you test what is being said?
|Is Jesus warning against joy or against pride and overconfidence?|
Another device Satan can use to undermine the gospel and especially the Advent message is pushing a person's zeal to extreme lengths. S. S. Davis, a conference evangelist, was impressed with the enthusiasm of Pentecostal Christians. "They have the spirit," he said, "and we have the truth. If we could combine the two, the truth would go with power."
Soon after, Davis was using all sorts of musical instruments in his meetings, including a bass drum, to heighten the emotional effect of his message. The people shouted, prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and when falling prostrate, were surrounded by more singing and shouting. Those who fainted and revived were said to have passed through the "garden experience" and were "born" sons and daughters of God. They were ready for translation, for now they could no longer sin.
Furthermore, those who did not have this experience were only "adopted" children of God. They would have to die and go to heaven through the "underground railroad."
The General Conference stepped in to correct the situation. Ellen White pointed out that as long as we are on this earth, "holy flesh" is an impossibility. We can have holy hearts but not holy flesh. To believe otherwise would lead to overconfidence and play directly into the hands of the devil. (See Light Bearers to the Remnant, R. W. Schwartz [Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1979], pp. 447, 448.)
Compare the above experience with what Jesus said to the Pharisees. Matt. 23:15; see also Rom. 10:1-3.
Jesus chided the Pharisees, because the converts they were making were twice the children of the devil than they were. The "most converted became the most perverted," as someone said, being even more legalistic than the Pharisees themselves. The sin of the Pharisees was that they were bringing people to Judaism rather than to God.
While the concerns of the Pharisees and Elder Davis were different, there is a similarity. The Pharisees focused on obedience in order to obtain merit, an objective legalism. Davis focused on being acceptable to God by achieving a level of sinless perfection, a subjective legalism. Both approaches show a zeal based on unsound biblical knowledge.
|Christians can be easily misled by religious fervor. But they also can be so legalistic they stifle the spirit of love. How do we strike a balance between the two? How are the scales tipping in your own life?|
In addition to charm and misguided zeal, another method Satan uses to undermine the gospel is to make intelligence and health the focus of people's attention. One of the most successful Adventist physicians was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. It took him only about 20 years to turn the Western Health Reform Institute in 1876 into the internationally respected Battle Creek sanitarium with a staff of nearly 1,000.
Formulate the biblical principle that should guide all Christian professionals. Isa. 28:23-29; Jer. 9:23, 24; James 4:13-16.
Kellogg was quite generous and a man of prayer. Before each operation, he would pray with his surgical team. He gave all his fees either to the Sanitarium or to other Adventist institutions. Often he would perform surgery on charity patients without charge.
Over the years, however, Kellogg became so enamored with the healing, restorative power of the human body he began to believe that God was inside of every person. Indeed, he believed God was inside every living thing. God, he said, was not behind nature nor above nature. He was in nature, entering into our bodies every time we ate food. These beliefs began to border on spiritualism. W. A. Spicer, who had served in India, recognized in Kellogg's statements aspects of Hinduism. By 1907, the church in Battle Creek discontinued his membership.
One New York journalist, who had visited Kellogg, published this report: "While Dr. Kellogg and his household have lived in conformity with the most unworldly religious view, he has faced existence with no narrow outlook. And thus he has outgrown the anthropomorphic conception of God. 'My God,' he says simply today, 'is the personal, but universal intelligence that pervades the heights and the depths and the farthermost reaches of the universe. . . .'"Mabel Potter Daggett, Delineator, December 1910, p. 530.
What happens to our view of God when we equate Him with nature? Through the teachings of pantheism, how has Satan undermined what Christ has done for us?
|If God is inside each of us, do we need to be born again? Do you know someone who believes that way? How do you share your faith with that person?|
Satan has launched his attack against God and Scripture by bringing to bear all methods he ever used on the generation living before the second coming of Christ. The words New Age describe a philosophy that includes a spectrum of beliefs from pantheism to reincarnation to moral relativism and therapeutic touch.
Therapeutic touch is the modern name for the ancient practice of laying-on of hands for healing. The National League of Nurses in the United States has approved this method as alternative care. It is practiced by thousands of nurses in over sixty-five countries. The basic concept is that energy, or vital force, is transferred by conscious intent from a healthy person to a patient in order to facilitate healing. Some in the medical profession who have studied this technique have taken a greater interest in the more pleasing forms of spiritualism and the power of the paranormal. The National Council Against Health Fraud, headquartered in Loma Linda, California, has strong reservations concerning this kind of alternative medicine. (See Sharon Fish, "The Therapeutic Touch" Christian Research Journal [Summer 1995], pp. 30-38).
Which texts help you with which New Age belief?
|A. Pantheism: you find God by finding yourself, for God is inside of you.||____ Matt. 7:21-23|
|B. Reincarnation: you never die and are repeatedly reborn to carve out your own destiny.||____ Gen. 3:4|
|C. Moral relativism: you determine your own morals and what is good for you; nothing is absolutely right or wrong.||____ Ps. 103:1-5|
|D. Therapeutic touch: you can be healed by tapping the energy source within yourself and others.||____ Gen. 3:5|
|How can you apply the following caution to your life? "The apostles of nearly all forms of spiritism claim to have the power to cure the diseased. They attribute their power to electricity, magnetism, the so-called 'sympathetic remedies,' or to the latent forces within the mind of man. And there are not a few, even in this Christian age, who go to these healers, instead of trusting in the power of the living God and the skill of well-qualified Christian physicians."Evangelism, p. 606.|
FURTHER STUDY: The controversy between Christ and Satan has always centered on the question, Can God be trusted? While still in the Garden of Eden, Satan engaged Eve in a discussion over the reliability of God's Word (Gen. 3:1-5). He succeeded in causing her to doubt it. Yet it is God's trustworthiness that is the "rock" on which His covenant promise is built. He does not lie (Heb. 6:13-20).
We find this same trustworthiness in Scripture, for it is through Scripture that God speaks to us. Jesus never doubted what Scripture said (Matt. 19:4-6). He used it in defense against Satan (Matt. 4:1-11). Paul believed that Christ died, was buried, and rose according to Scripture (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Peter says that the Scriptures are more reliable than eyesight (2 Pet. 1:16-21). Lastly, John warns us not to add or subtract from the book he wrote (Rev. 22:18, 19).
"Christ illustrated character building by a house built on a rock.... Amidst the changing scenes, with heresy and false doctrines coming in that will test the faith of all, the house built on the solid rock cannot be shaken....
"Let us take heed, then how we build. Let no one build unwisely. The word of God is our only foundation. Every semblance of error will come upon us. Some of theses errors will be very specious and attractive, but if received, they would remove the pillars of the foundation that Christ has established and set up a structure of man's building....
"Christ's lessons should be studied by everyone. The truth is solid, substantial. This truth is to be presented to all; for Satan will come in with his pleasing sentiments, which make nothingness of God's word and turn aside minds from the truth to fables."Medical Ministry, p. 87.
SUMMARY: Satan has succeeded in undermining Scripture through a mixture of tradition, Pentecostalism, communication with spirits, zeal for God, human intelligence, and "whatever works." These he then overlays with Scripture so that they seem to become more sure than the word of God itself. Thus it is necessary for us to make Scripture the basis of our faith.
Now that Natana had returned to take over leadership of the church, Samson turned his attention to the children. He saw an entire generation of children growing up robbed of an education, much as he had grown up years earlier. He was determined to see that these children would receive an education. Samson asked and received permission from the army to open primary schools for the children of South Sudan. But he had no school supplies to open schools.
Samson sent three men to Juba to ask aid agencies for supplies to help set up the schools. The agencies provided notebooks, chalk, pencils, and writing pads, but the men had no means to transport the supplies back to the village. They had to walk back to the village, and could take only what they could carry on their heads. But with these first supplies Samson started two primary schools that opened with 17 teachers and 721 pupils!
With the army's permission Samson walked from village to village in the region urging chiefs to establish primary schools in their towns so that more children could obtain an education. He told the people what they needed to do to start a school and urged them to move ahead. In three months Samson had helped start 34 schools that eventually hired 611 teachers.
The following year the Adventist church asked Samson to organize Adventist self-help (self-supporting) primary schools in South Sudan. In 1993 Samson opened the first Adventist self-help school in South Sudan with four teachers and 52 students in grades one and two. He continues working with community leaders and church members to establish Adventist self-help schools today.
ADRA supplies some school materials and sponsors teacher train-ing programs to upgrade the quality of instruction. Often the Adventist school is the only school for miles around; and most of the students who attend are not from Adventist families. At the end of 1996, 12 Adventist-sponsored self-help schools were serving 1700 students.
One of the greatest challenges is finding trained teachers who possess the leadership qualities needed to teach with limited supplies.
Samson set out to teach the Adventists a lesson. Instead he met the Saviour and has learned a lot more than he ever thought he could. And for that he gives God the glory.
Suleman Samson works with Global Mission in South Sudan. Becky Mercill wrote this while working with ADRA/South Sudan.
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