Lesson 1

September 25 - October 1

We Are a Family

Lesson graphic

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Pss. 27:10; 34:8; Isa. 41:10; Jer. 31:3; John 3:16; Rom. 5:5; 1 Pet. 2:9.

MEMORY TEXT: "Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:49, 50, NKJV).

KEY QUESTIONS: As you study this week, search for the answers to these questions: How does God's love make a church not merely a congregation but a loving fellowship of brothers and sisters? How does God use such fellowship to spread His love and truth in the world?

Sabbath Afternoon   September 25

WE ARE NOT ISLANDS. In God's family, we neither are distant nor isolated from one another. We form a united group, bound together by the same ideals and spiritual principles. Such unity is the result of the Holy Spirit's work in our hearts and is noted especially for its Christian love. Such love and unity provide a brilliant contrast to the chaos of the secular world contrasted in the chart below:

Fathers often neglect children
Spiritual orphans
Ps. 27:10
Isa. 41:10
John 13:35

Pray that with the Holy Spirit's guidance you will be able to help make God's family a fitting example of His love.  

Sunday  September 26

MORE THAN A CONGREGATION (Matt. 12:49, 50; 7:21).

Upon what two conditions does Jesus establish His spiritual family?  Matt. 12:49, 50; 2 Cor. 6:17, 18.

How are these conditions related to each other?  

The family of God is not merely a social club that gets together now and again to have a good time. Neither is it just a congregation, meeting once or twice a week in a church building. Instead, it is a group of people who are happy to do their heavenly Father's will. There is no greater evidence of our love for Christ and His church than choosing His will over our own. As David prayed, so will we, "Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness" (Ps. 143:10, NKJV).

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:21 that being His true disciple is not a mere profession, but a doing of His will.

"Lord, Lord. To address Christ as 'Lord' is to profess the belief that He is indeed the Messiah, and implies that the speaker has assumed the role of disciple.

"He that doeth. That is, he who performs the will of God when he learns of it. Faith in God must accompany the doing, or the doing is only a form. It is true that 'faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone' (James 2:11), but it is equally true that works unaccompanied by a sincere and living faith are also 'dead' (Heb. 11:6). Those who do not know the will of God are not held accountable for it (Luke 12:47, 48), but those who have heard God's voice speaking to their hearts and yet persist in ways of their own choosing 'have no cloke for their sin' (John 15:22) and are in danger of presumption."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 358.

How does doing God's will relate to prayer? 1 John 5:14 (compare Matt. 6:9, 16; 26:39, 42). How does this make the church a force in the world? 

"Prayer rightly considered is not a device for employing the resources of omnipotence to fulfil our own desires, but a means by which our desires may be redirected according to the mind of God, and made into channels for the forces of his will."—C. H. Dodd. What power we, as God's family, would have to transform the lives of people living in a secular society if our prayers would match this one condition!

In what ways has god taught you to do His will?  Share with someone what you have learned about following God's will.  

Monday  September 27

GOD SETS THE TONE (1 John 3:1; John 3:16).

All Scripture is a revelation of God's love. Even among our trials and personal difficulties we can perceive the helping hand of our loving Father. (How has this been so in your life?)

Divine love reaches every member of our spiritual family. It reaches us individually in the hours of temptation, loneliness, adversity, and persecution. It also reaches us corporately as we work together around the world to spread the gospel.

What assurance do we have for those times when we do not sense the reality of His love? John 3:16; 1 John 4:8. What difference does this make to God's family if its members do/do not understand this truth about God? 

Because of His love, what claim can God make on us? Ps. 24:1. 

We belong to God. This sense of belonging reminds us that we should always trust Him and depend on Him as our Creator, Father, and Lord. What a great lesson to be learned: to depend always and in everything on our loving Lord. Jesus tells us, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me You can do nothing" (John 15:5, NKJV).

'Those who accept Christ as their personal Saviour are not left as orphans, to bear the trials of life alone, lie receives them as members of the heavenly family; He bids them call His Father their Father. They are His 'little ones.' dear to the heart of God, bound to Him by the most tender and abiding ties. He has toward them an exceeding tenderness, as far surpassing what our father or mother has felt toward us in our helplessness as the divine is above the human."—The Desire of Ages, p. 327.

The more we depend on God, the more spiritual power we will receive from Him (2 Cor. 12:9). We can grow in our friendship with Him. We can improve our family life. Also we can be wiser in our decisions and stronger in our faith.

How do you give thanks to God for His love?  How do you respond with your love to Him? 

List six ways you can share His love with someone this week.  Do at least three of these and be prepared to share your experience with the class on Sabbath.  

Tuesday  September 28

WE ARE MEMBERS OF ONE FAMILY (1 John 4:21; John 13:34, 35).

Being united in love helps us to develop a sense of family. As a result. we can call each other "brother" or "sister" and treat one another as such. This was the practice in the apostolic days (see Acts 1:15, 16; 2 Thess. 1:3). Even Christ is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:1).

How does Matthew 6:9 reinforce the fact that we are sisters and brothers in Christ?  

How do Christ and the Holy Spirit create a united church family? Eph. 2:13-16; Rom. 8:14; 5:5.

Christ  _________________________________________________________

The Holy Spirit __________________________________________________  

We are brothers and sisters in God the Father, in God the Holy Spirit, and also in God the Son. God abolished all barriers among His followers through the cross of Christ. New life in Christ brings union instead of division; love instead of hate; cooperation instead of selfishness; humility instead of pride. In summary, "We have passed from death to life because we love one another" (1 John 3:14. NRSV).

God pours out His love in our hearts through His Spirit. As a result, we can love, understand, and forgive one another,

"When Christ dwells in the heart the soul will be so filled with His love, with the joy of communion with Him, that it will cleave to Him and in the contemplation of Him self will be forgotten. Love to Christ will be the spring of action. ...  A profession of Christ without this deep love, is mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery."—Steps to Christ, pp. 44, 45.

How do people around us recognize that we are disciples of Christ?  Is it because we say we love one another? John 13:34, 35.  Explain.  

If we would have the Holy Spirit poured out on our church family, what would the Spirit change in us? How could that change the, way we relate to one another; the way we witness?  How will I tell others about His family?  

Wednesday  September 29

WE ARE NOT ALONE (Matt. 28:20; Isa. 41:10).

Just a few minutes before starting an overseas trip, a man went to a little boy standing on the dock and told him, "In a moment my ship will depart, and I do not have any friends to tell me good-bye. Would you take my handkerchief and wave it as a sign of farewell while the boat is leaving?" The man could not bear his loneliness. As the ship set sail, he felt happy seeing the boy wave that big white handkerchief

Like this lonely traveler, too many women and men feel alone in the journey of life! We lack the sensitivity, companionship, and warmth of genuine human contact. Truly, loneliness is one of the most common conditions of our time. It is not necessarily the absence of company, but the sense of estrangement and abandonment. We live with people, yet feel alone. Even among Christians this is a common problem. Often, we can become so busy doing good works and volunteering for the church that we neglect genuine fellowship and recreation.

How can we overcome or prevent this problem? Ps. 68:4-6.  

"'Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'" (Matt. 28:20, NKJV). What a marvelous prescription for loneliness we find in Christ's promise to us! The Lord is at our side always, every day, every moment, without any break or vacation. We can renew this divine company at the beginning of the day, at any moment in need.

Explain what the Lord promises to do for us in one of His most beautiful promises. Isa. 41:10. How has He fulfilled this promise in your life?  

Are we sick?  Jesus stays by our bed.
Are we far from home?  He travels with us.
Have we lost a close relative or friend?  He gives us strength and consolation.
Do we have fears?  He comes to us and takes them away.
Are we in danger or under threat?  He protects us against our enemies.

Psalm 68:6 tells us that "God sets the solitary in families"(NKJV).  Think of someone in your church or neighborhood who has little or no family nearby.  Plan three ways you can include this person In your family's activities and initiate one of these ways within the mouth.  

Thursday  September 30

A FAMILY WITH A PURPOSE (Gen. 12:2, 3; 1 Pet. 2:9; Matt. 28:19).

Every earthly family needs to have goals and plans to reach those goals. Such goals might include the size of the family, the future of the children, the style of the house, the spiritual prosperity of the family, etc.

God's family has goals and plans. Our heavenly Father Himself has specific aims for His church and its members and has the plans to fulfill them.

What purpose did God have for His people from the very beginning? Gen. 12:2, 3.  

"The people of God are His representatives upon the earth, and He intends that they shall be lights in the moral darkness of this world. Scattered all over the country, in the towns, cities, and villages, they are God's witnesses, the channels through which He will communicate to an unbelieving world the knowledge of His will and the wonders of His grace"—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 134.

"His [Christ's] followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them, They are a part of the great web of humanity; and Heaven looks upon them as brothers to sinners as well as to saints, The fallen, the erring, and the sinful, Christ's love embraces; and every deed of kindness done to uplift a fallen soul, every act of mercy, is accepted as done to Him."—The Desire of Ages, p. 638.

How does Peter declare God's objective for His people?  1 Pet. 2:9 (compare Matt. 28:19).  

All the descriptions by which Peter calls God's family have one purpose: to communicate in different ways the love of Christ and His salvation, To do something else, or to profess only a creed, is to misunderstand the true religion of Christ.

Are your goals and plans as a Christian consistent with God's goals and plans for His family?  Why are deeds of kindness and acts of mercy good ways for meeting God's goals for the church family?  How well did you fulfill God's goals yesterday?  Pray that today God will help you to be a more loving sister or brother to "sinners as well as to saints."  

Friday  October 1

FURTHER STUDY:  How does the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) help you to answer the Key Questions in Sabbath's lesson?

Read Steps to Christ, chapter 1, "Christian Service [God's Love for Man]."  

"The NT has 2 words for love, agape, with its associated verb agapao, 'to love.' and the verb phileo 'to like,' 'to have affection for' 'to love.'...

"Agape is a principle, and maybe described as a love of respect and esteem, a love bringing into play the higher powers of the mind and intelligence It is this kind of love that the Christian is to exercise even toward his enemies (Mt. 5:44)."—SDA Bible Dictionary, on Love" (1979 edition), p. 682.

1. Describe what your church would be if all the members were like you. How does a loving attitude allow you to disagree sometimes with your brothers and sisters the church without being disagreeable? 
2. Contrast the blessings of belonging to God's family with the loneliness a secular person might suffer. 
3. How can we enjoy being a part of God's family?  One answer is given for you. Think of at least three others.  Answer: We can always count on our Father's love, presence, and protection.  
4. What would you do to improve the situation if you belonged to a lukewarm church?  
5. Design a "Family Crest" for your church that would represent:
a. how you show love for/to Christ;
b. how you share the gospel with your community;
c. how you show love to the poor in our church/community;
d. what you value above all else;
e. how you want others to describe your church;
f. your major goal.  

SUMMARY:  God is the Father of a great church family on earth. He loves this family with an everlasting love. Because of this love, we can depend on Him and be happy doing His will. Through Him, members of this family are sisters and brothers in Christ.  

InSide Story

Pentecost's Flames Touch India, Part 1

J. H. Zachary

During late 1996 and early 1997 nearly sixty Protestant pastors in eastern India were baptized into the Adventist Church. But many wondered if they would be faithful to the new Bible truths they had accepted. Recently I hoard some of these pastors share how God is working in their lives. Let me introduce a few of them.

Pastor P. Ponda is a third-generation pastor. He was leading 30 independent congregations when he met some Adventist pastors. As the pastors discussed Bible truths, Pastor Ponda began to understand the Bible basis for Adventist teachings. He requested baptism. "I want the Adventist Church to shepherd my nearly four thousand people," he said. To date, nearly half of his members have been baptized.

When Assish Missal completed his seminary training, he felt a burden to reach the tribal people living in the mountains near his home. Then he attended a revival meeting conducted by Adventist evangelist Bhasker Rao. As he understood and accepted the Bible basis for Adventist teachings, he requested rebaptism. When word of his conversion reached his home town, he was expelled from the village and church officials canceled plans for a village marriage for his sister. Undaunted, Missal has formed three Adventist congregations in his community.

Absalom Maik was a priest before he accepted the Sabbath message and was baptized. He became a lay preacher. An angry crowd surrounded his family's house and threatened to take his life, but Maik's brother persuaded the mob to leave. However, Maik was excommunicated from the village and is not permitted even to draw water from the village well. His converts have lost the privilege of being buried in the village graveyard. But Maik continues to witness. Within a year Brother Maik had prepared 120 persons for baptism.

Pastor Vijaha Lima attended The Quiet Hour revival and was baptized. He went from home to home in his village, sharing the Bible-based teachings he had learned. Eighty persons accepted the truth and requested baptism. The new believers were told to leave the village. When one of the believers died, the village refused to allow the Adventists to bury him in the village cemetery. They buried him in a lonely spot near the river.

(continued next week)

J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour in Redlands, California.

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