October 2 - 8
New Persons in Christ
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Isa. 55:6, 7; Eph. 2:1-10; 4:17-24; Gal. 5:16-26.
MEMORY TEXT: "God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4, 5, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: As you study this week's lesson, look for answers to these questions: Before people find Christ, what are they like? What can we become after we accept His salvation? And how does such a transformation take place?
A TIME OF CHANGE. People have been talking about the changes and new ideas they hope to see during the new millennium. Some look for changes in the industrial world while others crave new ideas in communications. Still others are eager for advancement in standards of living, family life, education, and moral customs. But no change could be as important as the change only God can make in one's life.
What is this change? It is the transformation made by God in the human mind and heart (Ezek. 36:26, 27; 2 Cor. 5:17).
"In the heart renewed by divine grace, love ... modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections."Steps to Christ, p. 59.
Last week, we looked at being members of God's family. This week we will see how that helps us become people with a new future and a new hope.
How does Paul describe life before Christ? Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 1:28-32.
No matter how good we may appear to others, sin takes possession of our lives if Christ does not dwell within. Sinful acts weaken and destroy the integrity of the soul. Indeed, when life is empty of Christ's love, it is filled with sin. How were you before you met and accepted Christ as your Savior? You may not have been a liar or an adulterer. But were you proud, angry, bitter, legalistic, or unforgiving?
Consider people in ancient times who did not acknowledge God (Rom. 1:21-32). They "became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (v. 21, NKJV).
What did Paul think about himself both before and after he encountered Christ? Phil. 3:4-8.
Before Christ _________________________________________________________
After Christ __________________________________________________________
"We have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. We have no ground for self-exaltation. Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us."Steps to Christ, p. 63.
Paul's story can also be ours when we give our lives to Christ. "If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Savior, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.
'More than this, Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith."Steps to Christ, p. 62.
|The words translated sin and trespasses in Ephesians 2:1-3 mean to "miss the mark" and a "fall" respectively. Take some time to examine your life. How have you "missed the mark" or "fallen" (taken the wrong road) where God is concerned? Pray that He will help you get back on course.|
The wide and deep grace of God reaches even the worst sinner. He offers forgiveness to all without distinction. Certainly, God abundantly pardons (Isa. 55:7).
What is the basis of our assurance regarding God's pardon? Eph. 1:7, 8.
"As you see the enormity of sin, as you see yourself as you really are, do not give up to despair. It was sinners that Christ came to save. We have not to reconcile God to us, butO wondrous love!God in Christ is 'reconciling the world unto himself (2 Cor. 5:19)."Steps to Christ, p. 35.
"It is when we most fully comprehend the love of God that we best realize the sinfulness of sin. When we see the length of the chain that was let down for us, when we understand something of the infinite sacrifice that Christ has made in our behalf, the heart is melted with tenderness and contrition."Steps to Christ, p. 36.
What three things must we do to receive God's forgiveness? Define each one. Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9.
"The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means that sin is taken away, and that the vacuum is filled with the Spirit. It means that the mind is divinely illumined, that the heart is emptied of self, and filled with the presence of Christ."Ellen G. White, Review and Herald. June 10, 1902.
|Be honest with yourself. When have you rationalized away a sin or blamed it on someone or something else? Ask God to help you confess, repent, and turn to Him for forgiveness and freedom from that sin.|
What two contrasts does Paul use to describe life before Christ and life after Christ? Eph. 2:12, 13; 5:8.
"When the soul surrenders itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought which man can never accomplish for himself. It is a supernatural work, bringing a supernatural element into human nature."The Desire of Ages, p. 324.
Mary was an alcoholic. She drank several bottles of wine every day, plus other strong drinks. When her husband arrived home in the evenings, he frequently found her drunk with a broken bottle at her side. This family drama lasted 25 years. Every source of help proved useless. Every treatment ended without results. In terms of money, her husband wasted the amount of three good houses trying to cure his wife. But the Lord began to work when they sought His divine help. And what they were looking for during 25 years without results, the Lord did spectacularly in a moment! Soon after her liberation, Mary became a noble and respectable member of our church. The Lord is changing lives every day, everywhere.
How did Nicodemus respond when Jesus told him, "No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above"? John 3:3-6, NRSV. What do you think motivated his response?
"The Lord Jesus is making experiments on human hearts through the exhibition of His mercy and abundant grace. He is effecting transformations so amazing that Satan, with all his triumphant boasting, with all his confederacy of evil united against God and the laws of His government, stands viewing them as a fortress impregnable to his sophistries and delusions. They are to him an incomprehensible mystery."Testimonies to Ministers. p. 18.
These transformations are made only by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:6-8; Ezek. 36:26, 27).
|Recall the changes the Lord has made in your life. In what areas are you still changing and growing?|
As we mentioned yesterday, we obtain the new life in Christ through the Holy Spirit. No one can make such changes through his or her own strength. Review Jesus' teaching to Nicodemus about his need to be born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:6-8).
What does Joel 2:28-32 teach us about who may receive the Holy Spirit? (Compare Acts 2:17, 18.)
"The Spirit awaits our demand and reception. Since this is the means by which we are to receive power, why do we not hunger and thirst for the gift of the Spirit? Why do we not talk of it, pray for it, and preach concerning it?"Christian Service, p. 252.
The new person in Christ has an entirely new attitude regarding all aspects of life. Below is a list of certain attitudes people may have before they accept Christ. Using Ephesians 4:22-32, write next to them the new attitudes in Christ that replace them. What is our motivation for developing these new attitudes? Verse 32, last part.
unwholesome talk _____________________________________________________
bitterness, slander, malice _______________________________________________
"When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the life. Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds are renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger. envy, and strife. Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of heaven."The Desire of Ages, p. 173.
|Which of the above aspects of the new self in Christ do you think you need to work on? Have you tried to change by yourself? How much did you gain under your own willpower? Remember, it is the new self in Christ!|
Once we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are ready to imitate Jesus. The way we talk, feel, and act will reveal that we are new per-sons, with the desire to be like Jesus in every way. We will long to please and glorify Him in all that we think and do. As His faithful followers, we will long to walk with Him wherever He leads us and will rejoice to lovingly obey His commandments.
What is the key to being like Jesus? 1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Cor. 3:16.
When we dedicate even our thinking to Christ, He will help us resist bad and impure thoughts. Thus, we can have "the mind of Christ," with thoughts that reflect His character. Both sin and holiness begin in the mind. Even though it is the battlefield where the enemy wants to have dominion, it is also where Christ can gain the victory for our salvation. The decision is ours. Who will be the master of our minds?
"The Christian life is a life of constant conflict. It is a battle and a march. Every act of obedience, every deed of self-denial, every trial bravely endured, every temptation resisted, every victory gained, is a step forward in the march to eternal triumph."Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, October 29, 1902.
If we have the mind of Christ, and if we look to Jesus as "the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2, NKJV), we shall be qualified to "follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21, KJV). But we also shall be humble enough to depend constantly on the Lord. And we shall prove the truth of this statement:
"Nothing can be more helpless and yet more invincible than the soul that feels its nothingness, and relies wholly upon the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. God would send every angel in heaven to the aid of the one who places his whole dependence on Christ, rather than allow him to be overcome."Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, October 29, 1902.
As we seek through God's grace to follow in Christ's steps, what covenant promise will He Himself keep? Heb. 8:10.
|What societal influences are preventing you from developing "the mind of Christ"? Draw up a plan that will help you eliminate these influences from your life. Make sure your plan provides for specific times of Bible study and prayer.|
FURTHER STUDY: The Ten Commandments (Exod. 20) reflect God's character and the new person each of us is to become in Christ. The first four commandments reflect our love for God, while the last six reflect our love for others. For each commandment, think of a positive statement that reflects the attitudes and behavior a new person in Christ is to have.
Read Selected Messages, book 2, chap. 48; The Acts of the Apostles, chap. 5.
"The Christian's life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit."The Desire of Ages, p. 172.
However, not all church members are transformed persons. Some of them have placed themselves a long way from the transforming influence of the Spirit. But, "we should remember that the church, enfeebled and defective though it be, is the only object on earth on which Christ bestows His supreme regard. He is constantly watching it with solicitude, and is strengthening it by His Holy Spirit."Selected Messages, book 2, p. 396, italics supplied.
SUMMARY: God's love in action secures our salvation and builds up a church with converted and renewed people. Thanks to His love and power, God forgives us for our sins and transforms our lives.
J. H. Zachary
When 60 Protestant pastors were baptized in eastern India, many wondered whether they would remain true to their new beliefs. Recently some of these pastors shared how God is using them to fan the flames of Pentecost in India.
Vijaya Maik lives in a non-Christian village. After accepting the Adventist message, he actively shared his new faith with fellow villagers. But some villagers complained and had him arrested and imprisoned in an effort to stop the spread of the gospel.
Word of his imprisonment caused even more people to want to hear the basis for his faith. Soon 40 persons requested baptism. Several of these new believers also were imprisoned.
The mission president, concerned that Brother Maik's preaching methods might stir up the community unnecessarily, suggested he try different approaches. But Maik responded, "I must share this message before Jesus comes. God will take care of me."
When Raju Purty accepted the Adventist message, he was determined to take the gospel to his friends. After several months, 25 persons requested baptism. Other villagers threatened the converts, "You have one week to change your minds or be driven out of the village!" The new converts refused to change their minds. Barred from drawing water from the village well, they must walk seven miles for water. They cannot bury their dead in the village cemetery and must find a new location for a graveyard. Brother Purty is looking for a new place where the believers can live.
Another pastor, Vijaya Kumar Maik, climbs steep mountain trails to share his new faith with tribal people. Thus far 131 persons have been baptized as a result of his work.
After Pastor Bipin Khilo was baptized, the Lord gave him a burden for a very cruel tribe that lives in a remote mountain valley. Strangers entering their territory are met with bows and arrows. At great personal risk, Brother Khilo is attempting to make friends with this tribe and tell them about Jesus and His soon return.
Prior to 1997, fewer than 160 persons were baptized in any one year in the Orissa Mission. But during 1997, 3,000 persons were baptized, many as a direct result of the work of these newly baptized pastors. The Quiet Hour pays the pastors a small stipend which allows them to work full time in evangelism.
J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour in Redlands, California.
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