October 16 - 22
United in Love and in Action
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Eph. 5:2; John 13:34, 35; Matt. 22:37-40; John 17:26; 21:15-17; Col. 3:12-14.
MEMORY TEXT: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: What is Christian love? Why is it the highest of all Christian virtues? As God's children, how can we cultivate this virtue? How does Christ's love help us to live in the world but not be of the world?
"IN DEED AND IN TRUTH." Think about the many evils, afflictions, and disgraces that exist in our world and in the church because people do not understand or care about Christian love. Then think about the disunity and coldness that occur as a result.
Christian love does not consist only of words. It should be manifested "in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).
"Love cannot live without action, and every act increases, strengthens, and extends it. Love will gain the victory when argument and authority are powerless."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 135.
"Unless we daily cultivate the precious plant of love we are in danger of becoming narrow, unsympathetic, bigoted, and critical, esteeming ourselves righteous when we are far from being approved of God."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 605.
This week, learn how Christ's love can motivate and inform Christ's family and reaffirm its position and commission in the world.
Explain what it means to "walk in love." Eph. 5:1, 2.
How will people who are not Christians know we are true followers of Christ? John 13:34, 35. Compare this text with Ephesians 5:1, 2.
People are watching to see whether we treat one another with kindness. If they do not see that the spirit of service and forgiveness motivates our behavior toward each other, we will disappoint them, and they will view us as hypocrites. If, however, they see that we truly emulate Christ's love within the church family, they will recognize that we are truly His disciples.
Analyze the connection between love and humility in Philippians 2:1-3.
"Attitudes of selfishness, pride, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, superiority, prejudice, criticism, denunciation, and faultfinding among believers contribute to disunity in the church. Often a loss of the first love in the Christian experience lies behind these attitudes. A fresh look at God's gift in Christ at Calvary can renew love for one another (1 John 4:9-11)."Seventh-day Adventists Believe ... , pp.178,179.
"Christian love is that unconquered goodwill which never knows bitterness and never seeks anything but the good of others. It is not a mere reaction of the heart, as human love is; it is a victory of the will, achieved by the help of Jesus Christ. It does not mean loving only those who love us; or those whom we like; or those who are lovable. It means an unconquerable good-will, even to those who hate us, to those whom we do not like, to those who are unlovely. This is the very essence of the Christian life; and it affects us in time and in eternity."William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 33.
|Take a hard look at your local congregation. How has it succeeded in displaying Christian love? How has it failed? How can it improve? In what ways have you contributed to the successes or failures? How can you contribute to any improvements that might be necessary?|
Many people view Seventh-day Adventists as legalistic simply because we emphasize the permanence of the Ten Commandments and the need to obey them. Furthermore, some church members present the mistaken concept that the law is the key to salvation rather than Christ. But nothing could be farther from truth. Let us reaffirm now that He is our only Savior (Eph. 2:8, 9; 5:23; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19).
How does John 14:15 and John 15:9, 10 help us understand 1 John 3:18?
All of us know someone who professes love for another, yet then does whatever she or he pleases regardless of the pain or consequences it may cause the beloved. But according to Christ, love is shown only through obedience"in deed and in truth."
An impossibility? Yes, if we depend upon our own strength. But immediately after His command in John 14:15, Christ says, "'And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever' " (v. 16, NKJV). The meaning of the word we translate as Helper is "one called to the side of." There the Holy Spirit is willing to stay forever, guiding and directing us along the path to victory. Christ's love inward flows in action outward.
In your own words, how does Matthew 22:37-40 summarize the Decalogue? Explain the meaning of " 'with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind' " (v. 37, NIV). What does it mean to " 'love your neighbor as yourself' "? (v. 39).
"How little do we enter into sympathy with Christ on that which should be the strongest bond of union between us and Him--compassion for depraved, guilty, sufering souls, dead in trespasses and sins! The inhumanity of man toward man is our greatest sin. Many think that they are representing the justice of God while they wholly fail of representing His tenderness and His great love. Often the ones whom they meet with sternness and severity are under the stress of temptation. Satan is wrestling with these souls, and harsh, unsympathetic words discourage them and cause them to fall prey to the tempter's power."The Ministry of Healing, p. 163, italics supplied.
|What does 1 John 2:3-5 say about those who confess Him but do not keep His commandments? What does it say to you?|
What does it mean to be controlled, ruled, or constrained by the love of Christ? 2 Cor. 5:14.
This verse places Christian love far above a mere feeling. Christ's love is a power, a force that elevates our thoughts, modifies our attitudes, and transforms our whole life. It is God's life injected into our inner life, then revealed in our behavior.
How much stronger our spiritual life would be if Christ's love controlled us! Are we praying for this? Lord, give us the power of Your love and Your Spirit.
Why do you think Jesus asked Peter the same question three times? John 21:15-17.
What did He mean by the command "Feed my sheep"?
Jesus hoped that Christian love would motivate His disciples to take care of His flock. True love is always active, useful, practical, and dynamic. It is a way to serve others while at the same time edifying and uniting the church.
"Knowledge, benevolence, eloquence, gratitude, and zeal are all aids in the good work; but without the love of Jesus in the heart, the work of the Christian minister is a failure."The Desire of Ages, p. 815.
The fountain of love. The story is told of a missionary translator who could not seem to find in a particular African dialect a word that corresponded to love. He sensed he could not translate the story of God's love for the people without such a word. After he had talked to many people about it, a man who was standing with his small daughter said, "Yes, there is a word. Ok'efe means 'I care for this little girl so much, that when I think of what is going to befall her when she grows up, it hurts me.' " That is what God's love for us is like. He loves us so deeply that it is hard for us to comprehend it. How can such a measure of love fail to inspire us to love God and our neighbor?
|What can you do today to express God's love in your heart? How would you explain God's love to someone who has not experienced it? To help you do so, how would you finish the following sentence? God's love is like ...|
What does Paul say about the loving attitude we should have as God's chosen ones? Col. 3:12-14.
We feel faulty before this teaching, because we recognize how far we are from such an ideal. But we can be "conquerors through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37). We can ask ourselves, "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16). The answer is, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5).
"If our hearts are softened and subdued by the grace of Christ, and glowing with a sense of God's goodness and love, there will be a natural outflow of love, sympathy, and tenderness to others."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 606.
"If we possess the humility of our Master, we shall rise above the slights, the rebuffs, the annoyances, to which we are daily exposed, and they will cease to cast a gloom over the spirit."The Desire of Ages, p. 301.
What contrast does Paul point out in 1 Corinthians 4:20, 21? Explain how love can equal power.
To talk about love, to condemn others because they do not have love, and to pretend that we have love when we really do not--these are all easy to do. But Christian excellence does not consist in words, no matter how beautiful they might be. The core of Christ's gospel "is not a matter of words" (1 Cor. 4:20, TEV) but a matter of what we are. It is what people see in us, not what they hear us say. While words can inform, they also can deceive. Only our behavior can convince another person that we are faithful.
We must be careful, however, that the love we display to any one particular individual does not blind that person to his or her faults. Christian love must at times come in the form of discipline, just as God found it necessary to at times discipline His people. " 'For the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts' " (Heb. 12:5, 6, NRSV).
|When John and Darla's son, Jeff, went to get his learner's permit to drive a car, the officer smelled alcohol on his breath. As Christians who want to emulate their Savior's love toward their children, what should Jeff 's parents do to discipline him?|
According to Jesus' prayer, what measure of love should we have? John 17:26.
It is impossible for us to comprehend the fathomless depths of God's love for His Son. Nevertheless, Jesus declares that He wants us to have such love! In divine love there is unity, harmony, and concerted action to spread the gospel. When we are "knit together in love (Col. 2:2), we are able better to understand "the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ" (NKJV). In contemplating this love, we are drawn nearer to Christ and become filled with Him.
How does Paul express the goodness of love and its relationship to God's law? Rom. 13:8-10.
Have you ever thought of Christian love as a debt we owe each other? Yet in verse 8, this is exactly how Paul describes it. Just how do we pay that debt? How is love the fulfillment of the law? Love never seeks what it can get, only what it can give. Therefore, we will not steal. Love is selfless, not selfish. Therefore, we will not covet our friends' and neighbor's spouses. Love does not seek to destroy. Therefore, we will not commit murder or bear false witness. And so it goes. If we honestly seek to pay this debt of love, we will want to obey God's law. Thus there is no contradiction between love and law. On the contrary, the love that leads to obedience brings us joy, helps with our difficulties, and secures church unity.
"Greater attention should be given to the subject of unity. What is the recipe for the cure of the leprosy of strife and dissension? Obedience to the commandments of God."Selected Messages, book 2, pp.159,160.
Why should love be the impelling motive of all our actions? (1 Cor. 16:14). How do your daily attitudes harmonize with this principle of love? When somebody says something wrong or negative about you, what is your natural reaction? How would you react if Christ's love motivated your thoughts and actions? Read Matthew 5:44-48.
|"Do you feel that it is too great a sacrifice to yield all to Christ? Ask yourself the question, 'What has Christ given for me?' "Steps to Christ, p. 45.|
FURTHER STUDY: As you read 1 Corinthians 13, use it as a mirror to analyze the real motives and feelings of your heart.
Also read Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 167-177; 341-348; The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 548-552.
"Read this chapter [1 Corinthians 13] every day, and from it obtain comfort and strength. Learn from it the value that God places on sanctified, heaven-born love, and let the lesson that it teaches come home to your hearts. Learn that Christlike love is of heavenly birth, and that without it all other qualifications are worthless."Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, July 21, 1904.
"The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God's government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan."The Desire of Ages, p. 22.
SUMMARY: God wants to have a united church on this earth. Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples, which includes each one of us. It is through love that we can "dwell together in unity" (Ps. 133:1). But it must be an active and sincere love, "in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).
J. H. Zachary
Theology students at Mountain View College in the Philippines serve as student pastors in local churches. Jerry Fernandez was assigned to a large church near the campus. Although the church had four hundred members, it was not growing.
As Thirteenth Sabbath approached, Jerry prepared for the Communion service. He learned that two of the local elders were involved in a dispute over a strip of land that lay between their farms. The disagreement had become heated, and one man called the other a liar and a thief. The second man stopped attending church. How could he worship with the man who had attacked him?
Jerry felt that he had to visit the men. But he was barely twenty years old, and the two men were in their sixties. Jerry knew that he needed the help of the Holy Spirit in order to reconcile these brothers.
Jerry visited the first elder and counseled him to surrender the disputed land to his neighbor and to wash his brother's feet on Sabbath. Finally the elder agreed. "Jesus will be waiting for you at church," Jerry promised.
Then Jerry visited the second man and made a similar appeal. But the man resisted, "He called me a liar and a thief. He should make this right first." Jerry gently pleaded with the man to forgive his brother and come to the Communion service. "Jesus wants you to come, Jerry said. But the man would not promise.
On Sabbath morning Jerry hiked the three miles to his church. He found the first elder waiting for him. But as time for church neared, Jerry became concerned. The second elder had not come.
Jerry borrowed a bicycle and rode to the home of the second elder. "Brother," he pleaded, "we are waiting for you. Today is the day to make things right." The older man repeated his reasons for not coming, but Jerry kindly persisted. "The Lord Jesus will be disappointed if you do not come."
Finally the elder agreed. The man got on the bicycle, and Jerry pedaled back to the church. When they arrived, Jerry took the two men into the banana patch behind the church. While the two men faced each other, Jerry took their hands and prayed for them.
The reconciliation sparked a revival in the church, and soon the church was crowded with worshipers. The congregation built a larger church around the old building. The membership continues to grow, in part because of a peacemaking young pastor.
J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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