November 6 - 12
In the World but Not of the World
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Phil. 3:17-19; John 17:14-16; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 1 John 2:15-17; Gal. 5:18-25.
MEMORY TEXT: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: How is it possible for Christians to live in the world without being of the world? How does Christ's life inform our answer?
SIN IS GROWING EVERYWHERE. Listen to the evening news on television or radio, or read the newspaper to see how sin is corrupting the human heart in every comer of the world. We will not find any place without the stain of iniquity.
But we do not need the media to convince us of Satan's work in the degradation of this world. Paul wrote, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23, NKJV). Ellen White penned these words, "I was shown the state of the world, that it is fast filling up its cup of iniquity. Violence and crime of every description are filling our world, and Satan is using every means to make crime and debasing vice popular. "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 471.
This week's lesson will highlight the stark contrast between the church and the world, holiness and sin, between God's children and people under Satan's dominion. May the Lord help us to be always on the right side of these contrasts.
How does Paul contrast the end of those who are faithful disciples of Christ with the end of those who are not? Phil. 3:17-21.
The apostle is referring to professed followers of Christ, whose behavior contradicted the truth in which they claimed to believe. They called themselves Christians, but they had set their minds on the sinful things of this earth. Examining today's world, we discover the same kind of nominal religion and moral degradation that existed in Paul's days. The evil one is intensifying his deceitful work. Through the secular mind he leads people by the millions to profanity, hedonism, materialism, and spiritual indifference. Or he wins many others through spiritualism, paganism, and New Age philosophies.
Since there are so many mistaken beliefs, what wise advice does John give us? 1 John 4:1-3. What is the significance of the phrase "in the flesh"?
How subtle are Satan's efforts to deceive and destroy us? 2 Cor. 11:14.
"The experience of the past will be repeated. In the future, Satan's superstitions will assume new forms. Errors will be presented in a pleasing and flattering manner. False theories, clothed with garments of light, will be presented to God's people. Thus Satan will try to deceive, if possible, the very elect. Most seducing influences will be exerted; minds will be hypnotized. "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 293. In John 17:14-16, Jesus prays, not that the Father will remove His small band of disciples from the world, but that His Father will keep them from the evil in the world. He never meant for His followers to withdraw from this life, but to face it triumphantly with Him by their side. The religion of Christ, if rightly practiced, equips us with those things necessary to meet the world straight on. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:10-12, NIV).
|How have you seen error presented in a pleasing and flattering manner within the past few months? How did you recognize it for what it was? How did you deal with it?|
Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Then list the sins he mentions in the following categories. Be able to explain why you placed them where you did.
Sins against God
Sins against humankind
Weaknesses of character
Verse 5. The people described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 "are not people who make no profession of religion, or who repudiate religion. Nominally they are religious folk, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. They go through the practices which are associated with religion but neither experience nor expect to experience any transforming power."The Interpreter's Bible, vol. 11, p. 499.
Contrast the description Paul gives of God's true children in Philippians 2:14-16 with his description in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Here we find one of the greatest contrasts in Scripture. In the midst of spiritual darkness we can "shine as lights." We can speak the truth amidst deception. We can practice integrity amidst corruption. We can obey God amidst rebellion. We can fill our hearts with Jesus'presence amidst the emptiness of the world.
"The glory of this light, which is the very glory of the character of Christ, is to be manifested in the individual Christian, in the family, in the church, in the ministry of the word, and in every institution established by God's people."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 11.
|Both 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and Philippians 2:14-16 are mirrors in which we can see ourselves. What strikes you the most when you compare or contrast yourself to these two descriptions? Ask God to fill your heart with Jesus' presence so, gazing into the mirror, you will see only Him.|
What did the Israelites ask the prophet Samuel to do? 1 Sam. 8:4-9.
God's people wanted to be "like all the nations." Falling into the sin of imitation, they got just what they asked for. They turned from God. They failed in their mission. They became scattered. They almost lost their own identity as a nation. Finally, they lost their privileged position as God's people. In summary, they became like the heathen nations around them. "The days of Israel's greatest prosperity had been those in which they acknowledged Jehovah as their King-when the laws and the government which He had established were regarded as superior to those of all other nations. "Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 605.
"But they, disregarding this high honor, eagerly desired to imitate the example of the heathen! And still the longing to conform to worldly practices and customs exists among the professed people of God."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 607.
No matter how attractive a worldly lifestyle might be, the tragedy is always the same. To buy the world, one must "sell" God. The result? An empty, weary life, ending with eternal loss.
What contrasts appear in the following verses to help us understand the dangers of imitating the world?
1 Cor. 2:12 ______________________________________________________
2 Cor. 6:14-18 ___________________________________________________
James 4:4 ______________________________________________________
Adulterers and adulteresses. In many places, the Old Testament compares the relationship God has with His people to marriage (see Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:14, 20; the book of Hosea). Therefore, to be unfaithful to God, to have an intimate relationship with the world, is to commit spiritual adultery. Just as physical adultery breaks the heart of the innocent spouse, so a person's spiritual adultery breaks the heart of God.
|What parts of a worldly lifestyle tempt you to commit the "sin of imitation"? How can you imitate Christ instead?|
The world is God's creation. And Jesus constantly presented His message using illustrations from nature. So what does 1 John 2:15-17 mean when it advises us not to love the world? Define the following:
Lust of the Flesh
Lust of the Eyes
Pride of Life
Here the apostle John points out the need to have clean thoughts and pure motives. The carnal mind and coveting eyes, along with "the pride of life," are common sins in the world. But, as God's children, we should reject them. Otherwise they will corrupt our lives.
"Choose poverty, reproach, separation from friends, or any suffering rather than to defile the soul with sin. Death before dishonor or the transgression of God's law should be the motto of every Christian."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 147.
What example does Joseph give us regarding such a choice? Gen. 39:9. Read the whole story in the chapter. Who is the greatest example of purity? John 1:43-46.
Christ grew up in Nazareth, a small town known for its sinfulness. This explains why Nathaniel exclaimed, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" The fact is that, as a child, youth, and adult, Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). He left us an example, that we should follow His steps (1 Pet. 2:21).
"Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood."The Desire of Ages, p. 71.
|We live in a sinful world. But we do not need to be a part of its impurity and degradation (Eph. 5:11). The key to victory is in Jesus and His two-part formula in Matthew 26:41. How can you apply this formula to your life today?|
Read Galatians 5:18-25. Then fill out the chart below. As you do so, analyze one by one the virtues in the second column, and vow to have the Holy Spirit develop them in you.
Works of the Flesh
Fruit of the Spirit
"When a man is converted to God, a new moral state is supplied, a new motive power is given, and he loves the things that God loves; for his life is bound up by the golden chain of the immutable promises to the life of Jesus,"Selected Messages, book 1, p. 336.
What divine promise made to Solomon and his people can God's people of today claim? 2 Chron. 7:14. List and explain the four conditions of this promise.
Those who obstinately disobey God are not prepared to receive the guidance of the Spirit. But the humble soul who wants to do God's will discovers that the Spirit of God works in the believer's soul, enabling him to advance from one line of obedience to another, reaching on from strength to greater strength, from grace to grace in Jesus Christ.
A young man approached a holy man of India sitting on the bank of the Ganges River and asked him how he could find God, The guru responded, "When you want God as much as a drowning man wants air, you will find Him."
|When was the last time you followed the progression in 2 Chronicles 7:14? Is there something in your life you could improve by meeting these conditions?|
FURTHER STUDY: Read Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 471-482. These pages will help you to understand your spiritual need and the way to overcome sin.
The great thought of William Shakespeare in his work Hamlet was, "To be or not to be. That is the question." We could paraphrase these words saying, "To be or not to be a Christian." "To be a good son or daughter of God, or to be of this world." Every day we decide what we want to be, and we reap accordingly (Gal. 6:7). The Lord tells us with love through Moses, "Choose life" (Deut. 30:19).
"We must not, as a people, become careless and look upon sin with indifference. The camp needs purging. All who name the name of Christ need to watch and pray and guard the avenues of the soul; for Satan is at work to corrupt and destroy if the least advantage is given him. "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 476.
SUMMARY: According to Jesus' prayer, His desire is not to take us out of the world but to keep us from the evil one (John 17:15). Sin is everywhere, and it is growing. We don't need to imitate the world. Instead, we are called to be pure amid impurity, through the ministry of God's Holy Spirit.
Rina Videnia needed help. She and her brother were visiting Singapore, and her visa would soon expire. She did not know where to go to get it extended.
By chance Rina met Mabel Ngui, who took her to the embassy to extend her visa. Rina was grateful to Mabel and wanted to thank her. So when Mabel invited Rina to attend a Bible study at the home of a friend, Rina accepted. She was an active member of her church in the Philippines, and she enjoyed Bible study. Since she could remain in Singapore longer, she agreed to attend the Bible study again with her new friend.
At the Bible studies, Rina met other church members and Mabel's pastor as well. The pastor visited Rina and her brother several times during their stay in Singapore.
When Rina returned to the Philippines, she told her family about the Bible studies she had attended with the Adventists. She wanted to worship with Adventists in the Philippines, but she did not know where an Adventist church or Bible study group met. Soon she was back in her busy life of teaching, medicine, and working in her own church.
Then one day she discovered the Adventist church on the campus of the International Institute of Advanced Studies, the Adventist theological school near Manila. She began attending and once again enjoyed deep Bible study.
Word reached her pastor that Rina was attending the Adventist church on Sabbaths. He did not want to lose her from the congregation and tried to involve her even further in church activities. But Rina recognized God's truths and made her decision to become a Seventh-day Adventist. Soon her husband and children joined her in the Adventist church. Then a Bible study group was organized in Rina's home as well.
Today, as her entire family worships together in the Adventist Church, Rina thanks God for the simple act of kindness from a Christian woman in a distant country, for that kind act led Rina and her family to a more complete knowledge of Bible truth.
Zoravko Stefanovic is professor of biblical studies at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines.
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