December 4 - 10
How Are We Today?
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 24:4, 5, 11-13, 24; 7:15-20; Rom. 8:35-39; 13:11-14; Rev. 3:15-20.
MEMORY TEXT: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: How can each church reach a higher level of spirituality and avoid being absorbed by the worldly current of life?
FAITHFUL TO THE END? "There is a church which sends in its annual statistical statement, year after year, as follows:
Number of members added by baptism 0
Number of members dismissed by letter 5
Number of members who have died 3
Amount raised for home missions 0
Amount raised for foreign missions 0
Pray for us, brethren, that we continue faithful unto the end."Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, Paul Lee Tan, ed. (Rockville, Md.: Assurance Publishers, 1985), p. 766.
While it is true we can jiggle statistics to prove almost anything, it is also true that this church had a problem. It was not their poor showing in the numbers so much as it was the fact that they truly believed they were being faithful and therefore had need of nothing!
Are you, is your local congregation, like this? If so, how would you know? As you study this week's lesson, take time to examine your own heart. Can you hear the Savior knocking?
Summarize Jesus' "prophecy" concerning false prophets and their teachings. What do you think Christ wanted us to know about such prophets, considering His statement that they will come in sheep's clothing but be as ravenous as wolves? Matt. 24:4, 5, 11-13, 24; 7:15-20.
This is the time Jesus foresaw just before His second coming. "But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 24:13, NKJV). How could we recognize the false prophets and beware of them? By their fruits and their behavior. Are they obedient to all of God's word, or not? (Matt. 7:15-20). Do they teach Bible truth? (Isa. 8:20). This is the key to identifying and repelling their teachings.
Many sincere people belong to different churches that teach what is not in the Bible. Thus, truth remains hidden and unknown to them. But the day will come when they will seek and find the truth.
"Before the final visitation of God's judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times. The Spirit and power of God will be poured out upon His children. At that time many will separate themselves from those churches in which the love of this world has supplanted love for God and His word."The Great Controversy, p. 464.
What is the only foundation of our faith? 1 Cor. 3:11.
While Satan is enlarging his kingdom through false teachings, he also is working inside the heart to weaken the faith of God's children. Then doubt, religious uncertainty, and indifference can invade the inner life until the foundation of faith loses firmness and begins to tremble.
But we must remember that "the solid foundation of God stands" (2 Tim. 2:19). We can trust in the Lord because He never changes (Heb. 13:8). He fulfills His promises (2 Cor. 1:20) and loves us "with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3).
|Read Matthew 7:24-27. Compare Proverbs 10:25. How do these verses help you to understand the importance of a firm spiritual foundation?|
What do we learn about events in the last days from 1 Timothy 4:1?
"As the storm approaches, a large class who professed faith in the third angel's message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition."The Great Controversy, p. 608.
Sadly, a good number of our members, after some years of meaningful fellowship, will abandon the church, the faith, and the Lord. This will show that we are living in the last days of history. What a sad experience for the body of Christ!to lose friends and family members because of a lack of spiritual perseverance and faithfulness. What can each of us do personally to reduce this painful loss? What can the church do?
Summarize the assurance Paul gives us in Romans 8:35-39 regarding such events.
"Paul lists ten items that cannot separate us from the love of God [vs. 38, 39]. The tenth is broad enough to include anything that may have been omitted. All the terms are perhaps to be taken in their most general sense. Their very indefiniteness serves to emphasize Paul's point that there is nothing that one can think of in all the created universe that can put a distance between a Christian and his loving Saviour."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 580.
Neither height nor depth. Some Bible scholars believe that Paul here is referring to the fact that, during his time, many people believed that the destiny of each individual was governed by the star under which he or she was born. The word he used for height was the time when any star was at its highest and therefore most powerful. The word he used for depth is the period when the star was at its lowest and least powerful stage.
|Think about the other eight categories of things Paul says can never separate us from Christ. What specific items could you put in each of them? Knowing the time in which we live, what attitude and behavior should we keep before the Lord? Rom. 13:11-14. Define the "works of darkness" we are to "cast off" and the "armour of light" we are to put on in their place.|
The historic church of Laodicea symbolizes the church in our day. There is no other church in Revelation after this one. Therefore, the message to this church is not only about us but for us.
Christ's first words to Laodicea are recorded in Revelation 3:15, 16. What does being neither cold nor hot symbolize? (see Matt. 15:8; Luke 6:46). Why does He wish this church were either one or the other?
Neither cold nor hot. "It has been suggested that this figurative expression must have been particularly meaningful to the Christians at Laodicea. One of the chief landmarks of that vicinity was a waterfall over which a stream from the hot springs at Hierapolis flowed, leaving mineral deposits. Laodicea's water source was not these hot springs or a cold one, but a water tower filled by an aqueduct that shows deposits from similar mineral water, probably warm."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 761.
Summarize in your own words the spiritual condition of the Laodecian church (see Rev. 3:17). What one word do you think describes their condition best?
The Laodiceans had a very high concept of themselves (see Rom. 12:3). Because they believed they were fine, they were satisfied with who they thought they were. As a result, they depended on themselves instead of on God, and more and more they became victims of the enemy.
"Of itself wealth is not wrong. However, the possession of wealth subjects its possessor to temptations to pride and self-complacency, and against these his only protection is spiritual humility....
"The possession of important truths held only on the level of intellectual acceptance but not allowed to permeate the soul, leads to spiritual pride and religious bigotry. Even the church of God, strong in the structure of its organization and rich with jewels of truth, can easily become a doctrinal bigot and immorally proud of its riches of truth."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 761, 762.
|Consider the parable in Luke 18:9-14. Which character in the story is like the Laodicean church? What happened to each character, and why? Which character is most like you?|
Yesterday, in seeking to answer the question How are we today? we began studying God's words to the Laodicean church. Take a few minutes now to review God's admonition to this church.
We will continue our study as we take a look at God's remedy for the Laodiceans' spiritual condition.
What does each ingredient of God's remedy symbolize? Rev. 3:18 (the verses following each ingredient provide clues for your answer).
gold (Gal. 5:6; James 2:5; 1 Tim. 6:18) ___________________________________
white raiment (Gal. 3:27) ______________________________________________
eyesalve (John 16:8-11) _______________________________________________
God's three-part cure for Laodicea's spiritual ailment was a vivid one for three reasons:
1 . Laodicea was one of the great banking and financial cities of its time. Reportedly, when the city was struck by an earthquake in A.D. 60, its resources enabled it to rebuild without accepting government assistance from Rome.
2. Laodicea was famous for the production of outer garments made from the wool of black sheep,
3. The Laodicean temple honoring the Phrygian god, Men Karou, supported a reknowned medical school, which dispensed throughout the world an ointment for the eyes.
After chastening the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:15-18, what reassurance does God give them? Verse 19.
Repent. "The verb is in the singular, stressing the personal, individual nature of this admonition. Repentance, like salvation, can never be accomplished en masse.... This new attitude of sorrow for the past and zeal for the future is Christ's purpose for the Laodicean church."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 763.
|As we saw earlier, the Laodiceans had replaced God's gold, raiment, and eyesalve with poor substitutes of their own. What things in your life might be replacing God's three-part cure for spiritual ill-health?|
In Revelation 3:20, Christ continues His conversation with the Laodicean church. What kind of relationship is symbolized by Christ's desire to dine with us? Explain your answer.
What significance lies in the fact that Christ knocks rather than just opens the door and comes in?
The Greeks usually ate three meals a day. Breakfast (akratisma) most likely consisted of a piece of dried bread dunked in wine, while the midday meal (ariston) was a snack hastily eaten along the roadside or in the city square. But the evening meal (deipnon) was the main meal. Because it was eaten when the day's work was completed, it was a meal over which the people could linger. Deipnon is the original word John used in verse 20. Jesus desires to abide with us as we linger in His presence. The real therapy for Laodicea comes from Him, the divine Healer of souls. He only can put an end to our spiritual lukewarmness.
"Jesus is going from door to door, standing in front of every soul temple, proclaiming, 'I stand at the door, and knock.' . . . If the voice of Jesus is not heeded at once, it becomes confused in the mind with a multitude of other voices, the world's care and business engross the attention, and conviction dies away.... The heavenly Guest is standing at our door, while you are piling up obstructions to bar His entrance. Jesus is knocking through the prosperity He gives you. He loads you with blessings to test your fidelity, that they may flow out from you to others."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 965-967.
What promise does Revelation 3:21 give to those who overcome?
We must overcome as Jesus overcame. Explain how Jesus overcame. In your explanation, provide biblical references.
What a beautiful promise! "The work of overcoming is not restricted to the age of the martyrs. The conflict is for us, in these days of subtle temptation to worldliness, to self-security, to indulgence of pride, covetousness, false doctrines, and immorality of life."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 966.
|How does Paul invite us to welcome Christ into our hearts? Eph. 3:14-21. Won't you welcome Christ into your heart now, or if you have already, thank Him for abiding with you?|
FURTHER STUDY: Read Matthew 22:1-14 and relate it to Jesus' message to the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-19.
Read Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 121-128 and Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 84-94.
After Jesus' resurrection, Mary said, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him" (John 20:13). By observing the spiritual condition of unfaithful and nominal Christians, could we also say, "Where is Christ? They have taken Him away"'.)
Yes, the Lord is in heaven. He is also in the Bible, among His beloved people, and we can read His love in the wonders of nature. But, is Jesus where He especially wants to be: in our heart? (Rev. 3:20; Eph. 3:17). "We must have the buyers and the sellers cleared out of the soul temple, that Jesus may take up His abode within us. Now He stands at the door of the heart as a heavenly merchantman; He says, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.'. . . Oh, shall we not open the heart's door to this heavenly visitor."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 964.
SUMMARY: The Lord knows His church very well and is able to advise us regarding our spiritual condition (Rev. 3:15). But along with such advice, He offers us His guaranteed remedy to cure our spiritual condition. As a result, we shall inherit a place beside the throne of God.
Joy Tan hung on tightly as the logging truck bounced over the rough mountain roads of Myanmar (Burma). Riding on the truck's trailer, which had no sides or floor except for two metal cross beams and four upright beams that held the logs in place, Tan and her team of lay evangelists knew that one unexpected bump could jar them loose and throw them under the wheels of the huge truck. But this is how the ministry team traveled to the remote villages of Myanmar where they held evangelistic meetings. And often traveling this way was not the only danger they faced.
One trip took them to Nat Mon village, a part-Christian, part-Buddhist community where residents earned money by selling jade and opium. In Nat Mon, religion takes second place to money.
Most of the people of Nat Mon were not interested in the gospel. But some of the Buddhists were impressed by the team's health emphasis and stayed to hear the Bible stories. Others in the city resented the evangelists' work and demanded their death. They even hired 50 men to kill them. The evangelists had come a long way to share the gospel with these people, and they were not eager to leave before the job was done. They prayed that God would protect them as they shared their faith with these people. Some villagers intervened and convinced the would-be killers to send the gospel workers out of the village instead.
Attendance at the meetings grew. Many Buddhists were impressed by the spirit of the team members and rallied around the missionaries. The evangelistic team finished its work without harm.
In 1996 Tan led a team of evangelists to Pa Doh village. "This place was so different from Nat Mon." Tan said. "The people were eager to hear about the truth of the gospel." Tan's face beamed with joy as she remembered Pa Doh. One of the persons preparing for baptism fell ill with a high fever the day before the baptism. The young woman was told that she was too sick to walk to the river. She might become chilled and die. But when the baptismal candidates lined up at the river, the sick girl stepped into line. "I must be baptized," she said. "I want to be ready to meet Jesus." Instead of becoming more seriously ill, the girl was healed.
With faith such as Tan and her fellow workers exhibit, the gospel work in Myanmar will continue to grow.
J. H. Zachary is international coordinator for evangelism with The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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