Lesson 11 June 8-14
Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 10:1-28, 34, 35; 1 Cor. 2:2; 1 Thess. 5:21, 22; John 1:12, 13; 3:7; 1 John 5:1.
Memory Text: “Therefore … let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1, 2, NKJV).
No matter what stage of life we are in, or what we have been through or will face down the road, we exist against the background of culture. Our parents, our children, our homes, our families, even our church—all are impacted by the culture in which they exist, and greatly, too. Though other factors were at play, the change of the Sabbath to Sunday was a powerful example of how the culture of the time, powerfully and negatively, influenced the church. Every time we drive by a church and see a sign for Sunday services, we are given a stark reminder of just how far-reaching the power of culture can be.
Christian families confront cultural challenges all the time. Sometimes the cultural influences can be good; most times, though, the influence is negative.
The great news is that the power of the gospel gives us light, comfort, and strength to deal with the challenges that culture can bring. This week we will look at how we can be “families of faith”, as we seek to “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15, NKJV).
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 15.
Sunday ↥ June 9
As the gospel circles the globe, Christians encounter different cultures and practices, many of which pertain to family and social relationships. One of the great questions for Christian missionaries regards how they should relate to various cultural norms about many things, including family relationships they might personally find uncomfortable.
Read Acts 10:1-28, 34, 35. What can we learn here about our need to overcome our own barriers and prejudices when dealing with other cultures?
Christ’s death was for the sins of every human being, everywhere. Many people simply do not know this great truth yet. To bring this news with an invitation to respond is the evangelistic mission of Christians. Because God shows no partiality, Christians are called to treat everyone with respect and integrity, giving them a chance to embrace the good news that is for them, as well.
What conclusions did early Christian missionaries reach regarding the presentation of the gospel to other cultures? What principle can we draw from these texts? Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29; 1 Cor. 2:2; 1 Thess. 5:21, 22.
Though every culture mirrors the fallen condition of the people within it, cultures may also have beliefs that are compatible with Scripture, even useful to the cause of the gospel. The value placed upon close relationships in family and community in many parts of the world is an example. Christians can uphold and strengthen that which is good and in keeping with biblical principles.
At the same time, God’s truth must not be compromised. Church history sadly shows that compromise and accommodation to cultures has yielded a patchwork of pseudo-Christian beliefs posing as authentic Christianity. Satan claims to be the god of this world and happily spreads confusion, but Jesus has redeemed this world, and His Spirit guides His followers into all truth (John 16:13).
How much of your faith is shaped by your culture, and how much is biblical truth? How can you learn to discern between the two? Be prepared to discuss your answer in class.
Monday ↥ June 10
“For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19).
Though they might come in various configurations, families are the building blocks of society; thus, many distinct cultural traits of various societies are directly tied to family. For instance, in one ancient culture it was deemed a man’s responsibility to eat the corpse of his dead parents; in another, a man who wanted a bride had to bring her father a dowry of shrunken heads from a rival tribe. Even in modern times, ideas relating to children, courtship, divorce, marriage, parents, and so forth vary widely. As we spread our message to these various cultures, we have to learn how to relate to them in ways that, while not compromising our beliefs, don’t cause unnecessary problems. At the same time, and closer to home, we have to be very aware of just what cultural influences impact our families.
In what ways did culture impact family life in the following examples? What principles can we learn from these examples?
1 Kings 11:1
None of us live in a vacuum; all of us and our families are impacted by the culture in which we live. Our responsibility as Christians is to exist within our culture the best we can, keeping that which is in harmony with our faith, while shunning, as much as possible, that which conflicts with it.
What things in your particular culture are helpful to family life and in harmony with the Bible? What things are not? How can you best adapt your faith to your culture without compromising essential truths?
Tuesday ↥ June 11
Change is an inescapable, unsettling occurrence in families, regardless of whatever culture they live in. Some change is related to predictable passage through the life cycle. Often change is unpredictable, such as deaths, disasters, war, illnesses, family moves, or career failures. Many families face economic and social changes in their communities and countries. Other changes are directly related to the culture.
Below are some examples of great, even traumatic, changes people faced. Using your imagination, put yourself in their positions. How did these changes impact their family life? What mechanism would you have to help cope? In what ways might you have reacted differently?- Abraham, Sarah, and Lot (Gen. 12:1-5)
With change comes the experience of loss and the anxiety of uncertainty as to one’s immediate future. Depending on a family’s ability to adjust to changes, these experiences can propel people to new levels of growth and appreciation for spiritual things, or they can lead to stress and anxiety. Satan exploits the disruption changes bring, hoping to introduce doubt and distrust in God. The promises of God’s Word, the resources of family and friends, and the assurance that their lives were in God’s hands helped many heroes and heroines of faith cope successfully with momentous life upheaval.
If you know someone (or even a whole family) who is facing a traumatic change, do something in a practical way to give them some help and encouragement.
Wednesday ↥ June 12
What crisis of faith developed in Israel after Joshua and his peers died? Judg. 2:7-13.
Studies of how values and beliefs in organizations such as churches are transmitted to subsequent generations show that the founders have very high levels of commitment to the beliefs. They were the ones who first championed them. Within a generation or two, many lose sight of the principles behind the values. They may go along with the organization, but often from habit. In subsequent generations, habits tend to crystallize into traditions. The founders’ passion is no longer present.
It has been said that God has no grandchildren, only children. What do you think that means? See also John 1:12, 13; 3:7; 1 John 5:1.
A common approach to transmitting values through long generations of Christianity has been for older ones simply to tell the youth what they believe. Learning what one’s parents believe or what the church believes is not personal faith however. Being a Christian is more than belonging to an organization with a history and a dogma. True faith isn’t something genetic, isn’t something that is passed on naturally from one generation to another. Each one needs to know Christ for himself or herself. Parents can do only so much. The church as a whole, and parents in particular, need to do all they can to create an environment that will make young people want to make that right choice, but, in the end, a generation is saved or lost for the gospel one person at a time.
Joe, coming out of atheism, joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church as an adult after a powerful conversion experience. He married an Adventist woman and had a few children, whom they, of course, raised in the faith. One day, thinking about the spiritual condition of his children, he said, “Oh, if only my children would have the experience that I had!” If you had been there, what would you have said to him?
Thursday ↥ June 13
In his popular Bible paraphrase The Message, Eugene Peterson uses “message” wherever the biblical word for “gospel” appears. The good news about Jesus is truly the message still needed by the world today. Christian families are called to experience it together and to share it in whatever culture they live.
How would you summarize “the message” using the following texts? Matt. 28:5-7; John 3:16; Rom. 1:16, 17; 1 Cor. 2:2; 2 Cor. 5:18-21.
The earliest news the disciples ran everywhere with was of the resurrection of Jesus. Christian families today join a long line of runners proclaiming, “He is risen,” as He said (Matt. 28:7, NKJV). The reality of His resurrection makes credible everything else Jesus said about Himself, about God and His love for sinners, about forgiveness, and about the assurance of eternal life by faith in Him.
Passionate about the gospel. Scripture gives glimpses of the gospel’s sweeping effect on the lives of Jesus’ early followers. They opened their homes for Bible study; they prayed and ate together, shared money and resources, and took care of each other. Whole households embraced the message. Were they suddenly flawless people? No. Were there some conflicts and discord among them? Yes. But somehow these followers of Christ were different. They acknowledged their needs for God and for each other. They put a priority on unity and harmony at home and at church, endeavoring to fulfill the Gethsemane prayer of Jesus (John 17:20-23). They witnessed to each other and to unbelievers with boldness, even putting their lives at risk for their beliefs.
So must it be for us. Even in the current age, jaundiced as it is toward godly things, people who are excited about something still get a hearing. The Spirit longs to fill human hearts with excitement about the gospel. When the good news really becomes as good in our hearts as it is within the Word, sharing will be spontaneous and unstoppable.
What changes might need to be made in your own family that could help it be a better harbinger of “the message” we have been called to share?
Friday ↥ June 14Further Thought: Ellen G. White, “In the Court of Babylon”, pp. 479-490, in Prophets and Kings; “Words of Caution”, pp. 324, 329; “No Respect of Persons With God”, pp. 330, 331, in Gospel Workers; “Rejoicing in the Lord”, pp. 115-126, in Steps to Christ. No respect of persons with God. “The religion of Christ uplifts the receiver to a higher plane of thought and action, while at the same time it presents the whole human race as alike the objects of the love of God, being purchased by the sacrifice of His Son. At the feet of Jesus, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, meet together, with no thought of caste or worldly preeminence. All earthly distinctions are forgotten as we look upon Him whom our sins have pierced. The self-denial, the condescension, the infinite compassion of Him who was highly exalted in heaven, puts to shame human pride, self-esteem, and social caste. Pure, undefiled religion manifests its heaven-born principles in bringing into oneness all who are sanctified through the truth. All meet as blood-bought souls, alike dependent upon Him who has redeemed them to God”. – Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 330.
Inside Story~ United States
An elderly man stopped in Delsie Knicely’s family-owned store in rural West Virginia with a request.
“I’d like to see you in church this Sabbath”, he said.
Delsie didn’t want to go. She had been raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and had attended Adventist schools. But she had left the church as an adult, gotten married, and opened a store selling farm produce, groceries, and chainsaws.
Still, she didn’t want to flatly reject the man, Kester Erskine, whom she had known since childhood. Kester used to drive to her parents’ farm every Sabbath and pack her and her 11 brothers and sisters into his car, including the trunk, and take them to church.
Now Kester was in the store waiting for an answer to his invitation.
“I don’t have proper clothes”, Delsie said.
Kester returned the next week, and Delsie offered another excuse.
“OK, I’ll go if I’m not sick”, she said.
That Friday, she was hospitalized with a serious blot clot. That scared her, and she resolved not to use health as an excuse to skip church.
Two weeks after the hospital stay, Kester stopped by the store with a book, “National Sunday Law”, about how the Sabbath was changed to Sunday.
Delsie read the 94-page book by Adventist pastor A. Jan Marcussen that afternoon, marking the pages as she went along. She read the book again that evening and a third time the next day. She thought, “I went to Adventist church school and academy, and I know all this. Why haven’t I been in church?”
“I couldn’t think of a good reason”, Delsie told Adventist Mission. “So, I went to church and haven’t missed a Sabbath since then”.
Today, Delsie, a spry 63-year-old with a ready smile, is a powerhouse for God. She has led many evangelistic meetings, including series during a statewide evangelistic campaign funded by a 2015 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering. She also has graded thousands of Bible correspondence studies, and many people have been baptized through her influence.
Delsie said God must have a sense of humor. Ever since she claimed not to have anything to wear to church, her wardrobe has been full.
“The Lord has seen fit that I have had plenty of decent clothes since that time”, she said.
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