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There are times when grasping a single thought makes a profound difference in our lives. A number of years ago, I sat in a ministerial meeting with some of my colleagues. The discussion turned to sharing our faith, witnessing, and evangelism. One of my friends expressed this thought, “Mission is primarily the work of God. He is employing all of the resources of heaven to save our planet. Our work is to cooperate joyfully with Him in His work of saving lost people”. It seemed as if a heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. It was not my job to save a lost world. It was God’s. My responsibility was to cooperate with Him in what He was already doing.
The idea that mission is God’s work is clarified throughout Scripture. Solomon states it this way, “He [God] has put eternity in their hearts” (Eccles. 3:11, NKJV). When an individual is born into this world, God places a desire for eternity deep within the fabric of that person’s being. As Augustine once said, “Lord, we were made for thee, and our hearts will never find rest until they find rest in thee”. According to John’s Gospel, Jesus is the light that lights every person born into this world (John 1:9). Not only has God placed within each one of us a longing for Himself, He sends His Holy Spirit to draw us to Himself.
Every desire to do right, every conviction of sin, is prompted by the Holy Spirit. Every desire for goodness and inclination toward kindness and unselfishness is motivated first by the Holy Spirit. Even though we may not fully understand or realize it, the Holy Spirit is working in our lives to draw us to Jesus (John 16:7-15). But Jesus Himself is the greatest gift of all.
When the human race was hopelessly lost in sin, condemned to eternal death, the love of God took the initiative. Luke writes, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10, NKJV). The apostle Paul adds, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, NKJV). God took the initiative in our salvation. Christ left the glory and splendor of heaven and came to this sin-darkened world on a redemptive mission.
Before we ever took one baby step toward Him, He took a giant leap toward us. Before we ever gave Him our life, He provided salvation to us through His death. We were His enemies, but He was our friend. We turned our backs on Him, but He turned His face toward us. We cared little for Him, but He cared immensely for us.
In Luke 15, He is pictured as the good shepherd relentlessly looking for His lost sheep, a woman frantically looking for her lost silver coin from her dowry, and an old father recklessly running to meet His lost boy. Ellen G. White makes this marvelous statement worth contemplating: “The great plan of redemption was laid before the foundation of the world. Christ did not stand alone in this wondrous undertaking for the ransom of man. In the councils of heaven, before the world was created, the Father and the Son covenanted together that if man proved disloyal to God, Christ, one with the Father, would take the place of the transgressor, and suffer the penalty of justice that must fall upon him”. — Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, November 15, 1898.
Contemplate it for a moment. We have the incredible privilege and the awesome responsibility, as well as the eternal joy of participating with Christ and cooperating with Him in His mission. That’s what these lessons are all about this quarter.
A native of Connecticut, USA, Mark Finley, an internationally known evangelist, was a vice president at the General Conference from 2005-2010. After retiring from full-time employment, he became an assistant to the president of the General Conference. Pastor Finley and his wife, Ernestine, have three children and five grandchildren.
Lesson 1 June 27-July 3
Read for This Week’s Study: James 5:19, 20; Luke 15:6; Zeph. 3:17; John 7:37, 38; 1 Tim. 2:3, 4; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.
Memory Text: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4, NKJV).
God’s great longing is for all people everywhere to respond to His love, accept His grace, be transformed by His Spirit, and be saved into His kingdom. He has no greater desire than our salvation. His love is boundless. His mercy is measureless. His compassion is endless. His forgiveness is inexhaustible. His power is infinite. In contrast to the heathen gods, which demanded sacrifices, our God has made the supreme sacrifice. No matter how much we desire to be saved, God longs to save us more. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3, 4, NKJV). His heart’s longing is for your salvation and mine.
Witnessing is all about Jesus. It is about what He has done to save us, about how He has changed our lives, and about the marvelous truths of His word, which tell us about who He is and the beauty of His character. Why witness? When we understand who He is and have experienced the marvels of His grace and the power of His love, we cannot be silent. Why witness? While participating with Him, we enter into His joy of seeing people redeemed by His grace and transformed by His love.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 4.
Sunday ↥ June 28
God provides opportunities daily for people everywhere to know Him. He moves upon their hearts through His Holy Spirit. He reveals Himself in the beauty and complexity of the natural world. The vastness, order, and symmetry of the universe speak of an infinite God with limitless wisdom and infinite power. He arranges circumstances or providences in our lives to draw us to Himself.
Although God reveals Himself through the impressions of His Spirit, the glories of nature, and acts of providence, the clearest revelation of His love is found in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. When we share Jesus with others, we provide them with their best opportunity to be saved.
Read Luke 19:10 and compare it with James 5:19, 20. What does Luke’s gospel teach about Christ’s purpose in coming to earth? How do we cooperate with Christ in His work of saving the lost?
According to James, “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death” (James 5:20, NKJV). The book of Romans amplifies this thought. In Romans 1 and 2, both the Gentiles who have seen God’s revelation in nature and the Jews who have received God’s prophetic revelation in Scripture are lost without Christ. In Romans 3-5, the apostle reveals that salvation comes by grace through faith alone. In Romans 6-8, he describes how the grace that justifies each believer is also sanctifying grace. In Romans 10, he states that “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13, NKJV), and he then points out that none can call if they have not believed, and they cannot believe if they have not heard, and they cannot hear unless someone tells them (Rom. 10:14, 15). We are God’s links in the plan of salvation to reach lost people with the glory of the gospel.
We do not witness to give people their only chance to be saved. We witness to give them their best chance. What is our role in God’s plan of redeeming the human race? Think about this, too: how many people have heard the gospel from your own lips?
Monday ↥ June 29
Has anyone ever asked you, “How is your day going?” “Is everything all right with you today?” What if you asked God those questions? “God, how is Your day going?” What kind of response do you think you would receive? Possibly it would be one like this. “My day has been extremely difficult. Tears filled My eyes at one thousand refugee camps filled with cold, hungry, crying children. I walked the streets of the world’s crowded cities and wept with the homeless and destitute. My heart breaks over abused women and frightened children sold into sexual slavery. I witnessed the ravages of war, the devastating effects of natural disasters and the painful agony of debilitating, deadly diseases”. Would you respond by asking, “But God, is there anything that makes You rejoice? Is there anything that brings joy to Your heart? Is there anything that makes You sing?”
Read Luke 15:6, 7, 9, 10 and 22-24, 32. How do these stories end, and what do these endings tell you about God?
All heaven rejoices when the lost are found. In a world filled with disease, disaster, and death, we can bring joy to the heart of God by sharing the “good news” of salvation with others. One of the greatest motivations to share Christ’s love is the knowledge that witnessing brings joy to the heart of God. Every time we reveal His love, all of heaven sings.
Read Zephaniah 3:17. What is our Lord’s response when we accept His saving grace?
Imagine this scene. As the result of your witness some man or woman or boy or girl accepts Jesus as his or her personal Savior. Jesus rejoices. All of heaven bursts forth in rapturous song, and our mighty Savior rejoices over that individual with singing. What can be more rewarding, more fulfilling, than knowing your witness brings joy to the heart of God in a world of sadness?
Tuesday ↥ June 30
The Dead Sea marks the earth’s lowest elevation. At 1,388 feet below sea level, it ranks as the world’s lowest sea. The river Jordan flows out of the Sea of Galilee and winds its way through the Jordan Valley until it dead-ends in the Dead Sea.
The hot, dry climate, with the intense sunlight and desert conditions, causes the water to evaporate quite rapidly. Since the Dead Sea’s salt and mineral content is 33.7 percent, little survives in its waters. There are no fish, no plants; only some microbes and bacteria at the bottom.
In our Christian lives, if the grace of God that flows into our lives does not flow out to others, we will become stagnant and all but lifeless like the Dead Sea. As Christians, that’s not how we are to live.
Read John 7:37, 38 and Luke 6:38. In contrast to the Dead Sea experience, when believers receive the refreshing streams of living water from Christ, what is the natural result?
“God could have reached His object in saving sinners without our aid; but in order for us to develop a character like Christ’s, we must share in His work. In order to enter into His joy — the joy of seeing souls redeemed by His sacrifice — we must participate in His labors for their redemption”. — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 142.
“Those who would be overcomers must be drawn out of themselves; and the only thing which will accomplish this great work, is to become intensely interested in the salvation of others”. — Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 207.
We grow as we share with others what Christ has done in our own lives. Considering all that we have been given in Christ, what but only the most abject selfishness could keep us from sharing with others what we have ourselves been given? Meanwhile, if we fail to share our faith, our spiritual life will become as stagnant as the Dead Sea.
What have been your own experiences in witnessing to others, praying with others, and ministering to the needs of others? How have these experiences impacted your own faith and walk with the Lord?
Wednesday ↥ July 1
Loyalty to Christ requires a commitment to do His will. It necessitates obedience to His commands. It results in a heart that beats with His heart in saving the lost. It places priority on the things that He prioritizes.
Read 1 Timothy 2:3, 4 and 2 Peter 3:9. What do these passages tell us about the heart of God? What is His priority?
God is passionate about saving people. There is nothing more important to Him. It is His earnest desire that “all” be saved and “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4, NKJV). He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, NKJV). Commenting on this passage, The SDA Bible Commentary indicates that the Greek word used for “willing” is boulomai, which expresses “the inclination of mind, as ‘to want’ or ‘to desire’”. The commentary then makes this insightful observation on the little word but. The Greek word for “but” is alla. It is used here “to emphasize the contrast between the misinterpretation of God’s nature, namely, that He might be willing for some to perish, and the truth that He wishes all to be saved”. — The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 615. Christ’s command for each one of us to participate in His mission as witnesses of His love, grace, and truth is an outgrowth of His desire for all humanity to be saved.
Read Acts 13:47 and compare it to Isaiah 49:6. To whom did this passage initially apply? How does the apostle Paul use it?
There are times when an Old Testament prophecy has more than one application. Here the apostle Paul takes a prophecy that referred first to Israel and prophetically to the Messiah (see Isa. 41:8, Isa. 49:6, and Luke 2:32) and applies it to the New Testament church. For the church to neglect or minimize the command of Christ is to fail in the purpose of her existence and miss her prophetic calling to the world.
What are the dangers to the church, even a local church, if it becomes so inwardly focused that it forgets what its purpose is to begin with?
Thursday ↥ July 2
This week we have focused on answering the question, “Why witness?” We have discovered that as we share our faith, we have the joy of cooperating with God in His mission to the world. Our witness of His love provides people with greater opportunities for salvation, since they can see more clearly His grace and truth.
At the same time, witnessing is also one of God’s means of growing us spiritually. A failure to share what Christ has done for us and to minister to others strangles genuine spiritual life.
Witnessing places us in touch with the heart of the One who longs for all humanity to be saved. It is a response of obedience to His command. In today’s study we will examine the greatest motivation of all for witnessing.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15, 18-20. What motivated Paul to experience trials, tribulations, difficulties, and hardships for the sake of the gospel? How can this same motivation prompt our service for Christ?
The apostle Paul was motivated by love. There are things you will do for love that you will do for no other reason. When the apostle declares “The love of Christ constrains us”, he was speaking an eternal truth. The word constrains means “to urge, to impel, to control or to highly motivate”. The love of Christ controlled Paul’s actions and motivated his witness. With undaunted purpose and singleness of mind, he shared the plan of salvation throughout the Mediterranean world.
“Love must dwell in the heart. A thoroughgoing Christian draws his motives of action from his deep heart-love for his Master. Up through the roots of his affection for Christ springs an unselfish interest in his brethren”. — Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, p. 425.
When we truly recognize the immense sacrifice Christ has made for us, we are overwhelmed by His love and compelled to share with others what He has done for us.
The One who created all creation (the galaxies, the stars, the angelic host, the entire cosmos, other worlds) was the One who died on the cross for us. How can this astonishing truth not create in us a love for God and a desire to share that love?
Friday ↥ July 3
Read Ellen G. White, “God’s Purpose for His Church”, pp. 9-16, in The Acts of the Apostles, and pp. 822-828 in The Desire of Ages.
The New Testament church faced the danger of failing to understand the purpose for its existence. Ellen G. White describes this danger: “The persecution that came upon the church in Jerusalem resulted in giving a great impetus to the work of the gospel. Success had attended the ministry of the word in that place, and there was danger that the disciples would linger there too long, unmindful of the Saviour’s commission to go to all the world. Forgetting that strength to resist evil is best gained by aggressive service, they began to think that they had no work so important as that of shielding the church in Jerusalem from the attacks of the enemy. Instead of educating the new converts to carry the gospel to those who had not heard it, they were in danger of taking a course that would lead all to be satisfied with what had been accomplished”. — The Acts of the Apostles, p. 105.
Only one question will be asked on Judgment Day. I heard it when my international flight landed in Portland in the U.S. state of Oregon.
The U.S. immigration officer glanced at my Norwegian passport and then up at me at Portland International Airport. “What are your plans?” he asked.
“I am visiting a friend”, I replied.
“What is the address?” he said.
“I don’t know”, I said. “But she is going to meet me here at the airport”.
The immigration officer didn’t look pleased that I didn’t know the address.
“So, where did you meet her?” he said.
“At a college outside London”.
“What did you study there?”
The immigration officer studied my face.
“Are you a believer?” he said.
He looked down at my passport in his hand and then back at me.
“So, why are you saved?” he said.
The answer tumbled out of my mouth.
“Because Jesus died for me”, I said.
The immigration officer looked at me.
“Good answer”, he said. “You may enter”.
I smiled and entered the United States.
The significance of the conversation struck me as I walked to the baggage claim area. Only one question will be asked on Judgment Day: Why are you saved? The answer is found in 1 John 5:11-13, which says, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (NKJV).
Why are you saved? With the assurance of salvation, you can reply with confidence, “Because Jesus died for me”. In return, you will hear the sweet words, “Good answer. You may enter”.
Glenn Ernford Lie, 55, Is a teacher at Østmarka Seventh-Day Adventist School in Oslo, Norway, and a member and former youth pastor of Betal Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which received part of a 2017 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering to open a Youth Community Center.
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