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Lesson 12 September 10-16
Read for This Week’s Lesson: Phil. 2:5-9; Rom. 12:1, 2; 1 Sam. 2:12-3:18; 1 Sam. 13:1-14; Zech. 4:1-14.
Memory Text: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24, NKJV).
Jesus’ picture of a kernel of wheat dying is a fascinating analogy of our submission to God’s will. First, there is the falling. The kernel that falls from the wheat stalk has no control over where or how it falls to the ground. It has no control over the ground that surrounds and then presses over it.
Second, there is the waiting. As the kernel lies in the earth, it does not know what the future holds. It cannot “imagine” what life will be like in the future, for it is only a kernel of wheat.
Third, there is the dying. The kernel cannot possibly become a wheat stalk unless it gives up its safe, comfortable situation as a kernel. It must “die”; that is, it must give up what it has always been before so it may be transformed from a seed into a fruit-bearing plant.
The Week at a Glance: If we know that God’s will is best for us, why do we have such a hard time accepting it? What example of submission has Christ left for us? How do you see the analogy of the kernel of wheat applying to your own life?
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 17.
Sunday ↥ September 11
Read Philippians 2:5-9. What important message is there for us in these verses?
Contemporary culture urges us all to demand and assert our rights. And all this is good and is often the way it should be. But as with Jesus, the will of God may ask us to give up our rights freely in order to serve the Father in ways that will make an eternal impact for God’s kingdom. This process of giving them up may be difficult and uncomfortable, creating the conditions of a crucible.
Look at how Jesus did this (Phil. 2:5-8). These verses describe three steps that Jesus took in submitting Himself to the Father’s will. And at the beginning, Paul alarmingly reminds us: “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5, NIV).
In order to be in a position to save us, Jesus gave up His equality with the Father and moved to earth in the form and limitations of a human being (Phil. 2:6, 7, NIV).
Jesus did not come as a great and glorious human being, but as a servant of other human beings (Phil. 2:7, NIV).
As a human servant, Jesus did not live a peaceful and long life but became “obedient to death.” But He did not even die in a noble and glorious manner. No, He was “obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8, NIV).
In what areas of life is this example of Jesus a model for us? If rights and equality are good and should be protected, how would you explain the logic of sometimes needing to give them up? Now read Philippians 2:9. In what way does this verse help us to understand the logic of submission to the Father’s will?
Pray for wisdom from the Holy Spirit, asking, “What rights am I holding on to right now that actually might be a barrier to submitting to Jesus’ will in serving my family, my church, and those around me? To what extent am I willing to endure discomfort to serve others more effectively?”
Monday ↥ September 12
Many Christians sincerely seek to know God’s will for their lives. “If only I could know God’s will for my life, I would sacrifice everything for Him.” But even after promising God this, we still may be confused about what His will is. The reason for this confusion may be found in Romans 12:1, 2. Paul is describing how we can know God’s will, and he makes an important point: if you want to know what God’s will is, you have to sacrifice first!
Read Romans 12:1, 2. Paul writes that we will be able to “test and approve what God’s will is” (Rom. 12:2, NIV) when:
It is only the renewed mind that truly can understand God’s will. But this renewal hinges on our death to self first. It was not enough that Christ simply suffered for us — He had to die.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas in which you are not completely “dead.” What things does the Holy Spirit need you to give up in order for you to become a “living sacrifice” for God?
When areas of our lives are not completely dead to self, God permits crucibles to bring them to our attention. However, our suffering not only helps us confront our sin — it also gives us an insight into Jesus’ giving Himself up for us. Elisabeth Elliot writes, “The surrender of our heart’s deepest longing is perhaps as close as we come to an understanding of the cross … . our own experience of crucifixion, though immeasurably less than our Savior’s, nonetheless furnishes us with a chance to begin to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings. In every form of our own suffering, He calls us to that fellowship.” — Quest for Love (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1996), p. 182.
Read and pray over Romans 12:1, 2. Think about the things you need to give up in order for you to become a sacrifice. How does this help you to understand the sufferings Jesus faced for you on the cross? How can this knowledge help you enter into fellowship with Jesus and His sufferings?
Tuesday ↥ September 13
“The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening’” (1 Sam. 3:10, NIV).
Have you ever heard that still small voice of the Holy Spirit but ignored it? Consequently, everything went wrong, and you thought to yourself later, Oh no, why didn’t I listen?
First Samuel describes a story of an old man and two wicked sons who didn’t listen to the Lord and a little boy who did. Though there were strong warnings from God, those who needed to change their course didn’t.
Read their story in 1 Samuel 2:12-3:18. What contrast is made apparent here between those who listen to God and those who don’t?
Eli’s sons had other things on their minds than the things of God. And even when Eli, after hearing what God wanted, spoke to his sons, he didn’t seem to do anything else. And his sons were obviously not ready to submit the details of their lives to God’s will. What a contrast with the young Samuel!
Preacher Charles Stanley describes how essential it is to cultivate openness to God’s voice in what he calls “shifting into neutral.” He says: “The Holy Spirit … does not speak for the sake of passing along information. He speaks to get a response. And He knows when our agenda has such a large slice of our attention that it is a waste of time to suggest anything to the contrary. When that is the case, He is often silent. He waits for us to become neutral enough to hear and eventually obey.” — The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), pp. 179, 180.
What do you think Stanley means by becoming “neutral enough”? When you think about your openness to God, what things often prevent you from being “neutral enough to hear and eventually obey”? What do you need to do in your life to cultivate openness to God’s voice and a decisiveness to be obedient to His direction?
Wednesday ↥ September 14
When Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, it wasn’t simply because she doubted God’s word. At the heart of the problem was her belief that she had enough wisdom to decide for herself what was good and right. She trusted her own judgment. When we rely on our own judgment as opposed to trusting God’s Word, we open ourselves up to all sorts of problems.
The story of Saul describes the steps to self-reliance and the tragedy that so quickly follows. Samuel anointed Saul as God’s king (1 Sam. 10:1). Then he gave Saul specific instructions (1 Sam. 10:8), but Saul disobeyed.
Read the next part of the story in 1 Samuel 13:1-14. What did Saul do that led to his own downfall?
There are three steps that led Saul down the road to self-reliance so soon after having been made king. The problem is that none of the steps were that bad in themselves. Yet, they contained the seeds of tragedy because they were each taken independently of God. Notice the order in which Saul’s fall occurred.
All of us have done this: we rely on our own human eyesight, which leads us to rely on our own human thinking, which leads us to rely on our own human feelings. And then we act on these feelings.
Why do you think it was so easy for Saul to follow his own judgment, even though he had God’s clear instructions still ringing in his ears? If we know that we are so fragile and have such imperfect knowledge, why do we still try to rely on ourselves? What can we do to learn to trust in the Lord’s commands more than in ourselves?
Thursday ↥ September 15
As we saw yesterday, submission to God’s will can be undermined as we rely on our own strength. It also is possible to rely on other substitutes for God. When some people feel depressed, they go shopping for something to make them happy. When some feel inadequate, they pursue fame. When others have difficulties with their spouse, they look for someone else to give them intimacy and excitement.
Many of the things we use can relieve the pressure, but they do not necessarily solve the problem nor teach us how to handle the situation better the next time. Only supernatural help from God can do that. The problem is that many times we depend on substitutes for God rather than on God Himself.
Here are three substitutes that we may use instead of God:
Zechariah helps us to focus on what really matters when we are tempted to use substitutes. After many years away, the exiles had finally returned from Babylon and immediately began to rebuild the temple. But there is an incredible amount of opposition to this (some background can be found in Ezra 4-6). So Zechariah came with this message of encouragement to Zerubbabel, who was leading the work.
Read this message in Zechariah 4. What does God mean in Zechariah 4:6? How could the completion of a building project be affected by the Holy Spirit? What does this teach us about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the practical things that we do?
God did not prevent the opposition to the temple nor spare Zerubbabel from the stress of dealing with it. And God will not always protect us from opposition. But when opposition comes, God may use it as a crucible to teach us to depend on Him.
When stress comes, what’s your first reaction? Food? Television? Prayer? Submission to God? What does your answer tell you about yourself and the things you need to learn or to change?
Friday ↥ September 16
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Eli and His Sons,” pp. 575-580, and “The Presumption of Saul,” pp. 616-626, in Patriarchs and Prophets.
Submission to God’s will comes as we die to our own desires and ambitions. This opens the way for true service to others. We cannot live for God without becoming a sacrifice and living in continual openness to God’s voice. For us truly to submit our wills to our Father’s will, we must recognize the dangers of relying on ourselves and on substitutes for God’s Word and power. As submission to God’s will is at the heart of a Christlike life, God may allow crucibles to teach us dependence on Him.
“The neglect of Eli is brought plainly before every father and mother in the land. As the result of his unsanctified affection or his unwillingness to do a disagreeable duty, he reaped a harvest of iniquity in his perverse sons. Both the parent who permitted the wickedness and the children who practiced it were guilty before God, and He would accept no sacrifice or offering for their transgression.” — Ellen G. White, Child Guidance, p. 276.
The day of Father’s baptism finally arrived, and he arrived with Mother and Junior at Manaus Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, a larger church where the baptism would be held, in Manaus, Brazil. About 400 people were seated in the main sanctuary. Pastor Sergio Alan A. Caxeta, president of the Adventist Church’s Central Amazon Conference, whose territory includes Manaus, asked Mother how she felt as she and Junior took a seat on the front row. “We’re fine,” she said, smiling happily.
The pastor acknowledged feeling uneasy until that very afternoon. Then he had prayed, “Lord, please help me. I’m not sure about my own strength. I want Your peace so I can have the certainty that Your power is here when I baptize Eduardo.” After the prayer, all doubt had vanished.
Ricardo Coelho, pastor of the family’s Alpha Community Church, led Father to the second floor, where seats were reserved for Alpha’s 300 members. Father greeted Dilma Araujos dos Santos and her son Clifferson, who first introduced the family to the Adventist Church, and the others. Then Pastor Ricardo asked Father to return downstairs to don a baptismal gown.
As Father descended the stairs, a man suddenly darted up and rushed toward him. Father turned to look at the man and, as their eyes met, the man’s pupils slid up into his head and his eyes went white. Then the man fell down and writhed on the stairs. “I’ve been ordered to kill him!” he shrieked.
Concealed in a pocket, the man was carrying a small dagger, the type that Father once had used to sacrifice animals at the temple. But before the man could pull out the dagger, Pastor Ricardo and several other men lifted him up and led him to a backroom, where they found the weapon.
A short time later, Father waded into the baptismal pool. Alpha church members sang a hymn from the second floor as he went under the water.
Afterward, Pastor Ricardo told the congregation about the attempted attack and invited a physician, Luiz, up to the front to speak. Luiz, who had examined the attacker in the backroom, was a frequent guest at the church but had never committed his life to Jesus. “I didn’t understand the reality of the great controversy between Christ and Satan until today,” he said, his voice shaking. “I saw it right here. Praise the Lord that nothing bad happened. It was God’s power.” He began to weep. “As a cardiologist, I felt for the attacker’s pulse,” he said. “I have never seen anything so abnormal. His pulse was too fast. No human could have such a high pulse rate and live.”
The experience changed Luiz’s life, and he decided to be baptized.
The knife attacker, it turned out, had struggled with satanic possession for some time. The evil spirits left when a pastor gave him Bible studies several months later. Through Father’s baptism, at least two souls were led to Jesus.
Your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help open eight churches in the South American Division, including four in Brazil, where Father (Eduardo Ferreira dos Santos) and his family live.
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