Lesson 7

May 8 - 14

The Restoration of Human Nature


MEMORY TEXT:  "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9, NKJV).

KEY QUESTIONS: When was the plan of salvation made? When was it implemented?

Sabbath Afternoon   May 8

HEART-WRENCHING DECISION. God knew before He created humans that they would sin. But if God drew back from the creation He had planned because of the pain He knew would be His, He would not be the God of love we witness in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. If love is unwilling to continue loving in the face of suffering, then that love is not the kind of love on which to build a relationship; but God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to save the fallen race.

"Before the Father He [Jesus] pleaded in the sinner's behalf, while the host of heaven awaited the result with an intensity of interest that words cannot express. Long continued was that mysterious communing, 'the council of peace' (Zech. 6:13) for the fallen sons of men. The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world' (Rev. 13:8); yet it was a struggle, even with the King of the universe, to yield up his Son to die for the guilty race."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 63.

There is no stronger evidence than Calvary that God cares. As you study this week's lesson, continually ask yourself how such love can make a difference in your life.  

Sunday  May 9

GOD'S GIFT (Rom. 6:16-23).

What happened to the human will the instant Adam and Eve sinned? Rom. 6:16. Compare this verse with Luke 4:16-19.  

As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, their nature became evil. They became slaves of Satan ready to do his bidding, not because they were compelled to do so, but because they were willing to do so. However, "the instant man accepted the temptations of Satan, and did the very things God had said he should not do, Christ, the Son of God, stood between the living and the dead, saying, 'Let the punishment fall on Me. "'—Ellen G. White Comments, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1085.

When the image of God in Adam and Eve was shattered, they were unable to go back to God on their own, regardless of any desire for goodness that remained in them. If left alone they would have made an alliance with Satan against God. But at that same instant, God reached down and by His grace implanted in human nature a general revulsion against Satan and sin. This in turn would enable women and men to choose to accept the promise of salvation that would be consummated by Jesus Christ when He would die in their place.

The various aspects of God's grace are:
General Grace—This is the Creator's care that sustains all life and exercises control over human society.
Prevenient Grace—This is God's initiative on behalf of a sinful race that enables them to choose to believe.
Salvation Grace—This is the grace by which God saves, justifies, sanctifies, and restores.
Sufficient Grace—God's grace is adequate to save and is sufficient for all our needs into eternity. (See P.E. Hughes,"Grace," Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, pp. 479-482.)

How does the story of the prodigal son show us each of these aspects of God's grace?  

Make a list of moments when you personally experienced each of these aspects of grace. Refer to it in times of discouragement. Plan to share your list with someone when he or she comes to you discouraged.  

Be able to explain to someone why people cannot say they are Christians simply because they have the power to choose to be saved.  

Monday  May 10

PROMISE, REALITY, AND HOPE (Gen. 3:15; 22:1-18; Rom. 4:20-22; Gal. 3:16, 29; Heb. 6:17, 18; 2 Pet. 3:13).

All through the Old Testament, men and women of faith looked forward to and longed for the Messiah. All through the Old Testament, and still to Jewish people today, the Messiah was and is the Desire of all Ages. To the Christian, Jesus Christ is the Messiah; and some day people everywhere will see Him as the Desire of all Nations (Hag. 2:6, 7).

The entire plan of salvation is built on God's trustworthiness. The message throughout Scripture is that we can trust God. What He says He will do, and what He promises He will fulfill. The New Testament is the story of the fulfillment of the promise. What was promised has now happened. That is Paul's message. Reality has broken into the stream of history. Christ has come, died, and risen again. According to His promise, we can look for a new heaven and a new earth.

Old Testament
The Messiah will come.
Sins will be paid for.
Redemption is based on promise.

Old Testament
Faith meant accepting
the promise of the future.
They looked forward to Christ's first/second coming.

Assurance came from God's truthfulness.

New Testament
The Messiah has come.
Sins have been paid for.
Redemption is based on reality.

New Testament
Faith means accepting the promise fulfilled.
The saints are looking forward to Christ's second coming.
Assurance comes from
God's truthfulness.

What understanding of the need of the human condition is common to the following texts? Heb. 6:19, 20; Titus 2:13; Rom. 5:1, 2; 8:18-25; 1 Cor. 13:13.  

Within the human heart there is a divinely implanted restlessness. As Augustine said, "Our souls are restless until we find our rest in Thee." Not only human nature but all of creation groans for the restoration promised in Christ Jesus. This is what gives us security, confidence, perseverance, and hope. Without this quartet, we find ourselves in despair. But praise God! We have been redeemed.

Out of what present despair can security, confidence, perseverance, and hope in God's promise of salvation lift you? 

Tuesday  May 11

COSTLY BUT FREE (Isa. 55:1; Matt. 22:1-14; Rom. 3:23, 24; Eph. 2:8, 9; Rev. 22:17).

The parable in Matthew 22:1-14 is based on two parables the rabbis often told. Read all three parables. (The parables the rabbis told immediately follow this question.) Now compare the parable Jesus told with the two the rabbis told. What is the focus of Jesus' parable regarding the robe?   

What is the focus of the rabbis' parables regarding the robe?  

The rabbis' first parable tells of a king who invited guests to a feast without giving them the exact date. But he did tell them they must wash, anoint, and clothe themselves so they would be ready when his final summons came. Those who were wise immediately prepared and waited at the palace door. The foolish guests thought they had ample time before the king would issue the final summons and felt they could make the necessary preparations quickly. So they went about their business. The final summons came suddenly. Because they were not ready, the king did not allow them to enter.

The second rabbinical parable tells the story of how a king entrusted his servants with royal robes to be won when he would summon them to come into his presence. The wise carefully stored these robes away to preserve their loveliness. Those who were foolish wore their royal robes to work. Thus they became soiled and stained. Suddenly the summons came to return the robes to the king. The wise handed their robes back to the king in their original beauty. The foolish gave them back dirty. The king was angry and cast the foolish into prison.—William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2 (Philadelphia, Penn.: The Westminster Press, 1955), pp. 296-298.

What understanding of human responsibility is common to the following texts? Isa. 55:1; Rom. 3:23, 24; Eph. 2:8, 9; Rev. 22:7. 

The Greek word translated in Romans 3:24 as "justified" is an expression used in courts of law. To justify someone was to treat that person as innocent and acquit him or her. The point of this passage is that men and women appear before God guilty, but He justifies them as being innocent. (See Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, pp. 53, 54.)

When we claim Christ as our Saviour, God justifies us as being innocent even though we are guilty.  Does this mean He excuses sin?  

Wednesday  May 12

HUMAN NATURE REMADE (Jer. 13:23; John 1:12, 13; 3:1-8; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Pet. 1:22, 23).

The new birth is not simply a new outlook on life, a recovery from a traumatic physical, mental, or social experience followed by a new beginning, or a change of habits, behavior, or career. The biblical expression new birth has to do with our inner being and may involve some, if not all, of the above. However, it concerns itself primarily with our spiritual nature.

The Greek word translated again has three different meanings:
1. a radical, complete change going back to the beginning;
2. born a second time; and
3. changed from above, from God.

At first glance, it seems that Nicodemus took the meaning of the word again in its second sense. He had an inexpressible, unsatisfied longing that he did not know how to satisfy in his heart. He knew he needed a change. But that was as impossible as a grown man being physically born again. He was up against an eternal problem: How can people who want to change be changed when they cannot change themselves? The answer Jesus gave was not new to the Jews or to the Greeks. Using various expressions to convey the same idea, Paul speaks of it throughout his epistles (Rom. 6:1-11; 1 Cor. 3:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 4:22-24; and it is found in Heb. 5:12-14). In fact, the concept runs through the entire New Testament. (See Barclay, The Gospel of John, [Philadelphia, Penn.: The Westminster Press, 1956], vol. 1, pp. 113-116.)

Explain the meaning of 2 Corinthians 5:17 in light of John 3:1-8.  

Through the creative energy of the Holy Spirit, people who accept Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord become "new creatures." Their new nature is not the product of moral virtue inherent in a human that simply requires development. Neither is this new nature the product of desire or resolution to do right, the mental assent to certain doctrines, nor a sorrow for wrongdoing. The new birth means to be created anew in the likeness of Christ. (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 868.)

Read the description of people before they are born again in Galations 5:19-21.  Then read the description of people after they are born again in verses 22-26.  Now think of two or three words that describe what the world could be if everyone were born again.  

Thursday  May 13

SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT (Mark 4:26-29; 1 Cor. 13:11; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Pet. 2:1-3).

In light of Mark 4:26-29, how do you understand the process of spiritual growth and development?  

The laws of nature apply to humans as well as to plants and animals. The same laws that govern our physical growth and well-being govern our spiritual development. The word sanctification means "to be set apart," "to make holy." In this sense, we become saints as soon as we accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord (Heb. 10:10; Luke 23:39-43).

The word sanctification also describes the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. Each and every day of our lives we depend on Him, lean on Him for help, especially in time of need (Heb. 4:15, 16).

Compare Philippians 1:6 with 2:12 in light of Galatians 4:1, 2. How do you reconcile these two passages? 

God is not a permissive, noncaring parent. Because God loves us He disciplines us. He does not discipline us in order to make us persons He can love. He loved us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8-10). God is not against us but for us (John 3:17). He will do all in His power to make us more and more like Himself. This was His goal when He created Adam and Eve. He began this same process in us when we accepted Christ not only as our Saviour but as Lord of our lives.

"God takes men as they are, with the human elements in their character, and trains them for His service, if they will be disciplined and learn of Him. They are not chosen because they are perfect, but notwithstanding their imperfections, that through the knowledge and practice of the truth, through the grace of Christ, they may become transformed into His image."—The Desire of Ages, p. 294.

Our human nature is such that God's discipline can cause pain, confusion, and discouragement. When God disciplines you, what can you do to prevent discouragement? 

Explain how daily habits of prayer, Bible study , etc. can be especially helpful to you in preventing feelings of melancholy and depression that often beset you in times of discouragement.  What precious promises from the Holy Scriptures do you especially draw strength from during the dark periods of life?  

Friday May 14

FURTHER STUDY:  What is involved in spiritual growth? Are there stages of faith as there are stages of physical development? What stages of faith did Paul have? Or is there one stage that deepens? (See Philippians 3:12-14.)

Read The Sanctified Life, "True and False Theories Contrasted," pp. 7-17.  

1. After studying this week's lesson how would you answer the Key Questions in Sabbath's lesson ? 
2. Discuss the thoughts contained in this paragraph. Do you agree or disagree? Why, or why not? "In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses teleios to exhort the believers to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). This use of the future tense indicates a moral obligation, however, and not an absolute perfection identical to that of God. Jesus is emphasizing the need for having the right attitudes of love which are acceptable to God, not the accomplishment of perfect conduct."Perfection, Perfectionism," Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 839  
3. Today we hear the expression "tough love" as contrasted with permissive love. Why is the latter not true love? In what ways does God show His "tough love"? What does such love reveal about Him? 
4. What are some distinctions between absolute perfection and relative perfection? How do you understand this statement from Ellen White- "As God is perfect in His high sphere of action, so man may be perfect in his human sphere"?Counsels to Teachers, and Students, p. 365.  

SUMMARY: Even before Adam and Eve sinned, God had established a plan that would save them. This plan proves His great love for us. When we accept Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, the plan of salvation helps us to grow spiritually. Such growth essentially involves developing a Christlike character.  

A Happy Soul Winner

J. H. Zachary

Manju Bala is a happy Christian. For five years she attended an Adventist School. Her Hindu parents were pleased with the high level of moral training Manju was receiving. When Manju turned 11 she felt that she must make a decision. She carefully compared her Hindu faith with what she was learning from the Bible in her Christian school. She decided to follow Jesus.

She was baptized and began to share her new joy with her brother and sister, Safus and Beauty. How happy she was when they followed her in baptism. Manju prayed earnestly for her mother and rejoiced when her mother made her decision for Jesus.

In 1995 Manju, then 16 years old, learned about the Sathsumila Lay Training School in Bangladesh, where lay persons were trained to share their faith more effectively. She enrolled in classes to study health evangelism, small group ministries, and evangelism methods for reaching Muslims and Hindus. When she completed her studies, she was assigned to work in a village near the school.

Manju goes from home to home, talking with the farmers and day laborers who live in the village, looking for people w o are interested in a better spiritual life. God is using her gentle ways and her winning smile to open doors.

Her first efforts were directed to helping people stop smoking. When she heard the excuse, "I have tried to stop, but I can't," Manju would say, "Please try one more time. I will pray to the living God in heaven to help you put away this dangerous habit." For several it worked.

As friendships develop Manju begins Bible studies. She uses an old picture roll to illustrate Bible stories for her students as she leads them through their Bible lessons.

By camp meeting time, five of Manju's Bible students had been baptized, and three more were baptized during camp meeting. Twenty-five others attend her Bible classes and Sabbath services. When asked if she needs anything, Manju smiled. "Please pray for me. I would like to plant a church this year."


Manju Bala (left) lives and works for God in a village in Bangladesh. J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.

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