June 5 - 11
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 22:31; 1 Pet. 5:6-11.
MEMORY TEXT: "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God"' (Matthew 4:4, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: How did the coming of the Messiah affect Satan's activity?
BORN IN HOSTILE TERRITORY. Last week we studied how through spiritualism Satan attempts to take advantage of our desire for spiritual oneness with God in order to defeat the plan of salvation. Spiritualism is not the only way Satan tried to destroy the plan of salvation. He also tried to make Christ sin while He lived on earth. When the Son of God took on human nature, Satan thought he could at least defeat Him as he did Adam. Satan's ultimate aim, however, was to kill Him.
Herod's reign was full of bloodshed. He even killed members of his own family to stay on the throne. The news that a baby king was born not far from Jerusalem infuriated him. He was determined to kill this new rival, no matter what the consequences. What part did Satan play in using Herod's perverted nature to try to destroy the newly born Son of God? (see Rev. 12:1-5, 9). What indication do we have that Herod passed on his character traits to his son? (see Matt. 2:19-22).
As you study this week's lesson, try to identify your character weaknesses. What can you do to prevent Satan from taking advantage of these weaknesses and rendering you unable to claim salvation?
What did Jesus mean when He said that He must be "about My Father's business" (Luke 2:42-49)?
As a servant, Jesus laid aside the full use of His divine powers (Phil. 2:7). His mind and body developed according to the laws of childhood. He gained knowledge as all humans do. To say that Jesus "grew in wisdom" does not detract from His deity. His intimate acquaintance with Scripture shows how diligently His mother taught Him and how much of His early years He spent studying the Word of God. Early training and the right education have a powerful influence in shaping the conscience and thinking. Conscience can become insensitive to spiritual things and can even harden against truth (1 Tim. 4:1, 2). In His early years, Jesus' conscience was shaped by His mother, who under the guidance of the Holy Spirit taught Him from Scripture.
List reasons why Jesus chose not to study under the rabbis (John 7:15).
What would have happened to Jesus if He had received a rabbinical training?
The rabbis were surprised that Jesus was so well informed. They believed being truly educated meant receiving an education from a recognized teacher and closely associating with that teacher in service to him. Self-education was considered vastly inferior to such training.
It was Satan's intention to shape Jesus' mind and conscience through false education. He knows that the human conscience can be trained and that through it he can control human behavior. This he attempted to do with Jesus. But Jesus rightly refused to be trained in the customs and traditions of the rabbis.
"In the days of Christ the established teachers instructed men in the traditions of the fathers, in childish fables, mingled with the opinions of those who they thought were high authorities. Yet neither high nor low could discern any ray of light in their teaching. ... He rescued truth from its obscurity, and set it in its proper framework, to shine in its original luster."Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 183, 184.
Explain why the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. Matt. 4:1, 2.
The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, or tested. In Scripture "tempting" or "testing" can mean to reveal or develop character as well as to invite to do evil. In the case of Jesus, it meant both. For us to "tempt" or "test" God is wrong because it reflects a lack of faith. In Jesus' experience, God clearly purposed to test Him just as Israel was tested. And Jesus' responses prove that He knew what Israel's wilder-ness experience was all about. (See The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 112.)
Some Christians believe that Christ could not have been overcome by temptation. But unless there is a possibility of yielding, temptation is not temptation. Christ could not have been tempted in all points as we are (Heb. 4:15) if He could not or would not have sinned. Christ experienced to the fullest extent what we experience when striving against sin. That is why He understands us and why we can come to Him to find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). "He not only became an exile from the heavenly courts, but for us took the risk of failure and eternal loss."The Desire of Ages, p. 131.
What basic needs of human nature did Satan appeal to when he tempted Christ? Explain what Jesus meant by the responses He gave. Matt. 4:3-10.
Now match the following texts with the temptations:
|1st: Health and life||_______ A. 1 Chron. 21:1-8|
|2nd: Spiritual pride||_______ B. Ezek. 16:48-50|
|3rd: Wealth||_______ C. Job 2:1-10|
Principles we can learn from Christ's experience in the wilderness include the following: (1) Obedience is more important than physical survival. (2) God's rescuing power is not something to be experimented with but something to be quietly trusted in from day to day. (3) The plan of salvation allows no room for compromise.
|How has Satan tempted you regarding health and life, spiritual pride, and wealth? How can believing that Jesus was tempted as you are improve your relationship with Him?|
Discuss how the hatred of the Pharisees influenced not only their thinking but Jesus' response. Matt. 9:32-34; 12:24; John 8:48, 49; Matt. 12:26-28.
Human reason is no guarantee of truth. Our likes and dislikes, selfishness, hatred, prejudice, and desire to control can easily influence our thinking (Matt. 15:18-20). "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 16:25, NKJV). God invites us to forsake our thoughts, to come and reason with Him, and to think His thoughts after Him (Isa. 1:18; 55:6-9).
Describe the impact that physical and mental abuse and public shame must have had on the human nature of Christ. Matt. 27:26-29; Luke 23:33-41; Isa. 53:1-6; Heb. 12:1, 2.
Satan did all he could to undermine Christ's human nature in order to get Him to sin. In addition to being scourged twice, people jeered Him because He could not carry the cross. Then He suffered the torture of crucifixion (the most horrible kind of death the Romans could devise). Christ hung on the cross completely naked, exposed to public shame. We cannot comprehend that the Creator of the universe, the Son of God, allowed Himself to be thus exposed and shamed because He loved us so.
With the last ounce of His strength, Christ cried out, "It is finished," "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46; John 19:30). All heaven triumphed in Christ's victory. For the angels and the unfallen beings throughout the universe, the great work of redemption had been accomplished. They, too, share in the fruits of Christ's victory. Satan was now a defeated foe. In Christ, there had been one human being whom he could not defeat, who had not come under his control. The human race was not totally his. His kingdom was lost, and he knew it. (See The Desire of Ages, p. 758.)
How does it make you feel when you contemplate the horrible shame and agony Jesus suffered for you? How does knowing that Christ suffered on your behalf enable you to cope with hardship and persecution when they occur on the job, in the home, or elsewhere?
|How much do you appreciate what He has done for you? How can you better show your appreciation?|
Although Satan knew that he had been defeated by Christ at Calvary and that he had lost his kingdom, his hatred for the human race did not diminish. Instead, he turned this hatred for the gospel and for anyone who accepts Christ as their Saviour and Lord into a rage (Rev. 12:10-12).
Describe the encounter Paul had with Satan during his first missionary journey. Acts 13:4-8.
Belief in fortunetellers and magic is one sign of a declining civilization. So it was in the days of Rome. Even an intelligent man like Sergius Paulus kept private wizards and sorcerers who dealt in magic and spells.
Elymas, on the other hand, was a Jew, who like others of his countrymen, had offered their services to the rich and elite on the basis of the religious prestige of his people and boasted that in addition to the "sacred" books, he had spells and charms that allegedly came from Solomon (see SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 282).
Why did Paul call Elymas "a son of the devil"? Was Paul's severity with Elymas justified? Explain your answer. Acts 13:9-11; John 8:44.
Compare what happened to Elymas with Paul's experience before his conversion. Acts 9:1-18.
Instead of teaching the governor the Jewish faith and helping him to know God, Elymas led him to depend on sorcery and magic. He had perverted the ways of the Lord. Paul was about to teach him that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was displeased with what he had done. Could it be that Paul had his own experience in mind when he pronounced the sentence against Elymas?
"The forces of evil are engaged in unceasing warfare against the agencies appointed for the spread of the gospel and these powers of darkness are especially active when the truth is proclaimed before men of repute and sterling integrity.... But the faithful gospel worker need not fear defeat at the hand of the enemy; for it is his privilege to be endued with power from above to withstand every satanic influence."The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 167, 168.
|In your part of the world, how does the use of fortunetellers and magic mark the decline of civilization?|
Paul's experience at Philippi was not a happy one. Nevertheless, the good news of Jesus Christ continued to spread among the Gentiles.
Describe what the young woman with "the spirit of divination" did to harass Paul. Also, discuss what caused him to be so upset about it. Acts 16:17, 18.
The title "the Most High God" was used not only by the Hebrew people to refer to Yahweh but also by the Greeks of their god Zeus. To Paul, the announcement regarding salvation or the way to be saved meant deliverance from sin. For the people of Philippi, however, salvation meant being delivered from fate. But while Paul and Silas tried to clarify the difference, the young woman's harassment caused the people to be confused. That's when Paul commanded the "evil spirit" to come out of her. Restored to her right mind, the young woman became a Christian and together with Lydia formed the nucleus of the church at Philippi.
Why were Paul and Silas arrested? Describe the sequence of events that led to their vindication and the conversion of the jailer. Acts 16:19-40.
What Paul did for this slave girl was not appreciated by her masters. They were more interested in the commercial gain they lost than they were in the girl's welfare.
"Terrible is the struggle that takes place between the forces of good and of evil in important centers where the messengers of truth are called upon to labor. 'We wrestle not against flesh and blood,' declares Paul, 'but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.' Ephesians 6:12. Till the close of time there will be a conflict between the church of God and those who are under the control of evil angels."The Acts of the Apostles, p. 219.
What lessons can you learn from these experiences that you can apply to your own life? How would you respond if you were unfairly arrested and deprived of your liberty?
|Would you have baptized someone after only one night of instruction? Would you continue to share your faith in a place where you were not wanted? What would you do?|
FURTHER STUDY: For a description of Satan and his work against the gospel and those who claim it, read 1 Peter 5:8. To learn how to protect yourself against his attacks, read Ephesians 6:10-18.
Also read any or all of the following from The Desire of Ages, "Days of Conflict," pp. 84-92; "The Temptation," pp. 114-123; "The Victory," pp. 124-13 1; "Calvary," pp. 741-757; "It Is Finished," pp. 758-764.
"Of the bitterness that falls to the lot of humanity, there was no part which Christ did not taste. There were those who tried to cast contempt upon Him because of His birth, and even in His childhood He had to meet their scornful looks and evil whisperings. If He had responded by an impatient word or look, if He had conceded to His brothers by even one wrong act, He would have failed of being a perfect example. Thus He would have failed of carrying out the plan for our redemption. Had He even admitted that there could be an excuse for sin, Satan would have triumphed, and the world would have been lost. This is why the tempter worked to make His life as trying as possible, that He might be led to sin."The Desire of Ages, p. 88.
SUMMARY: Satan uses every means available in his attempts to bring men and women under his control. He has exploited every human weakness to achieve his ends. His rage is expressly exhibited in the life of Christ and in the experiences of the early church.
Following his baptism, Suleman Samson returned to his job as headmaster of the school in Mundri, South Sudan. He started a branch Sabbath School, but the war made living in Mundri too dangerous. Suleman and his brother Wisely, who also had been baptized, returned to their home village. There they shared their faith and started a church. The war made communication and travel difficult, and it was impossible for a pastor to reach the area to baptize the new believers. Samson and his brother taught the people the best that they could, but some of the believers who were waiting for baptism became discouraged and stopped coming to church.
Samson and Wisely decided to do something. They sent Natana, a young convert, to Juba and on to Khartoum in hopes that he could receive theological training and be ordained.
Three years later the rebel army had regained the territory around the village, and people could again communicate with the outside world. By then Samson and Wisely had planted three churches and prepared 60 believers for baptism. They sent word to church headquarters asking that a pastor come to examine and baptize the new believers. A pastor from Zaire was able to reach the village, and the first baptism in the region in years was planned. Some people walked 70 miles to be baptized. Not everyone was able to attend this baptism, however, and another baptism was planned across the South Sudan border in Uganda. Some people walked up to seven days to reach the baptismal site, more than 300 miles away.
The new members wrote to church headquarters, telling them of their churches and asking for a pastor. Not long afterward Natana, the young man who had gone to Khartoum to study theology, returned to his village to serve as a lay pastor.
Natana wrote proposals to ADRA for agriculture programs and primary schools in the region. Union officials traveled to the region to study the needs and arranged for Global Mission lay preachers to begin working in the region.
(continued next week)
Becki Mercill (left) wrote this story while serving with ADRA/South Sudan. She has since returned to the United States. Sideman Samson is working for Global Mission in Maridi, South Sudan.
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