Lesson 12

* June 14 - 20

Selfless Service

Sabbath Afternoon   June 14

MEMORY TEXT:  "Take heed, and beware of covetousness:  for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth"  (Luke 12:15).

GERMAN PHILOSOPHER Immanuel Kant boiled down life to three great questions: What can I know? What ought I do? What can I hope?

This week's lesson looks at the second question, What ought I do? even though it's tied directly to the answer to the other two questions. We can know that Jesus died for our sins, and we can hope in the promise of eternal life offered us because of His death. And, in the meanwhile, we ought to do what God asks us to do, and that is, live our lives in selfless service for others, as He lived His life for us. As John succinctly expressed it: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16). This isn't always easy, not for beings whose default mode is self, self, self. Only through Christ and an understanding of what we have been given through Him can that change to others, others, others.

THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What have we received from the Lord that we can share with others? How can selfish beings live unselfishly? Why is death to self so important? How do we die to self? What should be our motives for service? What kind of sacrifices must we make for others?  

*Please study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 21.

Sunday  June 15


"And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:7, 8).  

Heal the sick, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils, preach about the kingdom of God. What's important here isn't so much the specifics of what Christ told His disciples to do but the motives behind their actions. In a sense, what Jesus said to them was, Look what God has done for you. Now, using the power of God, go do the same for others.

Of course, what Christ has done for us, that is, redeemed us from death, is something that we cannot do for anyone else. But just as Jesus ministered to others and gave of Himself for them, we can do the same. What Christ has given us, He has given to us freely (even though it cost Him so much); we, too, then, should be willing to give freely to others. Here is the heart and soul of Christian service.

Write out what we have received from God and the texts you find that reveal what we have been given:

Example: Forgiveness of sin (Eph. 1:7).  

When we think about all that Christ has done for us; when we realize the security, the hope, the promises, the peace, and all that we have received, by grace; how could we not want to give to others? As we make Christ a reality in our lives; as we experience for ourselves His grace, mercy, and forgiveness; as we know for ourselves the joy of what it means to love and serve the Lord, we will have the right motives in wanting to share our blessings with those who need them, as well.

Of all the blessings we have been given from Christ, what are those we can give to others? What are those we can't give but can merely tell about?  

Monday  June 16


"If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, he must be your slave-like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people" (Matt. 20:26-28, TEV).  

If you want to be great, you must become a servant? If you want to be first, you must become the lowest, even a slave? Look at how Jesus here totally undermines worldly concepts of greatness.

The context of Christ's statement was a mother's request that her two sons would have the two positions of honor in His kingdom (see Matt. 20:20-23). She was covetous for the advancement and success of her sons. Yet, James and John themselves were party to the request. Their mother did not make the request without their knowledge. The Bible says that they came with her (vs. 20). They shared her desire that they be given position and power. The reaction of the other ten disciples reveals that they were not immune from the same desire. Their anger on hearing what had transpired reveals that they begrudged their two colleagues the positions to which they aspired.

One can only wonder, Had not all those years of being with Jesus, and seeing His self-abnegation and self-denial all for the good of others, had any effect on these people?

Read carefully what Jesus said (in the texts for today). He used Himself as an example of what He meant. In what ways did Jesus lower Himself to serve others? Give some specific examples; and in what ways can we, in our own spheres, emulate those examples? (See, for instance, Mark 6:37-44; Luke 22:31, 32; John 13:5.)  

Jesus (in the texts for today) made it so clear that greatness came not from being first, not from being the richest, the smartest, the most spiritual, or religious but from a willingness to serve others.

Think of His words in the context of the great controversy. Sin began with Satan seeking more than he already had, seeking a greater position for himself. Here is the foundation of sin, of rebellion. No wonder, then, Jesus told us that true greatness comes from doing the opposite, from being willing to serve others, to minister to them, to be willing to become a "slave," the lowest rung on the ladder.

Who wants to be a slave?  Who wants to lower oneself?  These are not natural tendencies in human nature What is the only way we can do these things that Jesus asks of us?  

Tuesday  June 17


"He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matt. 10:38, 39).  

How much easier our religion would be if we had only a few clear-cut simple rules to follow. Don't steal, don't kill, don't commit adultery, and so forth. But Jesus brought the law to a higher level than a mere outward compliance to a few "do's" and "don'ts." He elevated the written code to where it reaches the inner sanctum of our soul, to where it echoes through the fiber of our entire being. He so magnified the law, bringing out elements in it far beyond the immediate words themselves that, in and of ourselves, we could never follow it. Its demands are too high, its standard beyond our reach, at least without divine aid. Something greatly has to change in us in order for us to be able to obey. And that change comes when we, through the power of God, die to self and become new creatures in Christ.

What is Jesus saying in the above texts? What does it mean to lose our life for Christ's sake? Why must we, in a sense, die in order to serve Christ? See also Luke 9:23; Rom. 6:1-8; Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:13, 20; 2 Tim. 2:11.  

We are fallen beings, and our basic nature is selfishness. We are all big babies, for just as babies think only of themselves and their immediate needs, we do the same, only a bit more subtly. That's why, in order to be what Christ wants us to be-a servant to others-we need to die to self, and we can do this only at the foot of the Cross, where we make a conscious choice to surrender all to Jesus, to die to ourselves and our selfishness and live, instead, for Him.

As we, through the power of the Spirit, experience this death, we can then live in Christ and through Him serve and minister to others. However, this is a choice we have to make, a choice that often comes with a severe battle against the carnal nature. But only then will we be able to minister as we have been ministered to. Only as we are filled with the fullness of what we have been given can we give to others.

Jesus said a person must lose his or her life in order to find it. What does it mean to "find it"? How does service to others play into the idea of finding one's life?  

Wednesday  June 18


As these verses show, John the Baptist was involved in a head-on collision with the spirit of a world whose motto was to get all you can out of life for yourself. John replied, in effect, "That spirit is of Satan, of fallen human nature. The spirit of your Master is not to get all you can but to give all you can give."

How is the divine principle, implicit in John's words, illustrated in the plan of salvation as revealed in Romans 8:32?  

In many ways, the principle is so simple. Look what has been done for us as sinful, helpless, needy beings. It was the ultimate condescension for God to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. As a result, He asks us to do for others what, perhaps, they cannot do for themselves, at least, in their present state.

How would you respond to someone who says, "Look, I give a lot of money each year to charity.  Isn't that enough?"  

While giving to charity is fine, that's not the essence of Christian giving. Even atheists give to charity. In some ways, that's easy. Just write a check, and your conscience is covered.

The Bible reveals that the spirit of giving does not consist merely of giving money. It involves the giving of ourselves-of our time, our talents, our compassion, and our love. It means caring, and caring means expending your own time and energy for someone else. It means suffering with the suffering, weeping with the weeping; and weeping and suffering demand something of yourself beyond the loose change in your pockets.

In Christ's story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the injured man needed more than sympathy. He needed someone's time, someone's care, someone's money. The priest and the Levite were too selfish to give time and attention. Perhaps they were in a rush to do some religious activity. Maybe they were in a rush to get home in time for the Sabbath!

In what ways does giving to others help us understand in our own lives what we have been given by God? How does unselfish ministry for others strengthen our faith?  

Thursday  June 19

APOSTOLIC CHRISTIANITY (Acts 2:44, 45; 4:34, 35).

Whatever difficulties this type of arrangement might lead to in modem practical application, one thing is certain: The members of the early church had their priorities straight. To them the things of the spirit far outweighed in importance the things of the flesh. Temporal considerations were made subservient to the eternal. The interests of the group superseded those of the individual. The church and its mission were their number-one concern. It is mind boggling to contemplate what could happen if the church today were, even in part, to recapture that apostolic outlook.

Read carefully the texts for today. What specifically are the people doing? What principles are seen there that we can draw, and apply, to our own experience today?  

The important thing to remember, too, is not only what good the giving of their money did for those who received it but what it did for those who gave. To sell your goods or give them to others is an act of faith, and every act of faith can only strengthen faith. There was no saving merit in what they gave; the giving could never save them (no one ever possessed enough goods for that). The giving merely showed that they understood what they had already received, and these acts were expressions of thanks-expressions of people so close to the Lord that they trusted Him for all things, even to the point of selling their possessions and giving to others. Talk about faith! Talk about a people who had experienced a death to self!

In what ways does paying a faithful tithe express this same principle?  

The spirit manifested by these early Christians exists even today. How many people, heeding the prompting of the Holy Spirit, have given up all their worldly comforts to spend years of their lives as missionaries, be it in some distant jungle or in some concrete jungle? In fact, the giving up of our material comforts could be even one of the lesser sacrifices that we make in service to others.

No doubt, the giving up of material possessions in service to others involves sacrifice. But what are other things—even more precious than material things—that people have sacrificed in selfless service? Explain why you think these are even more of a sacrifice than material goods?  

Friday  June 20

FURTHER STUDY: Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 190, 191; Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 93-101 (Scroll to p. 93).

The spirit of unselfish labor for others gives depth, stability, and Christlike loveliness to the character, and brings peace and happiness to its possessor. The aspirations are elevated. There is no room for sloth or selfishness. Those who thus exercise the Christian graces will grow and will become strong to work for God. They will have clear spiritual perceptions, a steady, growing faith, and an increased power in prayer. The Spirit of God, moving upon their spirit, calls forth the sacred harmonies of the soul in answer to the divine touch. Those who thus devote themselves to unselfish effort for the good of others are most surely working out their own salvation."—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 80.

At the Passover feast, "Christ would have His disciples understand that although He had washed their feet, this did not in the least detract from His dignity. . . . And being so infinitely superior, He imparted grace and significance to the service. No one was so exalted as Christ, and yet He stooped to the humblest duty. That His people might not be misled by the selfishness which dwells in the natural heart, and which strengthens by self-serving, Christ Himself set the example of humility. He would not leave this great subject in man's charge. Of so much consequence did He regard it, that He Himself, One equal with God, acted as servant to His disciples. While they were contending for the highest place, He to whom every knee shall bow, He whom the angels of glory count it honor to serve, bowed down to wash the feet of those who called Him Lord. He washed the feet of His betrayer. .

"[Jesus'] whole life was under a law of service. He served all, ministered to all. Thus He lived the law of God, and by His example showed how we are to obey it."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 649.  

Why are motives so important for the Christian who serves others? Can we give for the wrong reasons? If so, what could some of those reasons be? Also, if motives are important, why must we have a proper understanding of salvation by grace alone in order to have right motives? Otherwise, could there be the danger of thinking that our generosity to others is a means of earning salvation? Discuss.  

InSide Story

From Death, Life

J. H. Zachary

Raymund Luntungan and his mother heard the news by radio. An airplane carrying his brother and father had crashed in the jungles of Indonesia. Raymund prayed for 12 days that God would help the rescuers find them alive. Then the news arrived, "No survivors."

Raymund's father had been the head elder in their church. His brother was a good Christian boy. Over and over 13-year-old Raymund asked God "Why?" But no answer came, and Raymund became angry with God.

In time Raymund's mother remarried. But Raymund, still bitter, began to rebel. He started smoking then drinking. Desperate, his mother sent him to the Adventist college. But Raymund did not fit in. Beneath the surface the questions remained. Why had God let his father and brother die?

A church pastor took a special interest in Raymund. One day he offered to take Raymund to Mountain View College in the Philippines. Raymund jumped at the chance to get away from home, to start over. After a short flight and a long bus ride, Raymund and the pastor arrived at the college.

Raymund enrolled in the business course at Mountain View. He found the staff and students warm and friendly. Raymund learned that most of the popular students were members of the ministerial seminary, and he decided to join too. Every weekend they visited churches in nearby villages. In his efforts to help others, Raymund began to find healing for his own wounded heart. He mastered many Bible topics so he could share with others the truths his father had loved.

"In serving others, I found Jesus as my own Friend and Sayiour," Raymund said. He wrote home, telling his mother that her prayers were being answered. During his year at Mountain View College, Raymund's ministerial team was assigned to pastor a village church. Raymund and his ministerial team praise God for the scores of persons who have come to Jesus through their work.

Raymund decided to stay at Mountain View College to complete his education. He has asked Christ, whom he once shunned, to be his partner for life and to help him win many souls for God's kingdom.

J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour.

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