Shedding Light on the Great Controversy
The biblical tale of the great controversy is enough to show you that something was wrong somewhere, which led to this pain and suffering and uncertainty that we experience in the world today. Perhaps you have a friend or you know of a person who is still in the dark about the great controversy. God wants you to shed light on the origin of the duel, how we are involved in it, and how we can come out of its web.
The Ten Commandment law expresses God’s loving character and gives us the rationale for our conduct as Christians. God gave us the Ten Commandments to restore us, to set us free, and help us survive in a world engulfed in sin. For this reason the Bible stands out as the only vessel that will steer us back to the direction of God. The Bible will help us to interpret the world and set for us a guideline for Christian living.
God wants you to understand His character through His written Word. As His child, you have a mission to accomplish, to reenergize your love for Him and apply the Bible suitably in all areas of your life.
DISCIPLE IN ACTION
In some parts of the world, Christianity is dying and the use of Bible has been neglected. With your accountability partner, share how you will do a mission this week to promote the world of God in the areas where it is dying.
Choose one commandment of God that appeals to you most. Share with your partner how you will apply this commandment practically in your life for the next three weeks and encourage others to do the same.
In your prayer time, thank God for His love for you despite your sinful nature.
Pray about three factors which may be hindering your better understanding of the great controversy.
Ask God to give you the insight and power to resist the temptation of pride and selfishness.
The spirit and letter of the Ten Commandment law
Considered as the basic tenet of Christianity, the Ten Commandment law defines our relationship with our Creator as well as the social interaction we have with each other across the globe. In recent times the media has highlighted that religion is dying, especially in the west, and atheism is taking its toll.
One of the reasons that might weaken the foundations of our Christian belief and propagate atheism is failure on our part to utilize the spiritual and doctrinal energy entrenched in the Ten Commandments. God created us in His own image, but sin caused alienation and marred the image of God in us. In the confusion that followed in the aftermath of sin, humanity is now divided as to whether to seek God or Satan.
However, God intends to bring us back to His camp. How then, do we seek Him? The Bible says, “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20, KJV).
“The law is the Torah. The term can be understood in a narrower and wider sense. Not just in the New Testament but even in the Old Testament law (tôrah/nomos) was used to designate the Books of Moses (Joshua 8:31) Torah involves instruction commands and guidance. It comes from God and His revealed will. As such it is authoritative and is a gracious gift” (Ekkehardt Mueller, The Foundation of Christian Life, LEAD magazine Jan, Feb, Mar ‘09, p. 56).
Against this backdrop, we are obliged as Christians to revisit the law again and again to renew our sight of God’s intention for us in this life. God could in no way enslave us by giving us the law. He had removed His people from Egypt and now they were free, liberated and joyful to breathe again the sweet air of freedom. This kind of liberation had to come from an act of obedience to the law as well as complete reverence to God. In the words of George Vandeman, “He was trying to keep them free. He knew there were a lot of false gods around that could make them slaves again” (Sail Your Own Seas, p. 32 ).
Ekkehardt Mueller, The Foundation of Christian Life, LEAD Magazine Jan, Feb, Mar ‘09, p. 56
George Vandeman, Sail Your Own Seas p. 32
Session 13: Recognizing and Responding to the Needs of God’s Suffering Children Locally and Globally
To recognize and respond to the needs of God’s suffering children locally and abroad, I am:
looking for physical, mental, social and spiritual needs in the community.
responding mercifully to the discovered needs, individually and/or as a church.
speaking out and acting to relieve suffering and injustice in society.
reducing human suffering by being a faithful steward of God’s creation.
acting compassionately on behalf of people who are disadvantaged or at risk.
As children of God we are called to reach out to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are not yet part of the household of faith, and minister to their needs in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Look: James 1:27; Matthew 25: 31-46
Memorize: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27, NIV).
“A Christian is a Christlike man, a Christlike woman, who is active in God’s service, who is present at the social meeting, whose presence will encourage others also. Religion does not consist in works, but religion works; it is not dormant” (Letter 7, 1883, p. 935.14).
It is important to reach out to members of our community who are hurting in different ways and equally important to render assistance to help alleviate their pain and suffering.
Share: What are some of the ways members in our community suffer?
Suffering can happen in many different forms. For some people it is physical illness; for others it is feeling discriminated against; for some it is emotional, such as losing a loved one; for others it is feeling the pangs of hunger, isolation, or homelessness. There are those persons who suffer openly while others suffer in silence. There are many ways in which we as children of God can minister to the needs of our brothers and sisters in our community. However, before we can meet a need we have to know what these needs are. A good start is to be a friendly person in your community. When we come across the problems our brothers and sister face, we should respond.
GROUP EXERCISE: Case Study
It is Sabbath, and you are headed out to church. It is music day and you have been looking forward to this special day for a long time because of the plans that have been put in place. On your way to church you have to pass a river; while passing the river you hear someone screaming for help! What would you do?
There are a number of high points to take away from James 1:27 and the above Spirit of Prophecy quotation. For this session we will highlight two major areas of focus:
Active participation in the service of God
Share: Use words from the bag to describe or paint a picture/portrait of Jesus.
The word “likeness” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary means “copy” or “portrait.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com) Based on that definition, we can say that “Christ-likeness” means to be a copy of Christ, to be a portrait (picture) of Him. To be a copy of Christ or portray Him to the world, we have to know what He did and how He lived. Most of His time here on earth was spent ministering to the needs of others in so many different ways. Can you recall the stories of His performing His first Miracle by turning water into wine (John 2: 6-10) and talking to the woman at the well of Samaria?
Jesus stated His mission this way, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4: 16) He came not for the righteous but to call sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:13) Jesus had a burning passion for souls and turned no needy person away. It was He who, when His disciples refused the children, said the famous words, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the Kingdom of heaven.” (Mark 10: 14) There are many other stories in the Bible that speak of our Lord and His compassion for human kind, His love for each soul. The call is for us to be like Him, to mirror His character, to copy Him, to be a living portrait, to daily thirst for the salvation of souls. Ellen G. White calls it a “hunger for souls.” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, volume 3 p. 121) Speaking on the subject of imitating Christ, she goes on to say:
Is not God the proper object of imitation? It should be the work
of the Christian’s life to put on Christ, and to bring himself to a
more perfect likeness of Christ. The sons and daughters of God are
to advance in their resemblance to Christ, our pattern. Daily they are
to behold His glory, and contemplate His incomparable excellence.
Tender, true, and full of compassion, they are to pull souls out of the fire,
hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (TM 122.3)
Active Participation in the Service of God
As Christians we are saved to serve. Have you ever watched a great movie or maybe had a sumptuous meal from a restaurant? Maybe it was a new song you heard and became very excited about it; or it could even have been a new toy. Can you remember your reaction? Did you just sit by and keep the movie/food/song/toy to yourself? More than likely you did not. You were too excited to keep quiet. This is how we should be when we meet Christ. One of my favorite texts in the Bible contains these words spoken by Jesus to Peter, “…when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” (Luke 22:32, KJV). That instruction was not only applicable to Peter back then but also applies to us today. Our religion is one of actively reaching out to our brothers and sisters with the chief aim being that of leading them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I dare say that Christianity, then, is not a noun but a verb. I can imagine a few raised eyebrows at this point. However, if we look back at James 1:27, this is what it says: “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (NIV). This is a text about doing and being; it is one that describes Christianity using action words – “to visit” and “to keep.”
Additionally, our religion goes beyond the spiritual outreach and extends to the social – “visit orphans and widows in their trouble.” Our other connector text, Matthew 25:31-46, looks at the judgment where Jesus divides His followers into two classes – the sheep (the saved) and the goats (the lost). In the context of these verses, how did He make the distinction between the two classes? It was through their service. If you quickly reread the verses you will realize that He points to ministry on several fronts – prison ministry, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and visiting the sick. Do you find it interesting that these are the grounds on which the separation is made? I do. And it also says to me that these are very important areas of work for the Christian.
Share: What are some practical ways in which you can actively participate in the work of meeting the needs of others?
Speaking out and acting to relieve suffering and injustice in society
So far we have established that to be a Christian means that you are an active participant in the soul winning of the church. This work also involves advocating on the behalf of God’s suffering children. “Advocacy is speaking up for, or acting on behalf of, yourself or another person.” (http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/319F70A9-C8D0-4AEB-81B1-D747E8959EC5/0/Whatisadvocacy.pdf). One of the challenges to truly developing a Christ-like character in this regard is that to minister to the needs of others could sometimes cause us to be sidelined (ostracized).
Imagine being at school/college and hanging with your friends when all of a sudden a young lady walks by. Your friends start to laugh at her and describe her as being fat and ugly. But what your friends do not know is that you know her and she is also a friend of yours—someone you find to be genuine and good company to be around. It is a tough situation because you know that if you tell your friends that she is also a friend of yours, you could become an object of their ridicule just as she is at present. On the flipside, to not say anything will mean that they will continue to put her down and her feelings will be even more hurt, especially when she sees that you are not willing to stand up for her. You know deep down that what they are doing is wrong. What do you do?
Our example, Jesus, faced these situations as well. He was criticized for associating with Zacchaeus, “a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) He was also put down for being a friend of sinners. However, He declared to His disciples and we can safely infer that He was speaking to us as well, that the world will treat us in the same manner that it treated Him. (John 15: 18-19) Standing up for this girl is not the popular choice, but it would be the right thing to do even though you risk losing your popularity. Let us borrow a few lines from a popular song by the Gospel duo Mary Mary that speaks to doing what is right no matter if it costs you the popular vote:
Never asked to be part of the in crowd…! Yeah, I've
been left out, looked over Just for carrying this cross on my
shoulder. But it's okay with me. If I'm the last one that's picked
for the team. I'll sit on the sideline.
As long as He's sitting with me. (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/marymary/sittingwithme.html
Even though we may lose some friends when we choose to do what is right and speak up for the rights of those who face hardships and discrimination, we have the assurance from Jesus that, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” (Matthew 28: 20, NIV).
So very often as Christians we tend to think that the work of saving souls is the work of others. And we are content with that. But as the text in Matthew 25 revealed, the work to be done is an individual work. As you think about the discussion so far, ponder the following questions:
When was the last time you reached out to someone in need?
How do you respond when you see someone being laughed at or ridiculed?
What matters to you more, doing what is right or doing what is popular (even if it is wrong)?
If Christ were to come today, what group would you be placed in (sheep or goats)?
Finding hurting persons is not a very difficult task these days. Living in an imperfect world means that we will experience difficulties ourselves and will very often encounter others who are suffering. Some will cry out openly and ask for help while others will go through it in silence. In our walk as Christians we may lend a helping hand to these persons by sharing a kind word, by praying with/for them and listening to them as they share their hurts, fears, and concerns. There are some persons in our communities who suffer but feel like they do not have a voice. As a disciple of Christ called to work with Him, you can be the voice to that “voiceless” person through advocacy and providing practical assistance where possible.
You may not always be able to minister directly to a need on your own and may oftentimes need additional help and support. It is very important to be aware of the different ministries in your local church and the leaders of those ministries. Additionally, you may be of even greater help to someone by pointing them to a health, social service, etc. that is available to meet their need(s).
Above all else, it is important to remember that Christianity is practical living.
DISCIPLE IN ACTION
Share with your accountability partner one lesson you would like to practice this week from the session to help you become more in tune with the needs of those in your community and be a true disciple for Christ. Contact each other during the week to see how things are working out with this.
Choose one aspect of Christ-likeness that you want to learn more about this week. Inform your accountability partner about this and seek his/her guidance in putting together a study plan.
When you pray ask the Lord to give you a desire to win souls for His Kingdom.
Pray that God will give you a sensitivity towards others that will allow you to see their needs and be willing to help.
Ask God to help you to choose to do what is right even when the wrong thing is more popular.
The objectives of the session are that participants will:
Know the importance of reaching out to members of our community who are suffering in different ways and the value of rendering assistance to help alleviate their pain.
Feel the need to reach out to their community and minister to God’s suffering and disadvantaged children.
Respond by becoming actively involved in witnessing.
Activity: Case Study
This is based on a true story from Jamaica where two young men stopped and jumped into a river on Sabbath to save the lives of persons who were at risk of drowning. You may read the story at, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/161848_Boys-break-Sabbath-tradition-to-rescue-drowning-motorists.
Activity: Painting a portrait of Jesus
For this exercise you will need a sheet of poster board with the heading, “Portrait of Jesus.” In addition you will need or a box or bag with the following words written on separate pieces of paper: Healer; friend of sinners; voice of the voiceless; compassionate; defender of the oppressed (These are just some suggestions. You may add words you feel are suitable given the focus of the exercise). It might be helpful to have each word on either a different color paper or written in different colors. As many persons as possible will select a word from the bag/box and place it on the poster board until all the words have been used up. You may then use two or three minutes to get feedback on the portrait from the participants.
In the apply and integrate section of the session you may provide practical tips on how participants can get involved in witnessing. These may include but are not limited to:
Getting involved in a witnessing project being run at your church, school, within the community – small group ministries, tract distribution, etc.
Inviting someone to church
Befriending a new person who comes to church
Using your gadgets and technologies to share a kind word with a contact (e.g. facebook, text messaging)
Pray for souls; that the Lord will make you a soul winner
Session 14: Helping Believers Study and Obey God’s Word
To help believers study and obey God’s word, I am showing others to:
understand the purpose of Scripture.
discover study methods that will help them engage in regular Bible study.
apply biblical principles to live their lives thoughtfully and faithfully.
use tools to more effectively interpret biblical meanings.
discern spiritual truth in a balanced manner.
The way in which we study the Bible can greatly influence the way in which we obey the Bible.
Look: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Peter 1:20-21, Luke 24:25-27; 44-45
Memorize: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You Christians have in your keeping a document with enough dynamite in it to blow the whole of civilization to bits; to turn society upside down; to bring peace to this war-torn world, But you read it as if it were just good literature, and nothing else.”
The document of which he spoke was the Bible. The suggestion underlying this profound critique of our faith is that we as Christians—or more specifically as Seventh-day Adventists—should read the Bible as it ought to be read and treat the Bible as it ought to be treated; then our ability to witness and impact this present world for good will increase exponentially. Although Gandhi was not himself a Christian, he recognized an important principle that many of us overlook, namely, that the way in which we study the Bible can greatly influence the way in which we obey the Bible. This impact can be for the good, but as history has shown, it can also be for the bad.
“No book has been so loved, so hated, so revered, so damned as the Bible. People have died for the Bible. Others have killed for it. It has inspired man’s greatest, noblest acts and been blamed for his most damnable and degenerate Wars have raged over the Bible, revolutions have been nurtured in its pages, and kingdoms crumble. Wars have raged over the Bible, revolutions have been nurtured in its pages, and kingdoms crumbled through its ideas. People of all viewpoints—from liberation theologians to capitalists, from fascists to Marxists, from dictators to liberators, from pacifists to militarists—search its pages for words with which to justify their deeds.
“The Bible’s uniqueness does not come from its unparalleled political, cultural, and social influence, but from its source and its subject matter. It is God’s revelation of the unique God-man: the Son of God, Jesus Christ—the Savior of the world.” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe…, p. 11)
The Reason for the Bible
Since it is the revelation of the unique God and contains the express will of God, with instructions for all those desiring to develop a relationship with Him, it is necessary that we truly understand its purpose.
So, if the way in which we study the Bible will greatly influence the way in which we obey the Bible, it becomes all the more important to develop appropriate Bible study habits so that we can in turn develop and render appropriate attitudes of obedience. For the Bible to become the Word of God we will need to use our minds to hear what God is saying to us.
First Principles of Biblical Interpretation
One of the first principles when it comes to studying and obeying God’s word is to think about how we think! Indeed this is where many people have gone astray in their attempts to study and obey the Bible.
Whether we realize it or not, no one is able to approach Scripture with a blank mind; we all hold certain presuppositions - assumptions or attitudes - that influence how we come to understand and interpret the Bible (Reid, 2005:27). The proper name for the process of thinking about how to understand and interpret a biblical text is called Hermeneutics, and if you have ever discussed the Bible with someone who is an Atheist, you will realize just how important Hermeneutics can be.
I remember having a debate with a good friend of mine who was an Atheist at the time. She questioned me over whether the miracles of Jesus really took place. To justify my position I turned to the pages of the Bible; to justify her position she turned to the Encyclopedia. My belief in the authority of Scripture meant that I viewed the Bible as being the ultimate source of truth in these matters; her belief in rationalism meant that she viewed science as the ultimate source of truth. Therefore, although we were both reading the same Bible text, we were approaching it from very different perspectives, and because we were approaching the text from very different perspectives, we both arrived at very different conclusions.
For Seventh-day Adventists, the following attitudes and presuppositions are understood as being necessary for interpreting and developing an understanding of the Bible: openness, honesty, faith, humility, obedience, love, and prayer.