Thursday, August 28, 2014

Our Mission



Sligo Sabbath School Class
Larry R Evans
August 30, 2015
A
Introduction
In 1959, the USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev made unprecedented visit to America.  This was soon after the death of the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.  Khrushchev had already caused a global stir by denouncing Russia.  He spoke strongly against the many atrocities of his former leader: his genocidal policies against the Ukraine, cold-blooded assassinations of anyone who could no longer serve him.  When Khrushchev appeared before the National Press Club in Washington he was expected to repeat the denunciations of Stahlin and he did.

As he finished, someone shouted out from the crowd, “Mr. Khrushchev, you have just given an account of Mr. Stalin’s many crimes agains humanity.  You were his right-hand man during much of that.  What were you doing?”

When the question was translated, Khrushchev exploded in anger and responded:  “Who said that!”

No one answered. And again Khrushchev bellowed out the question but still no answer.

Then once again he raised the question again but this time low and quietly.  Everyone looked down.

After a few moments of quiet and non-interrupted silence, Khrushchev said, “That’s what I was doing.”  (See Hidden in Plain Sight by Mark Buchanan, pp.41-42)

We sometimes give the impression that we only witness when we speak up and say or do something but this is a false impression.  Even our silence is a witness.  This week we will be directing our study and reflection to “Our Mission.”  But the question I am asking myself is this:  “Is this ‘my’ really mission?”  If so, then have I dwarfed the Great Commission into something I do or don’t do?  Perhaps “my mission” is best understood when it is seen as part of a bigger mission, God’s mission.  When that happens there is greater confidence that it will be completed.  And what about my silence in the face of such a mission?  The words of Khrushchev to the question “And where were you? strike at the core of who I am and what kind of disciple I am.  In the midst of the greatest conflict and “genocide” the universe has ever known, I find myself asking:  “How can I remain silent?”  I want to respond, “Here I am, send me!”

Reflective Questions

1.    Our mission differs from God’s mission.  True or False? [Isa. 6:1-8]

When Jesus was recruiting His disciples He simply said, “Come, follow me.”  Then he added, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mt 4:19, NIV)  “Follow me” literally means “come behind me.”  The disciples didn’t start out on their own mission.  Their mission was to become  and do what God was already doing. In fact, they didn’t even fully understand the mission of Jesus.  They would only learn what their mission was by following Him and seeing Him mission in action.  So it is with us.  This “calling” carried with it a cost.  It meant more than leaving one’s profession.  It also meant setting aside one’s family responsibilities. In verse 22 we see that James and John left their nets and their “father” behind.  I don’t believe God intends for us to neglect family responsibilities but at the same time it does mean certain family priorities may change with the particular mission God calls us to.

2.    We are the light the world needs to see in times of distress. “Let your light shine.” (Mt 5:14)  True or False? True and False [Jn. 8:12, 12:22; Isa. 43:10-12]

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Mt 5:14)

It has been said that the church is indeed like a city set on a hill – it is inaccessible and unapproachable!  I often mention this when presenting seminars on ministries for the disabled.  Unfortunately this is more true than we would like. No one that I know of intentionally wishes to make access to God difficult.  It happens but its not intentional.  The “light” that Jesus is speaking about is rooted not in ourselves but in the Source of light or revelation.  Note Isa 60:1

1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

The light of the glory of the LORD is both an objective reality (a new dawn) and a subjective experience (your light). The Lord’s redeeming work is the light or blessing that falls on Israel who in turn shine light into the nations around them.  We, as Israel of old, are to reveal God’s word and glory to others and in so doing we share the “blessings” that He has given to us.  So while the “light” in one sense is ours it didn’t originate with us.  It was shared with us.

In fact in Jn 8:12 Jesus says He is the light and then in 12:22 we find the Greeks coming to Philip at worship and making that famous request, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”

3.    Our witness is about us. True or False (but with explanation) ? [Rev. 12:11; Isa 43:10,12]

In Isa. 43:10 we see the Lord prompting His people by reminding them, “You are my witnesses.”  But the amazing thing is that God says this after what He has said about them in chapter 42.  In 42:7 we have an important insight into God’s mission and ours!  God’s people were to be “a light for the Gentiles.”  But according to verse 18 and following these very Gentiles can look around and see God’s witnesses as being as “blind” and “deaf” as they are and even being plundered or punished by God.  What kind of “light”, what kind of “witness” are God’s servant witnesses?  Isaiah is doing two things:  He is pointing out the need for a Servant that supersedes his people servants but he also points out the deep spiritual need Israel has.  Israel hasn’t been forsake but Israel is neither the light nor the witness God needs.  The nations of the earth need to know from God’s people whether it be in good times or in bad that God is God!  He says of the mission given to His chosen and called people:
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, that I am God.”

In whatever experience(s) we are going through, can God point to us and with confidence say, “You are my witnesses?”
Our witness is about us in the sense we have personalized how God has intervened and brought us hope and confidence in the midst of our chaotic lives:

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”  -- Rev. 12:11

4.     Those sent will do greater things than the One who sent them.  True or False? [Jn 14:12; 11:11; 20:12; 17:17-19]

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” – Jn 14:12

Before we answer our questions we need to review what works Jesus had been doing.  In other words, in context what “works” had Jesus been doing that the disciples would be doing “even greater things” than Jesus had been doing.  We find the ministry works of Jesus as being  #1 the evangelizing of the Samaritan won (4:34); #2 the healing of the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda (5:20); #3 the healing of the man born blind (9:3,4); #4 the miracles of Jesus in general (eg. 7:3, 10:25, 32, 33); #5 Jesus’ teaching (chp 10) and #6 Jesus’ entire ministry (5:36; 17:4).  How could the work of any disciple exceed these works!!  Jesus says this would be possible “because” of what will happen when He returns to the Father.

When Jesus went to the Father His disciples now empowered by prayer (vss 13-14) and obedience (v. 15). The Holy Spirit (vss16-17) extended the work of Jesus on a scale not possible before.  Of John the Baptist it was said he was the greatest but he was also the least.  How so? 

John was the the messenger spoken of Malachi 3:1. In Malachi the wording is ‘before me’, and his role is to prepare for the coming of God for judgment. Jesus’ application of this text to John implies that his own (Jesus’) coming, for which John prepares, is the coming of God himself.  In our passage (Jn 14:12) we see Jesus’ ministry preceding another divinely appointed and even greater expansion of God’s work in preparation for His 2nd coming!  That next expansion is the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new and exciting way.  This was of special comfort to the disciples then but would be an even greater encouragement after the cross and partially fulfilled at Pentecost!  

5.    When leading someone to Christ, the process ends with the person’s baptism.  True or False? [Mt 28:19,20]

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  (Matt 28:18-20)

The all-universal authority given to Jesus (v.18) now demands a universal mission!!  The issues raised first in heaven and then transferred to the earth are being resolved.  An integral part of this ongoing battle and ultimate victory is the testimony or witness of God’s people.  The going, the teaching and the baptizing (all participles) underscore the one verb:  make disciples!  Disciples of “all nations and peoples of every language” (Dan. 7:14) are possible because of the universal authority given to Jesus!  Indeed the climax of both Daniel 7 and Revelation 14 is the worship of Jesus and the supreme universal God, Saviour and King!  It becomes clear, then, that witness and worship are linked and together speak to the vindication of God to the charges brought against Him.  The witness of His disciples is indeed a voice that needs to be heard.

6.    Privileges given to disciples protect them from judgment. [Rom 2:17-29; Isa 58:1-3]True or False?

We must never assume that because we have been entrusted with a special message from God that we ourselves are not also judged by the same message we deliver to the world on His behalf. Note the sobering words of Paul to the Jews:

17 “Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself ? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (Rom. 2:17-24)

Concluding Thoughts for Reflection

John the Baptist had preached, he had warned and rebuked.  He counseled those who had become curious and even alarmed to “Look” at the Lamb of God. (Jn. 1:29).  He himself said, “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (v. 34).  No doubt such teaching had its impact but when Jesus was asked if He was asked about His activities He simply said, “Come and you will see.”

There is something powerful about the way we live, the way we interact with life’s challenges and the way we related to others, which speak louder than words!  Our mission needs living proof that once Jesus is accepted into one’s life a difference can be seen.   Words of teaching, yes!  Going into all the world, yes!  Baptizing, yes!  But our mission is best told, shown and experienced when we can say, “Come and see!”


Friday, July 25, 2014

“Salvation”

At home we have a hummingbird feeder.  Right now there seems to be a lot of activity.  That is until we walk outside near the feeder.  Once we do they fly off in haste.  I thought to myself, “If they only knew that I was the one who was feeding them and that they were safe in my presence.” Then I wondered how often God must think the same.  In the Hands of Security yet we have doubts and fear.  Hopefully this week’s lesson is a reminder that our God is the One who initiates hope beyond whatever circumstances that may seem so daunting.  I trust your study reveals the same sense of security and confidence.

-->
Sabbath School Lesson
For July 26, 2014
Presented by
Larry R. Evans

Introduction
This lesson is so basic yet is of such importance that if we don’t get this one right, the remainder of Scripture can be clouded, confusing and even misleading.  I’d like to begin our study by asking a question:  “If, before allowing you into His heaven, God asked you for your resume as an entrance requirement, what would you put in your resume?”

Many of us have developed a resume for various jobs.  It keeps changing as we add new experiences, get more education and transition to new jobs or add new skills. Websites like Linked-In exist to essentially share your resume of experiences with a network of professionals.  Linked-In even has a section for endorsements from others.  One Internet site described a resume this way:  “The purpose of a resume is to provide a summary of your skills, abilities and accomplishments.  It is a quick advertisement of who you are. It is a ‘snapshot’ of you with the intent of capturing and emphasizing interests and secure you an interview.” In other words, a resume hopefully gives you an opportunity to be interviewed and when that happens your resume becomes a point of reference. So with that in mind, what would you put in your resume for God!

How would you describe yourself to God?  Would you emphasize how terrible you are?  Or maybe how good you are some of the time?  Perhaps you’d mention what you have done for Him or for others?  The question is worth pondering.  Really, what would you put in your resume if God asked for one?

By the time we finish our lesson today, hopefully we will have a better idea of what to put in our resume for God.

Questions for Probing Scripture

1.   God’s love for us is a result of our belief in the sacrifice He made for us. (Jn. 3:16)  True or False?
2.   Our salvation is based on our request to God. (Jn. 6:44)  True of False?
3.   The mission of Jesus was to set an example of how to have a relationship with the Father. (Jn 1:29; Gn. 22:8,13; Mt.16:21-23; Jn 17:11)  True or False?
4.   If we truly believe in Jesus we will be delivered from sin and the consequences of living in this sinful world. (Lk 4:18; Jn 8:34-36; Heb. 11:35-40)  True or False?
5.   The promise for eternal life is in the future tense – experienced at the Second Coming. (Jn 17:3;  3:15,16, 36; 10:10)  True or False?

Background for Class Discussion

1.   God’s love for us is a result of our belief in the sacrifice He made for us. (Jn. 3:16) False

Ultimately the question is: “Who takes the initiative:  God or us?”

John 3:16   For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

Note 3 points is this verse:

“so loved”Often we read this as the degree of God’s love.  It is certainly demonstrated in the giving of His Son but this may not be what John had in mind.  The word translated for “so” is houtos means “in this way” and always refers back to something previously mentioned and not something about to be explained.  Perhaps it would be better translated:  “For in this way God loved the world” which directs our attention back to verses 14 and 15:

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (Jn 3:14,15)

This is an allusion to Number 21:4-9 in which rebellious Israel, who had turned against Moses and God, faced certain death by venomous snakes.  Though the judgment came from God He also took the initiative to intervene and provided a way of escape.

“loved” -- to love, value, esteem, feel or manifest generous concern for, be faithful towards; to delight in, to set store upon 
This kind of love does not come from impulse of feeling or preferences.  It is reflected in actions and God showed the depth of His love for sinful man by giving His Son.  He gave us all he had which is Himself!

“his one and only Son” (NIV) “His only begotten Son” (KJV) monogenes  
only-begotten, only-born, Lk. 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; Heb. 11:17; only-begotten in respect of peculiar generation, unique, Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 Jn. 4:9*

It was brought to my attention during our last class that some TV personality said that if there is a “father” there is also a “mother” if there is to be a “son.”  Such is the false conclusion that is drawn from the translation “only-begotten.”  The Greek word used here emphasizes not on “fathering” a child but on the unique relationship of between two members of the Godhead.

Our response to such a gift is critical just as it was for the Israelites in the desert.  To “believe” is more than coming to an intellectual conclusion or agreement that Jesus is God. It means to put our trust and confidence in him that he alone can save us. It is to put Christ in charge of our present plans and eternal destiny.

2.   Our salvation is based on our request to God. (Jn. 6:44)   False?

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (Jn 6:44)

Once again we see that God takes the initiative however, our response is critical. God, not people, plays the most active role in salvation. When someone chooses to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, he or she does so only in response to the urging of God’s Holy Spirit. God does the urging; then we decide whether or not to believe. Thus, no one can believe in Jesus without God’s help. The real question is if we are willing to listen to God’s voice calling us to come to Him.

Did you follow the search for the black boxes of the missing Malaysian plane!  Many around the world felt the urgency.  The batteries would soon die out. With every passing day the signals would grow weaker. Soon there would no longer be a signal. Everything that could be done was being done to hone in on the signals that were thought to be from the missing boxes.

I wonder if we are as anxious to tune-in to the signals of God’s Holy Spirit.  His voice is there inviting us to put self aside, to enter into a trusting relationship even when things don’t look good. God’s invitation is still active.  Is our search?

3.   The mission of Jesus was to set an example of how to have a relationship with the Father. (Jn 1:29; Gn. 22:8,13; Mt.16:21-23; Jn 17:11)   False?

Jesus is certainly our example and we can learn much about how to have a relationship with the Father from Jesus’ own life.  As critical as this is Jesus is more than an example.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Mt 3:12)

The sacrificial death of Jesus was substitutionary but the coming of Jesus was more than that.  It also had a purifying effect.  It was a calling of God’s people to return to the holiness which John the Baptist’s water-baptism could only symbolize.   John the Baptist was the leader of a significant religious movement. His call to repentance in the light of God’s coming judgment was a clear warning that Israel, as so often in the past, was not living up to its calling as the people of God. Comparing the missions of John the Baptist and that of Jesus, one commentator wrote: “John was thus not just a curtain-raiser for the coming of Jesus; he was already launching the mission which Jesus would develop.”

4.   If we truly believe in Jesus we will be delivered from sin and the consequences of living in this sinful world. (Lk 4:18; Jn 8:34-36; Heb. 11:35-40)  True and False

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
                   because he has anointed me
                   to proclaim good news to the poor.
          He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
          to set the oppressed free,
                  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(Lk4:18-19)


21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:21)

Luke’s Gospel portrays Jesus bringing God’s compassion to the poor and suffering both spiritually and physically. This is a quote from Isa. 61:1,2.  The words, the year of the Lord’s favor, is in reference to the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-55) when debts were erased, slaves were freed, and land was returned to its original owners.  It was a metaphor for God’s salvation.

Today is important. Jesus’ contemporaries did not doubt that God’s kingdom would come some day. Jesus’ teaching was different, in that he saw God as acting in the present, in his own work. ‘Not in a future age but now is the captive power of sin to be broken, communion with God to be established, and the will of God to be done’.  Such is our hope now. We may live in a world infiltrated by sin but we are no longer captives to it if our trust is in Christ.

This trust does not prevent the effects of the world from coming upon us as the writer of Hebrews illustrates some remarkable examples of feats of endurance. See Hebrews 11:35-40.  It requires an inner source of strength, which comes only to men, and women of faith.

5.   The promise for eternal life is in the future tense – experienced at the Second Coming. (Jn 17:3; 3:15,16, 36; 10:10)  True and False

 The nature of eternal life, as it is experienced by humans, is defined in 17:3: ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ Eternal life is knowing God, but as in the OT this knowledge is not simply knowing information about God; it is having a relationship with him, involving response, obedience and fellowship.
         In the Fourth Gospel Jesus employs three primary metaphors in relation to eternal life: (1) birth: one experiences eternal life by being born of the Spirit (3–8); (2) water: eternal life is likened to water, which quenches thirst (4:14; cf. 7:37); (3) bread: eternal life is likened to bread, which satisfies hunger (6:27, 35, 48, 51, 53–54).

There is an eschatological expectation which is to come but there is also a present application such as found in Jn 17:3

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (Jn 17:3)

Eternal life is about knowing God, but, as in the OT, this knowledge is not simply information about God; it is a relationship with him.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

In contrast to the thief who takes life, Jesus gives life. The life he gives right now is abundantly rich and full. It is eternal, yet it begins immediately. Life in Christ is lived on a higher plane because of his overflowing forgiveness, love, and guidance.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 Jn 5:13)

John’s desire for his believing readers is not that they may believe and receive, but that having believed, they may know that they have received, and therefore continue to have (present), eternal life.

Concluding Thoughts

Once again we ask, “If God asked for your resume as an entrance requirement into His heaven, what would you say?

I think it would be a rather short resume. Don’t you? It wouldn’t be about our social, evangelistic, spiritual or material achievements or even our failures for that matter.  There would be only one necessary endorsement and that is the one that comes from Jesus.  Because of that we’ve already been adopted into the heavenly family. Note the following verse.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 13:1-3)

Jerry Thomas in his book, The Teaching of Jesus, uses the experience of Jesus healing the paralyzed man of Luke 5:17-26 to show how we can rejoice in salvation “now.” He makes seven important points:

1.            Nothing we can do takes us too far from God to return to Him.
2.            The Holy Spirit is constantly drawing us to repentance.
3.            Repentance includes a desire to stop the sin behavior.
4.            Forgiveness is available to all.
5.            Salvation comes through Jesus
6.            Like forgiveness, salvation is something we are given today, no some day in the future.
7.            The road to salvation is best traveled in groups. [The influence of friends in this story is very significant.]

Yes, the resume given to God would be short. Yours, others and mine would all say the same: “Jesus loves me this I know and in Him I offer my only endorsement.”