Friday, May 29, 2015

Jesus, the Master Teacher--Challenge Your Assumptions!


Jesus, the Master Teacher

Sabbath School Bible Study
May 30, 2015
Teacher: Larry R Evans

Introduction

though he understands, he will not respond” (Prov. 29:19)

“From time to time, teachers arose who pointed men to the Source of truth. Right principles were enunciated, and human lives witnessed to their power. But these efforts made no lasting impression. There was a brief check in the current of evil, but its downward course was not stayed. The reformers were as lights that shone in the darkness; but they could not dispel it. The world “loved darkness rather than light.” John 3:19. When Christ came to the earth, humanity seemed to be fast reaching its lowest point. The very foundations of society were undermined. Life had become false and artificial.” [EG White in Education, pp. 74-75]

It has been said that Scripture is not just for learning but for living. (Lawrence Richards)  Jesus, the master teacher, came not only to teach but to teach while living what He preached.  By doing so He taught with authority.  Presenting great “moral ideas” was not sufficient for Jesus.  He sought not just to change thinking but to change the way we live, the way we hope and to alter how we viewed the meaning in life.  Good times and bad times should not be able to change that view if it truly is based on eternal principles. To do that, God came in person to prepare His church to teach and to live as He did.  He came to give life and to show how to live it even in imperfect circumstances.

The Bible indicates that life’s meaning cannot be summed up in the brief span of years between one’s birth and his burial.  The meaning of life is expanded in the New Testament.  Two words are used for life.  One (Bios – Lk 8:14) speaks of the physical aspects of life the other (Zao – Rom. 7:3) has a richer and more varied sense and speaks of both the physical and the supernatural dimensions of life.  To say that Christ gives “eternal life” is in fact to speak of life’s quality and nature as much as of its duration.  Jesus, the Master Teacher brings a wholistic understanding of life and its ultimate meaning to life.  It is important to realize that the life God gives us in Christ has its own nature and character just as the physical life has certain characteristics.  In this week’s study we will only touch upon some of these principles but they are critical to the driving desires of the Master Teacher.

Reflective Questions to Outline Our Study

1.              If,  after hearing: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” we have to ask who is our neighbor, it is likely we have a very different worldview than that of Jesus. (Matt 22:36-40)   True or False?  [What was the worldview of Jesus]

2.              The authority of Jesus resided in what He was able to “do.”  (Lk 4:31-32; 8:22-25) True or False?  [What authority is the Bible talking about? Why do you think the disciples wanted to know how to pray like Jesus? See Lk 11 but only after you first read Luke 10.]

3.              Christianity is like the spokes on a bicycle wheel—the more good qualities one develops the stronger the wheel.  (Lk 6:20-49; ) True or False?  [What assumptions does the question as by the lawyer imply in Lk 10:25? Keep in mind this person knows the law very well.  If Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan after this what should have been the desired first question?  How do you feel after reading the Sermon on the Mount?  Do you ever feel inadequate?  So, what should the first question have been?]

4.               The primary point of the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” is that we should not allow race or religion interfere with our Christian responsibilities.  (Lk 10:25-37)  True or False? [Really? Is that all there is to it?  Who is the Samaritan in the story?]

5.              Doing the right things make us family. True or False? [What if someone does the wrong thing? Are they still family?  How should a family respond?]


Notes on Questions

1.    If, after hearing: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” we have to ask who is our neighbor, it is likely we have a very different worldview than Jesus did. (Matt 22:36-40)   True  [What was the worldview of Jesus]

We began with the words found in Proverbs 29:19

“A servant cannot be corrected by mere words;
though he understands, he will not respond” 

“As they ceased to recognize the Divine, they ceased to regard the human. Truth, honor, integrity, confidence, compassion, were departing from the earth. Relentless greed and absorbing ambition gave birth to universal distrust. The idea of duty, of the obligation of strength to weakness, of human dignity and human rights, was cast aside as a dream or a fable. The common people were regarded as beasts of burden or as the tools and the steppingstones for ambition. Wealth and power, ease and self-indulgence, were sought as the highest good. Physical degeneracy, mental stupor, spiritual death, characterized the age.” {EG White in Education, 75}

This is a description of  the conventional wisdom in the time of Jesus.  Sound familiar!! How can a difference be made?  Do you correct behavior with the courts of law?  Do you appeal by throwing out the politicians who seek their own welfare before those whom they serve?  Maybe.  But this isn’t where Jesus began even though He lived and breathed when there was corruption all around Him.  Jesus certainly didn’t remain silent and ignore the problem. However He did have a different starting point. As observers of Jesus saw Him at work and in private they concluded that there was something different about Him.  They said He had a different kind of authority.  It is no coincidence that while they didn’t understand all that Jesus stood for, they did ask that He teach them how to pray.  His connection with heaven was far different than what they had experienced.  It was His starting point. This is a reminder of a prophecy found in Zechariah:

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you. ’” (Zech 8:23)

Jesus operated from a different set of values and because of these values He saw people differently and therefore He saw His mission differently.

2.    The authority of Jesus resided in what He was able to “do.”  (Lk 4:31-32; 8:22-25) True but it didn’t begin there!  [What authority is the Bible talking about? Why do you think the disciples wanted to know how to pray like Jesus? See Lk 11 but only after you first read Luke 10.]

In Matt 6 we find Jesus addressing three important religious practices of Jewish religious life at the time:  giving to the needy, prayer and fasting.  Why do you suppose Jesus spent so much time addressing religious issues rather than political ones?  Could it be that He believed that the moral fiber of the world is best addressed not by political reform (though that has its place) but rather by the inner motivation and personal character of those in the world?

This can be illustrated by reviewing how Jesus responded to the question posed by a lawyer:  “What must I do to be saved?” (Lk 11:25)  Jesus responded  by saying that he should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . “ and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  A good answer but it wasn’t enough.  So the lawyer asked another question: “Who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus tells the story of the “Good Samaritan” but with the first question still in mind.  Conventional wisdom says that the conclusion is that we should treat all people with kindness regardless of religion or race.”  Certainly noble but are we missing something?

Challenge your assumptions:  Did the lawyer ask the right question—“What must I do?”  After reading the sermon on the mount where we learn that if we are even angry with a “brother or sister” (Matt 5:22) that person will also be subject to the judgment and the same with the person who lusts who has actually committed adultery in his/heart or the person whose marriage is on the rocks, divorces and remarries.  Tell me, is the right question:  “What must I do?”  If we read the 10 Commandments and memorize them, is the next question: “What must I do?”  Whether we read the 10 Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, and both were presented by Jesus on a mountain, don’t we feel overwhelmed with not just “doing” but “how”!!  We feel struck to our very depths with our overwhelming inability to “do” or to “be” what God wants.  This brings us to the next question:

3.    Christianity is like the spokes on a bicycle wheel—the more good qualities one develops the stronger the wheel.  (Lk 6:20-49; )  False  [What assumptions does the question imply?] 

To compensate for the feeling of inability, the Jews produced many more “laws” for “doing” with the hope that this would somehow meet their inner needs.  As a result they began to see God, others and themselves differently as well.  Is it the spokes in wheel that makes it strong?  They certainly have a part to play but only if they are connected to the hub!  So back to the question of the lawyer. What would have been a better question to ask?  What question should we ask after reading the 10 Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount?  Isn’t the question, “How”?  I’d like to suggest that Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan to answer the “How” and not just the “Do” question.  So the next question in our outline is this:

4.    The primary point of the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” is that we should not allow race or religion interfere with our Christian responsibilities.  (Lk 10:25-37)  We suggest False. [Really? Is that all there is to it?  Who is the Samaritan in the story?]

As Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan He profiles for us the inadequacy of the prevailing religious paradigm – that being part of a religious organization is a sure fire way of inheriting eternal life—as understood with conventional wisdom.  [The is ample Scriptural evidence that God works though the organized church but He sought to bring reform so that it might indeed function as He intended it to.]  The parable shows how a priest and a Levite walked past the hurting and the one in trouble.  Then we see the Samaritan, the unlikely one, stopping and rendering loving care.  So what is our conclusion?  Be careful!  We just might end up with an even longer to do list than the Jews had.

If the first question asked by the lawyer should have been “how can I become” instead of “what must I do” THEN I ask you who is the Samaritan in the story?  Who was it that was seen as the outcast?  Who was it that cared deeply for all people – wounded paupers, wounded politicians like Nicodemus?  Who do you think is the real Samaritan in the parable?  It is the only One who has the authority and power to help you “become” the person that reflects the heart of the 10 Commandments, the spirit revealed on the Sermon the the Mount and the One who can help you see and minister to those wounded all around us.  The answer, of course, is Jesus – the true Good Samaritan.

5.    Doing the right things make us family. False [What if someone does the wrong thing? Are they still family?  How should a family respond?]

Following what we have just seen in the lawyer’s question and the following parable of the Good Samaritan, how do we relate to a family whether it be our personal family or the church family?  Its not who is “neighbor” but  who is “family”?  A family without Jesus will be a family that has a self-centered existence.  As the Good Samaritan, Jesus knows how to pick up and bind the wounded.  He has already paid the price for the healing.  We need to allow Him to first pick us up and take us to the Inn where healing can take place.

But Jesus isn’t through yet with the “how” answer for the lawyer.  Following the Good Samaritan story in Luke, through the experience of Martha and Mary, redirects our focus again to the Source of hope, the Source of healing.  Mary did the right thing by spending time with Jesus because that was where the help was.  This is the answer the lawyer needed to hear.

The next thing that we hear from Luke is the disciples wanting to know how to pray as Jesus did. (Lk 11:1).  Addressing God as “Father” (Abba – the affectionate term) then the very first thing before petitions or confessions Jesus prays, “Hallowed be your name.”  All requests, all petitions and desires for inner heart changes, flows first through the recognition of who God is and what kind of life He knows will restore hope and meaning to our lives.  Indeed the Lord’s Prayer is a climax to the question raised by the lawyer.  So it can be for us as well.

Concluding Thought

The authority of Jesus was not positional though He certainly was the “Son of God.”  The authority of Jesus resided in who He was – what kind of person He was – and because of that others knew He cared in a supernatural way and some began to see Him as the long awaited Messiah.  I believe it is for this reason that Zechariah prophesies why God’s last day church will have a unique authority in the hands of God:

“This is what the Lord Almighty says:“In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you. ’”  (Zechriah, 8:23)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Prayer or Why Would Jesus Need to Pray?

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May 16, 2015
Sabbath School Bible Study
Larry R Evans

Introduction

It was John Wesley who said,
Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.  God does nothing but in answer to prayer.
And note this statement from E.M. Bounds
A prayerless Christian will never learn God’s truth; a prayerless ministry will never be able to teach God’s truth.  . . . The best, the greatest offering is an offering of prayer. –E.M. Bounds in Power Through Prayer, p. 78.
Our reluctance to spend time in prayer is astonishing in light of who God is, who we are and what God is offering.  Note the insights of David:
   Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
   Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
   Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
    Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chron. 29:11-13, NIV)
The disciples observed Jesus in prayer and within them arose the desire to pray as Jesus did.

It was from hours spent with God that He came forth, morning by morning, to bring the light of heaven to men. The disciples had come to connect His hours of prayer with the power of His words and works. Now, as they listened to His supplication, their hearts were awed and humbled. As He ceased praying, it was with a conviction of their own deep need that they exclaimed, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1. (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp.102-103)
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There are many ways of addressing this week’s lesson but given our time, I thought it would be best for us to give special focus to what we often refer to as, “The Lord’s Prayer.”  The prayer was given twice by Jesus—once to the multitude in the “Sermon on the Mount” and some months later to disciples.  We will take a “brief” look at five parts of the prayer: To whom it is addressed, thanksgiving, our wants, our confession and our claim for His mercy.  We highly recommend a reflective study of the chapter in Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, by Ellen G White, pp. 102-122.  Our study is not restricted to this reference but it provides many excellent insights. Our primary Bible passages are found in Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:5-15).

Questions for Reflection

1.              Jesus begins the prayer with “Father” to give emphasis to the disciplinary tactics that a father uses to get his children to do what he wants them to do. (Lk 11:2; Matt 6:9) True or False?

2.              The word “hallowed” (“hallowed be your name”)comes from the same word used for Halloween which means “’scary’ and/or ‘to approach with fear’”(Lk 11:2; Matt 6:9).  True or False?

3.              Our wants are important to God. (Lk 11:3; Matt 6:11) True or False?

4.              Confession comes later in the prayer because it is not as important as “hallowing” the name of God. (Lk 11:4; Matt 6:12) True or False?

5.              To pray “lead us not into temptation” means that we won’t have temptations if we sincerely request this in our prayers.  ( Lk 11:4; Matt 6:13) True or False?


Brief Comments on the Questions

1.            Jesus begins the prayer with “Father” to give emphasis to the disciplinary tactics that a father uses to get his children to do what he wants them to do. (Lk 11:2; Matt 6:9) False

The word translated for Father is Jesus’ favorite word and is recorded at least 170 times in the four gospels. his corresponds to the Aramaic abba, the address of a child to its parent. It is the word that communicates warmth, respect and a close relationship.  Using such a term reminds us we are addressing a Person and not just an inanimate power. “The very first step in approaching God is to know and believe the love that He has to us (1 John 4:16); for it is through the drawing of His love that we are led to come to Him.” (MB, pp. 104-105)

2.            The word “hallowed” (“hallowed be your name”) comes from the same word used for Halloween which means “’scary’ and/or ‘to approach with fear’”(Lk 11:2; Matt 6:9). False

Hallowed means ‘made holy’, ‘reverenced.’ The name in antiquity stood for far more than it does with us. It summed up a person’s whole character, all that was known or revealed about him. The requests that follow do so through the knowledge or appreciation of the character of God. It is His kingdom, His will being done, that will bring the true blessings we seek. It is for this reason that this part of the prayer is often referred to as a “praise” section.  Johann Herder, a German philosopher, once wrote: “We cannot know ourselves without a reference point outside ourselves.”  This part of the prayer provides the needed reference point.

3.            Our wants are important to God. (Lk 11:3; Matt 6:11) True

“Give us today our daily bread.” – “Give” forces us to recognize that God is the source of all gifts. Bread is a general term denoting nourishing and filling food. Thus the request is for food that is necessary to sustain life for the day.  Praising God first puts us in the right frame of mind to tell him about our needs. Too often our prayers are more like shopping lists than conversations.
God’s provision is daily, not all at once. We cannot store it up and then cut off communication with God. And we dare not be self-satisfied. If you are running low on strength, ask yourself, How long have I been away from the Source?

4.            Confession comes later in the prayer because it is not as important as “hallowing” the name of God. (Lk 11:4; Matt 6:12)  False

After recognizing the very character and nature of God and His kingdom (Hallowed), we are in a better position  to view both ourselves and others.  When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he made forgiveness the cornerstone of their relationship with God. God has forgiven our sins; we must now forgive those who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving shows we have not understood that we ourselves deeply need to be forgiven.
“God’s forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation.  It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin.” (MB, p.114)

5.            To pray “lead us not into temptation” means that we won’t have temptations if we sincerely request this in our prayers.  ( Lk 11:4; Matt 6:13) False

Asking for God’s merciful intervention into our lives is a prayer for His personal guidance.  He knows our strengths and weaknesses.  Our prayer is o keep us within His kingdom and not to allow the Evil One to draw us away. 

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Cor 10:13)

“Satan seeks to bring us into temptation, that the evil of our characters may be revealed before men and angels, that he may claim us as his own. In the symbolic prophecy of Zechariah, Satan is seen standing at the right hand of the Angel of the Lord, accusing Joshua, the high priest, who is clothed in filthy garments, and resisting the work that the Angel desires to do for him. This represents the attitude of Satan toward every soul whom Christ is seeking to draw unto Himself. The enemy leads us into sin, and then he accuses us before the heavenly universe as unworthy of the love of God.” (MB: pp. 116-117)

“But while we are not to be dismayed by trial, bitter though it be, we should pray that God will not permit us to be brought where we shall be drawn away by the desires of our own evil hearts. In offering the prayer that Christ has given, we surrender ourselves to the guidance of God, asking Him to lead us in safe paths. We cannot offer this prayer in sincerity, and yet decide to walk in any way of our own choosing. We shall wait for His hand to lead us; we shall listen to His voice, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it.’ Isaiah 30:21.” (MB 117-118).



Reflective Conclusion

Times will come when our prayers will appear not to be heard and we are tempted to think God has abandoned us.  But we must not cease to pray and to pray in faith. There was even a time when “God” did not think His prayers were being heard.

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” –which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” (Matt 27:45).  Jesus revealed that we must pray through the dark times.  His strength came from the very first words He taught His disciples to pray:  “Our Father.”  Here in the relationship with His Father before the cross He gathered the strength to withstand the darkness of circumstances that seemed to overwhelm Him.  Jesus too needed to pray.

Not by seeking a holy mountain or a sacred temple are men brought into communion with heaven. Religion is not to be confined to external forms and ceremonies. The religion that comes from God is the only religion that will lead to God. In order to serve Him aright, we must be born of the divine Spirit. This will purify the heart and renew the mind, giving us a new capacity for knowing and loving God. It will give us a willing obedience to all His requirements. This is true worship. It is the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit every sincere prayer is indited, and such prayer is acceptable to God. Wherever a soul reaches out after God, there the Spirit’s working is manifest, and God will reveal Himself to that soul. For such worshipers He is seeking. He waits to receive them, and to make them His sons and daughters. { DA 189.2}

Additional Key Insights Regarding the Importance of Prayer

“There will come times when the church will be stirred by divine power, and earnest activity will be the result; for the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit will inspire its members to go forth and bring souls to Christ. But when this activity is manifested, the most earnest workers will be safe only as they depend upon God through constant, earnest prayer. They will need to make earnest supplication that through the grace of Christ they may be saved from taking pride in their work, or of making a savior of their activity. They must constantly look to Jesus, that they may realize that it is His power which does the work, and thus be able to ascribe all the glory to God. We shall be called upon to make most decided efforts to extend the work of God, and prayer to our heavenly Father will be most essential. It will be necessary to engage in prayer in the closet, in the family, and in the church.”—The Review and Herald, July 4, 1893. { ChS 98.4}

Every child may gain knowledge, as Jesus did, from the works of nature and the pages of God’s holy word. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His holy word, angels will come near, our minds will be strengthened, our character will be elevated and refined, and we shall become more like our Saviour. And as we behold the beauty and grandeur of the works of nature, our affections go out after God; while the heart is awed and the spirit subdued, the soul is invigorated by coming in contact with the Infinite through His marvelous works. Communion with God through humble prayer, develops and strengthens the mental and moral faculties, and spiritual powers increase by cultivating thoughts upon spiritual things. { CSW 40.1}