Thursday, July 28, 2016

“Jesus on Community Outreach”


“Jesus on Community Outreach”

Sabbath School Class
July 30, 2016

Teacher:  Larry R Evans

Introduction

As we lay the foundation for this week’s important lesson about the Christian and her or his outreach into the community, there are a few key concepts we need to keep before us..

1.     Outreach doesn’t begin with us!  It begins with God. His work always precedes our own.
2.     God doesn’t ask us to dream-up what we want to do for Him. The effectiveness of Noah, Abraham, Gideon, Saul (Paul) didn’t begin with what they wanted to do for God but rather what God was about to do. They cooperated with His plans.
3.     God wants us to adjust our lives to Him so He can do through us what He wants to do.  He will then accomplish “His” purposes through us. We must first recognize the activity of God around us.  We then join Him in what He is doing.  To do this, two things must be in place:
a.     We must be living in an intimate love relationship with God.
b.     God must take the initiative to open our spiritual eyes so we can see what He is doing.
4.     We must be careful to identify God’s initiative and distinguish it from our own selfish desires.  We must compare what we see to be His initiative with prayer and Scripture to make sure that our perceptions of circumstances align themselves with the direction we sense God is leading us.
5.     A sense of thankfulness permeates our very being when we see God working around us with the dominating impression: “Thank you, Father.  Thank you for letting me be involved where you are.”  (These principles are expressed quite clearly by Blackaby and King in Experiencing God)

Note the following insight by Ellen White in 9T:130,

“Opportunities are opening on every side.  Press into every providential opening.  Eyes need to be anointed with the heavenly eyesalve to see and sense their opportunities.  God calls for wide-awake missionaries.  There are ways that will be presented before us.  We are to see and understand these providential openings.”

Questions & Reflections

In the early part of Luke 4 we are introduced to the temptations of Jesus.  In the account of the temptations, Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus was brought into the wilderness by the Spirit, but Luke alone says that he was full of the  Holy Spirit. He also says that it was ‘in (rather than by) the Spirit’ that Jesus was led. Satan indeed tempted Jesus, but there was more to the story than that. The activity of the Spirit shows that it was in God’s plan that right at the outset Jesus should face up to the question of what kind of Messiah he was to be.

In Luke 4:14 we are told that “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.”  We then learn that He went to Nazareth, went to the synagogue and then read from Isaiah 61:2,

“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.”

1.    What was the good news that Jesus proclaimed?
a.    What is the “year of the Lord’s favor”?
b.    Why did he leave off the last part of verse 2 of the Isaiah passage which included, “and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn”?

The good news comes after the Satan tried to persuade Jesus to leave his mission.  Jesus not only did not abandon the plan but He came back with a determination and a renewed focus fueled by “the power of the Spirit.” (Lk 4:14)

Four groups are mentioned as targets for this ministry: the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed.  In doing so Jesus defined what kind of Messiah he was to be.  He came to announce, to proclaim “the year of the Lord’s favor.”  This is a reference to Lev. 25 where the Year of Jubilee is described.  Isaiah is painting the picture of the deliverance of Israel from exile in Babylon as a Year of Jubilee when all debts are cancelled, all slaves are freed, and all property is returned to original owners (Leviticus 25).  Jesus is announcing that a new kind of Jubilee, freedom was about to take place because of His ministry.

The part of the Isaiah message that He left off, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, is a reference to the Second Coming but the focus now is the liberation that comes with this phase of His mission.  This becomes very important for us because we are the extension of this very mission.  We become the hands, the feet, the voice of Jesus.  We too are being sent in the power of the Spirit!

2.    In Luke 10:27 we find these words:  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” 
a.    Why does “love the Lord thy God” precede loving our neighbor?
b.    How does Jesus define “neighbor” in the story of the Good Samaritan?  -- As a noun or as a verb? (Lk 10:25-37)

In the story the Samaritan was wounded.  To those who heard the story the Samaritan was an “outsider” and in a sense an enemy.  Jesus defines “neighbor” with “neighboring” – a kind of action and not just by physical descriptions or locations.  In doing so He also defined who we are from heaven’s perspective.  We are all “outsiders” yet we were included in the mission of Jesus which gives us hope.  The very kind we are to share with others.

3.    Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” (Matt. 5:13) Why not diamonds or the majestic mountains of the earth?
a.    Why salt?
b.    When does salt not live up to its purpose?

Salt has many uses. It was used as a preservative but salt was also used to bring out the flavor of the food.

The salt dug from the shores of the Dead Sea could gradually become unsalty.  The rabbis referred to salt as a symbol for wisdom.  To lose its saltiness is to become foolish.  If we in our attempt to mingle with the world, which we need to do, and lose our distinctive characteristics we will foolish and fail for to do the purpose for which we have been called.

This is what happened to God’s people in Deuteronomy 12:30.  Despite all that God had done for them they began to inaquire about the god’s of the land where they had gone by asking, “How do these nations serve their gods” and this led to the worship of their gods.  They were curious, captivated and then caught.  The 3 “C’s” of temptation.

4.    When sharing in our community, why is it that we need to have our eyes “anointed”? (See Rev. 3:18)

Jesus uses the story of farming to explain why anointed eyesight is so important. But what is that is driving Jesus own passion for to complete His mission?

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt 9:36)

“Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:33-35

The Greek word for ripe (leukos) is “white”.  Jesus saw a harvest while the disciples were concerned for food.  In is likely Jesus what Amos prophesied in Amos 9:13—a coming age of great fertility.  Looking at those who were responding Jesus saw the white turbans of the Samaritans.  The disciples saw outcasts.  Jesus saw a harvest, the fulfillment of His mission.

5.    Jesus sent His disciples into Israel but he did so with a strange command, “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts . . . “ (Matt 10:9).  Why?
a.    Why only to the house of Israel?

It was the practice at that time for travelers and solicitors to request funds as part of a business enterprise.  What the disciples were about was not a business for earning but rather an announcement of debts paid! Jesus wanted to make sure there was no confusion.  He was not establishing business.  His mission and that of His disciples was built on sharing the good news which meant at times self-sacrifice – not self-gain.

Once the “lost sheep of Israel” were given an opportunity to see and accept the real mission of Jesus, other nations would be blessed through her! (Gen. 12:3; Isa. 60:3)  Nevertheless, they weren’t to wait but they were to “Go” and share first with the lost of Israel and then into all the world.


Concluding Thought

The gospel is a liberation not a bondage.  Within each person is a prize that God sees and often times we do not.  So valuable is that prize that Jesus came in person and from that coming the image of God can be and is revealed.  We are the ambassadors to reveal to others the value God sees in them regardless of their past, their disability or the shadow cast over them by people and circumstances.

Annie Dillard, 1974 Pulitzer Prize winner for General Nonfiction once wrote:

 “I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until that moment I was lifted and struck.”

The mission God has given to us is just that.  Expose the bell in others.  Strike that bell and let them find the joy in singing praises to their God.  It all begins by seeing what Jesus sees.  Why not start there?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Peter & the Rock


Peter and the Rock

May 21, 2016

Larry R Evans
Sabbath School Teacher


INTRODUCTION

If you’ve been in this class when I’ve taught in the past, you know that I’ve often referred to the two dominant questions found in the book of Genesis:  “Where are you?” (Gen. 3;9) and “Where is your brother?”  Questions have a way of stopping us in our tracks.  They can often cause us to challenge our assumptions and by so doing a deeper truth is revealed.

Throughout the gospels Jesus asked many questions.  I have a list of over 100 questions he asked.  Here are seven and I think you will agree that they are deep penetrating questions:

1. "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Matt. 9:28)
2. "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" (Matt. 8:26)
3. "What do you think about the Christ?" (Matt. 22:42)
4. "Do you love Me?" (John 21:17)
5. "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord', and not do what I tell you?" (Luke 6:46)
6. "What do you want Me to do for you?" (Luke 18:41)
7. "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:3)

These questions are still relevant today, aren’t they?  Our study today begins with another very important question.  It is often dealt with from a theological perspective and that’s certainly relevant.  Today, however, the 5 questions that I am raising as we study Matthew 16 and 17 all originate from one single question that Jesus asked his disciples:  “Who do you say I am?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
1.     Preceding testing or difficult times, Jesus often gives us an opportunity for us to have our faith strengthened so that we will be able to meet a future challenge.  True or False? (Matt. 16:13-20)

2.    Peter’s confession regarding Jesus being the Messiah was significant because his statement of faith would lead to  strength to meet the challenging days ahead.  True or False?  (Matt. 16:14-18)
3.    Satan will use well-meaning friends to try to turn us away from doing God’s will?  True or False (Matt 16:22-23)

4.    Like Jesus, we are often comforted by those who listen and who are personally acquainted with our pain, weakness and or temptation even though their experience might be different.  True or False?  (Matt. 17:1-8)

5.    In our haste to defend truth we may actually misstate truth.  True or False?  (Matt. 17:24-27)
STUDY AND REFLECTION
1.  Preceding testing or difficult times, Jesus often gives us an opportunity for us to have our faith strengthened so that we will be able to meet a future challenge.  True (Matt. 16:13-20)
Read:  Matt 16:13-20
Don’t skip over the location where this conversation took place:  Caesarea Philippi.  In this region idolatry prevailed. False worship, false gods dominated the land and such believes were indeed a threat to the hope and assurance God intended His people to have.  At the same time being in this region underscored the spiritual needs of the people –the world in which Jesus would be sending his disciples
It is often helpful to view large sections of Scripture before focusing on individual verses.  Once that is done, then individuals bring forth greater insights.  The discussion between Jesus and His disciples about who He was is positioned just before the section (Matt. 16:21f) in which Jesus shares the prediction of His death. This raises an important question or observation.  Why?  Why do you think it was important for Jesus to raise this question before He told the disciples about His coming death?  It is easy for us to get bogged down with the name of Peter while allowing us to miss some very important textual insights.
There was something about Jesus question, “Who do you say that I am?” that He felt was important to be asked before He made his announcement about His death. I believe there is an important principle there that applies to our own walk with Christ.  Could it be that there was something about a restating one’s faith that actually makes a person stronger?

2.  Peter’s confession regarding Jesus being the Messiah was significant because his statement of faith would lead to  strength to meet the challenging days ahead.  True or False?  (Matt. 16:14-18)
Jesus began by asking who “people” say He is.  Its one thing to say what others say but a whole different situation when you have to explain what you believe.  But Jesus doesn’t leave it there.  He says, “But what about you? “Who do you say I am?”
It is then that Peter speaks up –“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  This is good theology but is that all that Jesus had in mind?
Notice the insightful statement by Ellen White in DA 411,
“He was about to tell them of the suffering that awaited Him. But first He went away alone, and prayed that their hearts might be prepared to receive His words. Upon joining them, He did not at once communicate that which He desired to impart. Before doing this, He gave them an opportunity of confessing their faith in Him that they might be strengthened for the coming trial. He asked, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” { DA 411.2}
 I know that many times when we study this passage we give emphasis to Peter’s name which is in reference to a “rolling stone.”  Peter was not the Rock.  Christ is the Rock (Deut. 32:4)  Peter, himself, clarifies this in 1 Peter 2:4,5,
“As you come to him, the living Stone –rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Roman Catholics teach that Peter is the Rock on which the church is built yet Peter makes it clear that Christ is the “living Stone” and that we who believe are being built into a spiritual house whose foundation is Jesus!
If Peter were the one designated by Jesus as having the greatest authority why would the disciples be arguing later as to who is the greatest! (Matt. 18:1)
While attention is redirected by some to the issue of “authority” the real focus of Jesus was to prepare His disciples for what was about to happen – something that would shake their faith if at all possible.  Jesus knew this and He cared deeply for His disciples and all who would go through the terrible ordeal of seeing their leader hanging as though cursed on a cross.

3.  Satan will use well-meaning friends to try to turn us away from doing God’s will?  True or False (Matt 16:22-23)
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Note these insightful words found in the Desire of Ages, p. 416,
“Satan was trying to discourage Jesus, and turn Him from His mission; and Peter, in his blind love, was giving voice to the temptation. The prince of evil was the author of the thought. His instigation was behind that impulsive appeal. In the wilderness, Satan had offered Christ the dominion of the world on condition of forsaking the path of humiliation and sacrifice. Now he was presenting the same temptation to the disciple of Christ. He was seeking to fix Peter’s gaze upon the earthly glory, that he might not behold the cross to which Jesus desired to turn his eyes.”
Is it possible that Satan uses similar means to turn us away from the mission God has given us.
Also found in the Desire of Ages, are these words:
“Love for souls for whom Christ died means crucifixion of self. . . . The Christian is ever to realize that he has consecrated himself to God, and that in character he is to reveal Christ to the world. The self-sacrifice, the sympathy, the love, manifested in the life of Christ are to reappear in the life of the worker for God.” (p. 417)

4.  Like Jesus, we are often comforted by those who listen and who are personally acquainted with our pain, weakness and or temptation even though their experience might be different.  True
(Matt. 17:1-8)
In this passage (Matt. 17:1-8) the words “after six days” is very specific.  After six days is unusually precise. It stresses the continuity of this episode with the preceding scene in 16:13–28, and perhaps echoes Moses’ mountain experience in Exodus 24:15–18.
Why do you think this event is even recorded?  Is there any significance in verse 3?
“Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
But why?  Note the following insights:
“Now the burden of His prayer is that they may be given a manifestation of the glory He had with the Father before the world was, that His kingdom may be revealed to human eyes, and that His disciples may be strengthened to behold it. He pleads that they may witness a manifestation of His divinity that will comfort them in the hour of His supreme agony with the knowledge that He is of a surety the Son of God and that His shameful death is a part of the plan of redemption.” ( DA 420-421)
Throughout Matthew 16 and 17 we see Jesus doing whatever He can to prepare His disciple and His followers for what is about to take place. They had no idea though prophecies had made it clear. The question before us now is is:  “What is Jesus trying to tell us now? Are we listening?  Are we preparing?

5.  In our haste to defend truth we may actually misstate truth.  True or False?  (Matt. 17:24-27)
There is a caution given in the experience found in Matt. 17:24-27,
“After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two- drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
 “Yes, he does,” he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes –from their own sons or from others?”
 “From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four- drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Peter was honestly trying to defend Jesus but in so doing He misstated and even misrepresented Jesus.  In Christ’s day the priests and the Levites were still regarded as especially devoted to the temple, and were not required to make the annual contribution for its support.  In Peter’s haste to defend Jesus, he actually contributed to the false notion that Jesus was not a prophet and certainly not the One to whom all the Levites represented in their ministry.
Ellen White notes,
“Only a little before, Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God; but he now missed an opportunity of setting forth the character of his Master. By his answer to the collector, that Jesus would pay the tribute, he had virtually sanctioned the false conception of Him to which the priests and rulers were trying to give currency.” { DA 433.}
CONCLUDING THOUGHT
No doubt difficult times lie ahead.  Not just financial difficulties, nor difficulties of earthly calamities.  The challenges we face are similar to those for which Jesus sought to prepare his disciples in Matt. 16 and 17.
The words of Isaiah 50:4-10 are powerful, comforting and instructive words as we reflect back on our study for today:
“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears,
and I have not been rebellious;
I have not drawn back.
 I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.
 He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
Let him confront me!
 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
Who is he that will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
the moths will eat them up.
 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God