Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Man Called Peter

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The Person of Peter

Sabbath School Study for
April 1, 2017
Larry R Evans

It has been said that, “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”  -- William Booth.

As we begin our study of the 1 and 2 Peter, it is good to pause and look at the man called Peter.  This fisherman became a major leader in the team Jesus called to be His closest associates.  Jesus did not choose a perfect man when he chose Peter.  As we trace his development, we are tempted to draw premature conclusions.  We tend to do the same thing with one another, giving little slack for development.  It is much easier to judge his whole life by some of the impetuous mistakes Peter made.  Jesus, however, saw something that others, including us, fail to see.

I’m reminded of an adage that was used when I was being trained as a church consultant: “Weaknesses are strengths overextended.”  In other words, when a weakness is observed there is often a strength being disguised by some weakness that has caught our attention. Examine the weakness and see if the same trait has a positive counterpart.  Jesus sees beyond the weakness, the character flaw, the weak points and sees possibilities.  Such is the case with the Disciple Peter. 

Peter made some pretty glaring mistakes but Peter also learned how to surrender, how ask for forgiveness and then, how serve from a heart filled with love for Jesus.  We have much to learn from Peter, ever keeping in mind, that “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1.     What makes us “worthy” to become coworkers with Jesus or should we wait until we are worthy?

2.    Where does the power for serving faithfully come from? How do we connect?

3.    In what ways are we “unworthy”? Should this even be a consideration?

4.    How can we express our gratitude for even being considered as a “coworker” with Christ?

5.    Why must we leave “everything” in order to follow Jesus?

THE DANGERS OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY.

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – Augustine

“Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility.” -- Jonathan Edwards

Luke 5: 1-11
Peter Learns to Fish


1.  What makes us “worthy” to become coworkers with Jesus or should we wait until we are worthy? Can we serve worthily?  Is there a difference between being worthy and serving worthily?

·      Luke 5:1-11  What was it that Peter had to unlearn before he coiuld learn the very principles that would make him a great leader? 

·      What did he know how to do well:
o   How and when to fish. 
o   That people don’t walk on water.
o   How storms at sea can become vicious.
o   He knows his trade, the way of the sea, the way fish behave, how to cast his nets, how to manage his boat and therefore he is self-confident. 
o    
·      Could it be that what he thought was his greatest strength set the stage for his greatest weakness?   If so what was it?  What was it that Jesus was trying to do with his miracle?  Was He providing a material gain for the day?  Feeding hungry people?

o   Why would a miracle cause Peter to say, “I am, a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8) What can we learn from Peter’s confession?

Some have said Peter’s problem was “self-sufficiency.” What does self-sufficiency mean?

Dictionary:  needing no outside help in satisfying one's basic needs”  How does this apply to our Christian walk.

“The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient.” --Augustine

What brought Peter to the conclusion that he was a “sinful man”? (Lk 5:8)

What did he learn that led Jesus to affirm him as “a fisher of men”?

Note the insightful statement by Ellen White:

“Why is it that many seem to think that a responsible position exalts the man? Why do they become so self-sufficient when they are so utterly dependent upon the atoning Sacrifice? Why is there with some so great a want of tenderness, so little heart work? It is because those who are self-sufficient have not fallen upon the Rock and been broken. This is why there is so little trust in God, so little earnest, contrite repentance, so great a lack of fervent prayer. Well may the questions be put by every instructor: “Have I received the Holy Ghost since I believed? Have I received Christ as my personal Saviour?” Let these questions be solemnly answered.” { CSW 111.1}

Confidence and self-confidence are not the same. What’s the difference?  Are the dangers of self-confidence and self-importance still dangers today?  Note the warning by Ellen White:

“Oh, what care should be taken by all who claim to be Christians that they do not call their passions and self-importance religion. By showing vanity, by longing for distinction, many hide the person of Christ, and expose themselves to view. There is such self-importance in their own ideas and way, and they cherish such a pleasing sense of their smartness, that the Lord cannot bestow his Holy Spirit upon them. If he did, they would misinterpret it, and exalt themselves still higher because of it. Their self pleasing ideas are a great hindrance to the advancement of the work. Whatever part they act self is the main picture presented. Their own zeal and devotion is thought to be the great power of truth. Unaware to themselves, all such are unfaithful stewards. They swerve the work in wrong lines. Self-importance leads them where they will be left to make false moves.” --Ellen White in KC – the Kress Collection (1985) An Evil Work, To Every Man His Work.

What can we learn from Ellen White’s acknowledgement to her husband of her own imperfections?

MR No. 1426—Ellen White Acknowledges Her Imperfection
(Written to “Dear Husband,” May 16, 1876, from Oakland, California.)

“It grieves me that I have said or written anything to grieve you. Forgive me and I will be cautious not to start any subject to annoy and distress you. We are living in a most solemn time and we cannot afford to have in our old age [Ellen White was 48 years of age and her husband was 54 when this letter was written.] differences to separate our feelings. I may not view all things as you do, but I do not think it would be my place or duty to try to make you see as I see and feel as I feel. Wherein I have done this, I am sorry.” { 20MR 23.1 }

THE CALL TO FAITHFULNESS
Strong Leaders Know How to Say, "I Was Wrong"
Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75

Do you agree with the following? 

“How can there be great faith where is little faithfulness?  --William Gurnall

“There is no guarantee that men faithful to God will be recognizable by their numbers, their talents or their success.”-- lain H. Murray

Peter was sure he would never “disown” Jesus?  Why do you think he said that?  Where did he make his mistake?

Peter made a terrible mistake and so did Judas? Both were remorseful but each responded differently?  How and Why do you think that was the case? Was pride a factor in making their mistakes?  Was pride a factor in how they chose to resolve the problem they help create?

Note the insight by Ellen White:

“Peter saw the error into which he had fallen, and immediately set about repairing the evil that had been wrought, so far as was in his power. God, who knows the end from the beginning, permitted Peter to reveal this weakness of character in order that the tried apostle might see that there was nothing in himself whereof he might boast. Even the best of men, if left to themselves, will err in judgment. God also saw that in time to come some would be so deluded as to claim for Peter and his pretended successors the exalted prerogatives that belong to God alone. And this record of the apostle’s weakness was to remain as a proof of his fallibility and of the fact that he stood in no way above the level of the other apostles. [ AA 198-199]

A CONCLUDING HOPEFUL THOUGHT

A Changed Peter While Retaining Personal Strengths

“Before his great fall he was always forward and dictatorial, speaking unadvisedly from the impulse of the moment. He was always ready to correct others and to express his mind before he had a clear comprehension of himself or of what he had to say. But Peter was converted, and the converted Peter was very different from the rash, impetuous Peter. While he retained his former fervor, the grace of Christ regulated his zeal. Instead of being impetuous, self-confident, and self-exalted, he was calm, self-possessed, and teachable. He could then feed the lambs as well as the sheep of Christ’s flock.” – Ellen White, 5T:334-335

Friday, January 6, 2017

“The Spirit and the Word”


“The Spirit and the Word”
Sabbath School Bible Study

January 7, 2017

Larry R Evans

Introduction
 Today’s study, “The Spirit and the Word,” is such an important one. It lays the foundation for God’s communication with us.  Ultimately the question is, “Can we trust the Bible? Can we trust God? Can the ancient Book still be an accurate Guidebook thousands of years later?”

The answer to these questions begins with the very first verses of the Bible.  Let’s read a sample of the Creation account from Genesis 1.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (vss 1-3)
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”  (v 6)
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; (v 26) NIV
These samples make it clear that the spoken word of God has power; it brings forth change.  It speaks of the intentionality of God. This was not simply a conversation that God had.

With the Genesis creation in mind, let’s go to the Gospel of John chapter 1 verses 1-5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (Jn 1:1-5)

In Genesis we learn that God speaks and His word brings forth life. The earth which was without form became formed and in the place of darkness there was light. In the Gospel of John we see that Communicator-God is described as being the Word and communicating with His person.  As we saw in Genesis, this Word brings forth life – man who was created in the image of God is now reminded that in this Word (Jesus) is to be found to be the source of life. Later we discover that as disciples we are to also be communicators through our witness to this Word, this Life.  We do this by the way we live and by teaching what has been revealed to us.

What we have just seen is the foundation for this week’s study which is about “Revelation and Inspiration --  or in other words,  how God’s “word” is revealed to you and me with the intention that it might become His word “in” us.

 
Three Questions for Today’s Study

1.    What is the difference between the terms revelation and inspiration, or is there any difference?
2.    How can we be certain that the Bible is reliable since human agents are God’s spokesman? 
3.    How do we guard against popular opinions becoming a substitute for what the Bible says?

Revelation and Inspiration

Is there a difference between revelation and inspiration?  One definition that is used is this: 

Revelation has to do with the unfolding, the unveiling, or revealing of God’s unchangeable truth.
Inspiration is God’s working by His Holy Spirit through human agents to communicate His truth.  “They are His penmen, not His pen.”  God directed His spokespersons’ thoughts, inspired their minds and guided their pens rather than dictating word by word.  Only in a few situations are specific words given most of the time thoughts are presented from the unique background and personality of the writer.

This raises the question:

Is the Bible more than a collection of inspirational writings?  How authoritative is Scripture intended to be?  See 2 Timothy 3:16.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NKJV)
Some versions of 2 Tim. 3:16 have the translation “inspiration of God” while others have “God-breathed.”  For our purposes today, the point we need to recognize is that Scripture originates with God. However, it seems that Timothy is not just being informed of the inspiration of Scripture.  This was a teaching commonly admitted by Jews.   Rather, Timothy is being reminded that the basis of its profitableness lies in its inspired character.

Consider 2 Peter 1:19-21,
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Is this a “revelation”, an “inspiration”, or both?

Question:  Let’s suppose you meet someone who says that she has been studying the Bible and has concluded that in March of 2017 there will be a financial crash and our money will not be worth anything.   She feels strongly, therefore, that we should all stock up now on food, clothing,  or she might say we should empty our bank accounts and give the money to missions.   

·      Does the fact that she says that she has been inspired by Bible reading mean that we should respond the same way and stock up on food, or give our money to a worthy cause?  Maybe, but if not, why not? How should we respond?

Does John 16:13 shed any light?
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
Context of any Bible verse is important.  The reference here is that the Holy Spirit will guide or show the way.  He does not coerce anyone into knowing the truth about God.  How does He do that?

The Western mind wants answers now.  Do I buy this car or that one?  Should I change jobs or not?  No doubt, these can be critical questions depending on the circumstance. How does the Spirit guide?  We have a hint in John 15 where we discover that the most critical question of all is – Are we abiding or remaining in God?  Is our daily life being built on the Word of God?  So, while we may desire an answer now the best way of finding guidance is through a persistent, daily relationship with God.  We are more likely then, to be in tune with God’s will and make right decisions.


2.    How can we be certain that the Bible is reliable since human agents are God’s spokesman?  

In some ways, this question is like the question John the Baptist asked from his prison cell.  He had professed, he had taught, he had preached about Jesus being the Messiah but now he found himself in prison.  Was he wrong? Could the reassuring words he had been preaching about the coming Christ been a delusion?

John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him for the truth.  So Jesus answered John’s disciples,

“Go and tell John what you see and hear—that blind men are recovering their sight, cripples are walking, lepers being healed, the deaf hearing, the dead being brought to life and the good news is being given to those in need.”
Then Jesus says, “And happy is the man who never loses his faith in Me.” (Matt. 11:4-6.)
The greatest argument in favor of the reliability of the Bible is its impact on the lives of men and women who not only read it but allow its truths to penetrate their lives.  Despite John’s imprisonment, the answer of Jesus was enough.  His immediate circumstance did not cause him to deny the belief and life he had lived prior to his imprisonment.
 
3.    How do we guard against popular opinions becoming a substitute for what the Bible says?

I hope that you all get to see the film that will be released later this month called, “Beware of Angels.”  The name comes from the book with the same title and was written by Rober J Morneau, (See Amazon). 

Sharon Halstead was a devoted, fourth-generation Adventist.  She says she “told God I would do anything for Him. But I never thought He would send an angel to tell me to destroy people.  Firing those shots was the most difficult thing I had done to please Him.” Sharon did shoot and killed the mother, shot and wounded the father and the baby.  I know the story well because I was subpoenaed to testify at the hearing.  She is not alone in doing horrible things despite an earlier life of faithful obedience. Others have done very strange things all in the name of God.  There will be deceptions in the last days and we must not forget that.


Galatians 1:6-9
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
In the case of Sharon Halsted, she believed she was talking with her angel.  Spiritualism is a deception.  As a church, we’ve taught about this danger often, yet there seems to be a yearning to have the inside track with God the Super Natural!  Yet, when we are suffering we forget what God has said in the past.

Concluding Thoughts


Philip Yancey recounts the following experience:

“I spoke recently to a man in Thailand who’s spent his entire adult life translating the Bible into the languages of small tribes in remote islands of the Philippines.  He told me of his deepest winter season: he had just been elected to a prominent directorship of his organization when an accident left him paraplegic.  During his hospitalization, he suffered another accident that tore his nose off his face and left him temporarily blind.  While he lay in his bed, unseeing, unmoving, in pain, angry at God, a woman he’d discipled leaned into his pillow, put her mouth to his ear, and whispered, ‘Do not forget in the night what God has shown you in the day.’” (Philip Yancey in For Everything, a Season, p.17)
Most mornings I go for a walk.  It’s not a long walk—just over a couple miles but it does give me a chance to do some spiritual reflection before I head off to work or to church or to wherever I’ll be going that day.  One of the highlights of the walk is seeing Ted—a retired Army dentist.  We talk about many things but one theme emerges time and time again and that is the goodness of God and specifically the Holy Spirit. It’s a really great way to begin the day.  He often asks what I’m doing and where I’ll be going next.  I’m convinced this is no chance friendship any more than it was a chance friendship than the lady who told her pastor, “Do not forget in the night what God has shown you in the day.’”

Repeatedly, God finds ways of reminding us in His Word, in His providential care and through His presence in the lives of others, that He cares. 

Revelation and inspiration are there.  Despite what lies ahead, don’t forget the counsel given by the convert of the pastor: 

Do not forget in the night what God has shown you in the day.’”