Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 5, Qtr 2-05

Dear Subscribers: We are sorry that "Insights" No. 4 was so late in
getting to you last week. It was sent on time, but for some reason was
held up in "Cyberspace." We pray that you will receive this message
without delay.--The "Insights" Staff

Special Insights No. 5

Second Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Jesus Through the Eyes of Mark”

(Produced by the editorial board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

Insights to Lesson 5: “Confrontation in Galilee”

This week’s lesson highlights the thought that even Jesus
faced the unpleasant realities of “confrontation,” “rejection,” and
“persecution.” If we are truly His disciples we should not expect to
avoid the same treatment. It is no secret that human nature desires
only pleasant relationships, peaceful encounters, happy experiences,
and continual acceptance and approval. But Jesus said to His
disciples: “Remember the word that I said unto you. The servant is not
greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also
persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also”
(John 15:20). Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
recorded, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall
suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Notice the certainty of the
Apostles declaration, “shall suffer … .” He does not
say “may” or “could” suffer. The result of living in fellowship with
Christ is clear and certain.

At times we are tempted to indulge in legalistic thinking. We
entertain the notion that suffering, whether it takes the form of
painful misunderstandings, prejudice, opposition, rejection, or
persecution, is the result of personal failures and mistakes. To be
sure we can cause problems through our own weaknesses
and mistakes, but when things do not turn out as expected or desired,
it is not a sure sign of personal failure.

The Jews were given the story of Job to prevent them from making this
mistake in their evaluation of the end of Christ’s mission. Long
before the cross Jesus realized they had not learned the lesson that
the story of Job teaches, and He sought to correct their thinking.
“There were present at that season some that told Him of the
Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And
Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were
sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I
tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or
those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them,
think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”
(Luke 13:1-5). The Jews assumed that since these terrible events had
happened to these people they were great sinners, and since these
events had not happened to them they were righteous. Jesus sought to
correct their misconceptions. He also seeks to clarify ours.

Our natural inclination is to reason in the same pattern as the Jews.
“If things are going well we must be doing right. If things are not
going well it must be our fault.” It seems we are all natural-born
legalists. And to make matters worse the world is “wired” to reinforce
this mind set. We earn our grades in school. We earn our place on an
athletic team. We audition to win a seat in a choir or an orchestra.
We earn our salaries in the work place. We “merit” an increase in pay.
The modus operandi of the world tells us we get what we “deserve,” and
hard work is what defines what we “deserve.” Thus whenever things fail
to go as desired, we tend to conclude we must have done something
wrong. We need to change our course of action. It is up to us to make
things better. The difficulties must somehow be our fault.

The bible presents an entirely different paradigm. Suffering in this
life is not always the result of wrong-doing. It is not an enemy to be
avoided by any means necessary. It can be one of God’s greatest
blessings. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only
to believe on him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to
try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice,
inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter
4:12-13). “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers
temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your
faith worketh patience” (James 1:2-3).

Trouble and heartache and sorrow and pain can be a sign that we are on
the right course. Opposition, rejection, misunderstanding, and
persecution may be a sign that you have taken a proper course of
action. When we face difficulties that have been sent by Satan, he
would then have us conclude we must surely be on the wrong course or
we have made a serious mistake. He would have us retract the truth we
have spoken. Reconsider our mission focus, or admit miscalculations.
Knowing that he is a deceiver and a liar we must never judge the
truthfulness or correctness of a position by the apparent immediate
results produced. Truth must be judged on the basis of a clear “thus
saith the Lord.” No other standard will endure the test of time.

This week the teacher’s quarterly reminds us that “the greatest want
of the world is the want of men--men who will not be bought or sold,
men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear
to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty
as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the
heavens fall” (Ellen G. White, Education, p. 57).
These are the kind of men and woman the Lord will use in the last
days. They will not be ruled by opinion polls or engage in popularity
contests. Truth and truth alone will be precious to them. They will
present it in the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some will receive it and some will reject it with all the fury of
demons from hell and yet God’s people will be unmoved.

They will follow in the footsteps of the reformers who have gone
before them, Jesus Christ being the Chief Reformer. And they will
understand that following Christ means “denying self” and “taking up
the cross.” Self wants comfort, peace, popularity, acceptance, and
even applause. All this must be denied. Until this lesson is learned
we cannot carry the “most precious [1888] message” to the world. It
met with stern opposition over one hundred years ago, and its revival
will in some respects endure the same fate. The difference is that in
the end the opposition will finally come from without rather than from
within. Nevertheless, opposition is opposition and those who have not
understood the cross will not be able to endure.

If we are followers of Christ, we must remember that we follow in the
footsteps of the One who was “despised and rejected of men, a Man of
sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He calls us to first take up our
cross and then we are to follow Him. Taking up the cross involves the
acceptance of eminent suffering. By God’s grace let us learn to endure
these realities in the spirit of Christ.

--Kelvin (Mark) Duncan


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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Insights to Lesson 4

Second Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons:
Jesus Through the Eyes of Mark
Insights to Lesson 4
By Galilee
April 16-22

(Produced by the 1888 Message Study Committee)
"He Spake in Parables"

This week’s lesson is about several parables that illustrate God’s kingdom and power. Two were simply word pictures, while the others were living parables. There’s so much depth in this lesson that we can’t begin to cover it all in this short Insights.

Throughout the Gospels we find that Jesus’ parables are generally grouped into three sessions which reflect the increasing opposition of the church leadership to His teaching. As He neared the end of His time here on earth, the lessons became more pointed as Jesus attempted to bring corporate repentance to His people. His lesson was clear: without a true heart conversion and deep repentance for their sin of unbelief, they would not be ready for the outpouring of the early rain He longed to bestow upon them.

We can imagine that a common exclamation from the groups of people gathered around to hear Jesus was "never a man taught us like this," which revealed both perplexity and skepticism over what they were hearing in His teaching. The amazement or astonishment of the people witnessing His many miracles indicates not just wonderment about the miracles and demonstrations of power, but also indicates a rising alarm which set the stage for theological controversies.

Jesus’ teaching, both in theological terms and in parables, was not as the scribes and Pharisees taught. Jesus taught "with authority." His material was new, not like the rabbinical parables which were mere rehashes of their private interpretations of Scripture. The scribes and Pharisees liberally sprinkled their parables with quotes from their favorite rabbi, which was intended to provide their sayings with an impression of authority based in tradition.

The scribes and Pharisees usually began their parables with "to what is the thing like?" and then proceeded to use an illustration that would place the meaning of the Law within the range of comprehension of the common people. Rabbinical parables usually concluded with an exhortation to take much greater pains in studying the Law while attempting to live a righteous life to merit favor with God.

However, Jesus’ use of parables was refreshingly different, bringing precious fresh bread from heaven to feed the starving people. They were intended by Jesus to set forth, not the merit of study or working for righteousness, but the compassion of the Saviour who was seeking the lost sinner, reconciling him to his heavenly Father. In His parables, Jesus used familiar references to well-known scenes or events from daily life, that was in accordance to prevailing notions. Most of His parables were simple, yet complex, having a depth of meaning that would reward the student who contemplated its profound significance.

Two of the parables in this week’s lesson deal with the kingdom of God, and the other four are living illustrations of God’s power over His creation. I refer to these miracles as parables because they have been left to us through the written word as object lessons regarding Jesus’ power to save from sin. If this Man has power to still the furious squall that had come upon the sea, and power to cast out thousands of demons with a single word, and raise the dead to life, then surely He has power to deliver us from our sin!

Through His miracle/parables, Jesus proved that He was going to have ultimate victory over Satan. No matter how much control Satan appears to have over individuals suffering under terribly vexing circumstances, the power of the word of God is stronger. Jesus is Lord and Master of the animate and inanimate world.

The new light on the character of God that was being shed upon the people was viewed with skepticism, especially by the leaders of the Jewish people. Certain illnesses were understood by them to be a curse from God for some horrific sin that had been committed (e.g. leprosy). Mental illness was demon possession that even their elaborate exorcism techniques could rarely cure.

Yet here was a Man who ignored all the priestly regulations, not only associating with the sick and feeble, but actually touching the unclean (leper, bleeding woman, dead girl — all of these would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean). With a word He was able to staunch bleeding, raise the dead, cast out demons, still the raging storm. Incredible; unbelievable! Seeking to protect themselves from this new revelation, the scribes and Pharisees claimed that only Satan himself could have such power.

You have the example of the Jews how they treated everything that did not harmonize with their opinions of doctrines. They settled the matter that they had the truth on every subject and could be instructed in no point, and in the place of producing reasons from the Old Testament to show that Christ and His disciples were in error, they would not hear Him and condemned him, and misstated His positions and His doctrines, treated Him as a criminal and guilty of grievous wrongs. (1888 Materials p. 463).

In the adult teacher’s Quarterly lesson outline we find these comments: "False interpretations of religious teaching in Jesus’ time caused many to have misplaced faith or to lose their faith entirely. . . .We must be discerning in how we apply our deeply held beliefs and practices."

"False interpretations of religious teaching" have always led people astray. We see a time closer to us when the same thing was repeated among our own brethren. New light on the covenants and living a righteous life through faith alone in the merits of the Saviour was sent to us from God in 1888. Because of preconceived opinions, truth was rejected and kept away from the world.

When the Jews took the first step in the rejection of Christ, they took a dangerous step. When afterward evidence accumulated that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, they were too proud to acknowledge that they had erred. So with the people of our day who reject the truth. . . . Just like the Jews, they [certain brethren at the Minneapolis general conference] take it for granted they have all the truth, and feel a sort of contempt for anyone who should suppose they had more correct ideas than themselves of what is truth. (1888 Materials, pp. 169-170).

Working to shut off the light that exposed their false concepts, the Pharisees increased their opposition to Jesus as He progressively revealed God as a merciful and loving Saviour who came seeking the lost sheep, willing and able to "save to the uttermost" all who would believe in His power. Continued resistence eventually caused them to commit the worst crime in the history of the universe—the crucifixion of their only source of redemption from sin. We find history repeated in our own behaviour at Minneapolis in 1888.

An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth [on the covenants], lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E.J.] Waggoner and [A.T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world. (Selected Messages, Bk. 1, pp. 234-235).

"There is no new thing under the sun" and so we see that we’re still in the same unbelieving condition as were the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day, sadly in need of a true heart conversion and corporate repentance that will prepare us to receive the latter rain He so longs to bestow upon His people.

As we study these lessons from Mark, let us learn to accept—as a little child, as a helpless cripple, as a leper without hope, as one lost at sea during a hurricane—the awesome power being revealed to us to save us from sin. What Jesus did then, He is more than able to accomplish now. If we will yield our selves to the power of Christ, we will find freedom from all our sins. We have been set free (past tense). The prison house is open, let us walk forth in newness of life in Christ. It’s past time for us believe this good news and proclaim that gospel which "is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 1:16).

Other Gospel points to consider as you develop your study of this lesson:


By associating with sinners, curing their illnesses, touching the unclean, Jesus was taking our sins upon Himself (Isa. 53:4-9, Heb. 2:17; 1 Pet. 2:24). This demonstrates the truth of the human nature which Christ assumed in the incarnation. He is not far off from us, but a Saviour nigh at hand; our Kinsman Redeemer (Lev. 25:48,49; Ruth 2:20).

The storm was an attempt by Satan to destroy Jesus. The Old Testament uses symbolic illustrations of Satan as leviathan (dragon), a huge monster from the deep (Psa. 74:14; Isa. 27:1). Jesus has power over Satan, to crush his head. Satan is a defeated foe; sin no longer has dominion over us (Rom. 6:12-14).

Jesus has power to call those things that aren’t as though they were. His creative power gave life to the dead and dying, cured the leper, cast out demons. It is what calls us righteous, and not only calls us righteous, but makes us righteous (see SC p. 62). A.T. Jones, Lessons on Faith, p. 46—"When God speaks, there is in His word the creative energy to produce the thing which that word pronounces." E.J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness—"It is true that God will by no means clear the guilty; He could not do that and still be a just God. But He does something far better: He removes the guilt, so that the one formerly guilty does not need to be cleared,—he is justified, and counted as though he never had sinned." (p. 72).

There is no salvation in depending upon our own power. Just as the disciples sought to save themselves from the power of the storm and forgot their true Saviour was right there in the ship with them, so we are reluctant to place our entire dependence upon Him (DA 334-336). Living faith in His power is what saves us. "Since faith is the depending upon the word of God only, for what that word says, being justified by faith is simply being accounted righteous by depending upon the word only. And since the word is the word of God, dependence upon the word only is dependence upon God only, in the word. Justification by faith, then, is justification—being accounted righteous by dependence upon God only, and upon Him only because He has promised." (A.T. Jones, Lessons on Faith, p. 25).

—Ann Walper