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
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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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