Author Topic: SDA Sabbath School Lesson 9--1st Quarter 2017--The Holy Spirit and the Church  (Read 2312 times)

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Lesson 9 February 25-March 3

The Holy Spirit and the Church

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants:  we have done that which was our duty to do.  Luke 17:10

Richard Myers

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Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week's Study: Eph. 1:22, 23; 1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3-7; Acts 17:11; Eph. 4:5, 6; Acts 2:4-11.

Memory Text: "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism." Ephesians 4:3-5

Sometimes we think of the Holy Spirit at work only on the individual level and in the lives of individual believers. But this work in individuals is the foundation of a spiritual community. The Holy Spirit is ultimately responsible for the existence of the church of Christ.

We are often tempted to think that the church exists and grows because of our various evangelistic and missionary activities. Yes, God wants to achieve His glorious plans for the church, and do so with our help. But the real reason for the church lies not in what we do; nor is it the result of our efficient organization and effective administration, however important these are. The church exists because of what God has already done and continues to do for us through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who creates a spiritual community and fellowship that has the Written Word of God, inspired by the same Spirit, as its authority for faith and practice. The Spirit-inspired Bible is the foundation for the theological unity of the church. Without the work of the Spirit, the church would not exist and could not continue to fulfill its united mission.

Amen. And without the Spirit indwelling the church member, what is the church? Look at Israel when their Messiah came and they put Him to death. Yes, it was God's church, but it was in a Laodicean condition, like at the time of the flood and like it is today.

Listen to the Words of our Savior addressed to you and me today, as the church of God.

3:14   And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 
 3:15   I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 
 3:16   So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 
 3:17   Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 
 3:18   I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 
 3:19   As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 
 3:20   Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 
 3:21   To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 
 3:22   He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

Where is the Spirit? He is speaking to His professed people attempting to get them to buy of Him gold tried in the fire, faith that works by love, the love of God. He wants to give us His white raiment, and He wants to give us good gifts as human fathers want to give good gifts to their children. He wants to give us the Spirit of God in our hearts.

As a people, why do we resist? Because we believe we are rich and have all we need already. Such a deception! Jesus is knocking on the door of the heart, today, that we might have unity of doctrine and unity of Spirit.

Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Sunday February 26

The Holy Spirit Unites Us With Christ

The Holy Spirit unites us in manifold ways. We would not exist as a church if the Holy Spirit would not first unite us with Christ. Christ is the head of the church (see Eph. 1:22, 23; 5:23). Through the Holy Spirit, we are effectually united to Christ Himself. Being united with Christ is the foundation of all the blessings of salvation, because all we have in the Lord comes from Him. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God, our justification as well as our sanctification, our living a victorious life over sin, and our final glorification are all received through our union with Christ. Thus, He must be the foundation to our entire Christian experience.

Amen! Without the Spirit taking possession of the heart, there is no Christian experience, and thus an empty church. Israel gave us a good example of a hollow church.

Read Ephesians 2:18, 20-22 and 1 Peter 2:6, 7.

2:18   For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 
 2:19   Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 
 2:20   And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone]; 
 2:21   In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 
 2:22   In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. 

 2:6   Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 
 2:7   Unto you therefore which believe [he is] precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 

What do they tell us about the role of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the creation of the church?

Christ is the head of the church, and the Spirit is the One who binds all together as He indwells each one.

Through the Spirit, we have access to God the Father. Jesus is the rock, the foundation of our salvation, and the one on whom all other parts of the whole building are erected.

The work of the Spirit on the individual level then leads to a specific community of faith: the church. When we have experienced salvation through faith in Christ Jesus alone, and have been touched by the love of God, there is a sweet "communion of the Holy Ghost" (2 Cor. 13:14) in the church. Individual believers are being built into a new spiritual house of God "through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). As followers of Christ we should be eager "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). In every way possible, without compromising what cannot be compromised, we need to seek for unity in the fellowship of believers.

Read Colossians 3:12-14.

 3:12   Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 
 3:13   Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye. 
 3:14   And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 

Amen! But, unity will not come to those who will not surrender the whole heart to Jesus. There comes a time when mercy will no longer bear with the unrepentant. We cannot know when the line is crossed, but there are times when one must be put out of the church. There are times when reproof, in love, is necessary. Jesus said to some coming to His baptism: "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." Matthew 3:7,8. In our effort to win to Christ some who are unrepentant, we ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak.

How can you exemplify those attributes and contribute to unity in the church? Why are these attributes so crucial to the unity of the church?

How can we do any good thing? We need to be fully surrendered to Jesus. We need to be filled with the Holy Ghost. We need to die to self, then we shall manifest all of the fruits of His Spirit; Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Without these attributes, we are working on the side of Satan. We cannot serve two masters. If we are serving Christ, then the Spirit is in the heart and we manifest each one of these attributes, for they come when the Spirit resides in the heart.
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Pastor Sean Brizendine

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Monday February 27

The Holy Spirit Unites Us Through Baptism

Read 1 Corinthians 12:13: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."

How does baptism unite us with Christ and with the Spirit?

Baptism represents entering into death with Christ--death to the old man of sin, so that we are raised to newness of life by becoming one with Christ by the Holy Spirit. This means the entire heart must be yielded to Christ. The evidence that one is ready to be (physically) baptized is that the repentant sinner is bearing all of the fruits of the Spirit without one missing. Only when the fruits of conversion are manifest does water baptism fittingly represent the change that has taken place, the spiritual union that has happened by the Holy Spirit in uniting the soul to Christ.

It is the Holy Spirit who unites us into one body of believers. The public entrance into Christ's spiritual kingdom is through baptism. We are baptized into a specific church body. Thus, baptism has a distinct communal dimension and important communal implications. As followers of Christ, we cannot live just by ourselves. We all need the support, encouragement, and help of others. And we certainly cannot fulfill the divine mission alone. That is why God has created the church. To follow Christ means following Him in the fellowship of other believers. Thus baptism and the church have a visible component to them.

There are many who have accepted the visible component of baptism but are yet unconverted in heart. The water has no power to change the heart in and of itself. The soul must behold the loveliness of Jesus and be divested of selfishness fully--a full surrender is necessary; perfection of character (as seen in all of the fruits of the Spirit being revealed in the life without one missing) will be seen in each soul who is living by faith upon Christ--and this should take place before baptism--in that the soul is following the light that they have, and are not living in any known sin. The commission of a known sin separates the soul from Christ. But many are deceived on this point, and think that they can sin and still retain justification. This is what is contributing to the Laodicean condition of the church. Many are baptized but are not converted yet; this has been a great cause for church difficulties. "The minds of many are clouded with unbelief because those who unite with the church as the chosen of God do not reveal the virtues that are the fruits of the Spirit. Joining the church is not a sure evidence that a man has joined himself to Christ. The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world. This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches. Many, so many, who assume the name of Christ are unsanctified and unholy. They have been baptized, but they were buried alive. Self did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ." {12MR 51.1}

Read Romans 6:3-7.

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

What is symbolized through biblical baptism?

Biblical baptism represents death to sin and self, and being raised in newness of life in Christ. But this must be a continuous experience maintained by constant watchfulness and prayer. We can do no good thing apart from Jesus, we must be united with Him in mind and heart by the Holy Spirit for the symbol of baptism to bear true witness.

The act of being buried with Jesus Christ through baptism into death in the watery grave and being raised to new life in fellowship with Jesus our Lord and Savior symbolizes the crucifixion of the old life and the public confession of accepting Christ as our Savior.

"Baptism is a most solemn renunciation of the world. Self is by profession dead to a life of sin. The waters cover the candidate, and in the presence of the whole heavenly universe the mutual pledge is made. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, man is laid in his watery grave, buried with Christ in baptism, and raised from the water to live the new life of loyalty to God." - Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1074.

Baptism is a positive step with which all who wish to be acknowledged as under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit must comply. In other words, baptism marks true repentance, the crucifixion of the old life, and it signals the new birth or conversion. It also encompasses mutual covenant obligations. The believer promises to be faithful to God and His commandments, and God guarantees that we can depend on His help whenever we need it.

Have you made a decision for believers' baptism? If not, what hinders you from following Christ in baptism? If you have been baptized by immersion, how has your baptismal covenant impacted your spiritual walk with Jesus?

It is more than a covenant--it is new life altogether. While there is the promissory aspect of the baptism and the vows made, one needs to realize his or her own weakness and continual need of Jesus. I have found how much I need Jesus in order to exhibit the fruits of His Spirit. That is why it would be well to spend a thoughtful hour in contemplation of Jesus' loveliness of character as manifested in His life--especially the closing scenes. Whether you are baptized or not, please join us daily in beholding Jesus' character in The Desire of Ages forum!!
"When we live by faith on the Son of God, the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives; not one will be missing." {The Desire of Ages, 676.4}

Richard Myers

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Amen, Pastor Sean. It is the Holy Spirit that unites us on the platform of Bible truth. We are united in Spirit with each other, and we strive to come into unity of truth as the Holy Spirit teaches us what is truth. If we are not fully surrendered to Christ, then we have not His Spirit (Romans 8:9). If we have not the Spirit, then how can we be united? We can't. And if we do not have His Spirit, then we cannot serve Him. Them whom do we serve? We cannot serve two masters, neither are we in a neutral position. Our nature is fallen and unless we have given the whole heart to Christ, we serve Satan and are in bondage to sin.

Today, Jesus knocks on the door of the heart. That still small voice calls to us, that might have the joy and peace that only those who love God supremely may have.
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Pastor Sean Brizendine

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Tuesday February 28

The Holy Spirit Unites the Church Through the Word of God

Read Acts 17:11 "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

and John 5:39 "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
5:46-47 "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?"

8:31, 32: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

What is a distinguishing mark of a true disciple of Christ? Why is the Bible so indispensable in pointing us to Christ and in helping us to follow Him faithfully?

The word of God reveals the loveliness of Jesus to us; if it were not for Scripture we would not be able to clearly discern the way of salvation in the fullest sense that God intended for us. He designs that our mental and moral powers shall be continually receiving fresh revelations of the matchless charms of Christ, and it is in the word of God that we see how much God loves us and that His words are true, for they have been proved true in prophecy and in the experience of others who, as sinful as ourselves, have found in Jesus a living Savior. Jesus is the one who is able to give us a new heart and mind and renew us after the divine similitude, becoming partakers of the divine nature.

The primary means by which the Holy Spirit unites us with Christ is through the Written Word of God. The Bible is a trustworthy source for knowing Jesus and the will of God. That is why reading Scripture and memorizing its content is so important. The Bible is the authoritative source for discerning spiritual truth and error. Paul commended the Bereans as noble-minded (Acts 17:11) because they diligently studied and searched the Scriptures in order to find out if what they heard was true.

Any reformation and spiritual revival-no matter whether it affects us individually or as a church corporately-must be based on Scripture. The Bible is the foundation on which our faith is built; meanwhile, the love of Jesus and for His Written Word is the bond that keeps us together.

Read John 17:17-21.

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Here Jesus speaks about unity as a distinguishing mark of Christian discipleship. According to John 17:17, what is the basis for this unity?

The word unites us together with Christ and others who are in a converted state in a bond of indissoluble union as long as the heart and mind are fully surrendered to Christ. The only power that breaks the word's efficacy in the life is sin--which causes the soul to be separated from God, and can be indulged in only at the risk of infinite peril to the soul. Let us stick close to Jesus by learning to spend that "thoughtful hour" with Him whereby we love Him and we love to dwell upon His word continually in an attitude of prayer and meditation! His word is sweeter than honey to one who loves Christ supremely!

The Word of God is truth (John 17:17, Ps. 119:160). The unity of the church is the work of the Spirit with and through the Written Word of God. The Holy Spirit will never lead us to doubt, criticize, go beyond, or fall short of Bible teaching. Instead, He makes us appreciate the divine authority of Scripture. The Holy Spirit never draws us away from the Written Word, any more than from the Living Word. Instead, He keeps us in constant, conscious, and willing submission to both. The Bible is the foundational source for any theological unity worldwide. Were we to lessen or weaken our implicit belief in the Bible as God's Word of truth to us, the unity of the church would be destroyed.

How much time do you spend in the Word? More important, how can you learn to submit to its teachings?

I love to spend time each morning in God's word in connection with the Spirit of Prophecy--especially the Desire of Ages, as I behold the loveliness of Jesus. Please join us in the Desire of Ages forum as we behold the Word of God made flesh and marvel at the love of God manifested towards us in Christ! It is as we read the word of God that we might behold His character, as our motive in communion with Him is that we may be like Him, that we truly learn to submit to its teachings. We cannot submit to God's word unless we have Jesus in the heart--we must behold Him and realize our sinfulness and helplessness apart from Christ. As we see our great need of Christ, He imbues the soul with the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are enabled to do the deeds of omnipotence. Let us realize what a privilege we have in receiving the word of God and the gift of the Spirit of Prophecy, which helps us to appreciate clearly what has been freely given us in the Bible, directing us to focus upon the truth essential for this time.
"When we live by faith on the Son of God, the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives; not one will be missing." {The Desire of Ages, 676.4}

Richard Myers

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Wednesday March 1

The Holy Spirit Unites the Church in Faith and Doctrine

"One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4:5, 6). What is Paul telling us here about unity and where it comes from?

We come into this world in need of a Savior. Why? Because we are at enmity with God. We are born with a fallen evil nature and need to be changed, born again. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." John 3:6,7.
What happens when we are born again? The Spirit of God indwells the heart. It is Christ in us that is the hope of glory. We must have God in our hearts in order to do any good thing. When we make a full heart surrender to Jesus, then the truth of the verse we are looking at makes sense. "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."

Then there is unity of faith and a willingness to come into unity of doctrine.

Unity in faith and doctrine is accomplished only in faithfulness to the Word of God. The Lord, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, forms a spiritual bond with every believer. The same new birth, generated by the Holy Spirit, the same obedience to the Word of God, enabled by the Holy Spirit, leads to a unity of faith and practice that transcends all human and cultural differences.

Amen! Not all cultures are alike. God confused the languages of the rebellious. There are many cultures, but only one religion of God. Those who cling to their culture rather than to Christ and His way are moving away from God. Yet, in the world we see these cultures extolled. It is not happenstance that we see this. It is Satan glorifying his success. It is mainly a battle against the truth and God.

While we are called to submit to the Word of God and to do everything we can to maintain peace with everyone (Rom. 12:18), we ultimately cannot bring about theological unity or unity of purpose as a church body. For unity is not so much a work to be achieved but a gift of the Holy Spirit, who works on each believer individually and on the church corporately.

Yes, unity of faith comes from a full surrender of the heart and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. But, as we understand, God wants us to be unity on the platform of truth also. Here we are dependent upon the Spirit to not only open our own eyes, but the eyes of understanding to others also. We must work at it in that we are to pray for ways to reach others with the truth and be very meek when we have disagreements with the brethren.

The theological foundation of this unity is the Word of God. Any appeal to the Spirit without the Written Word can lead to suspect doctrines and practices. At the same time, any appeal to the Written Word of God without the Holy Spirit dries up the Word and makes it barren. Because there is only one Lord, there is only one faith that leads to one baptism. Only in joyful faithfulness to the Word of God will we be able to see unity within our church. And if there is no unity in faith and doctrine, there will be no unity in mission.

Amen! We must have the Holy Spirit in the heart in order to understand the deeper things of God. Spiritual things are spiritually understood.

"We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism. The gospel of Christ is to reach all classes, all nations, all tongues and people. The influence of the gospel is to unite in one great brotherhood. We have only one Model that we are to imitate in character building, and then we all shall have Christ's mold; we shall be in perfect harmony; nationalities will blend in Jesus Christ, having the same mind, and the same judgment, speaking the same things, and with one mouth glorifying God." - Ellen G. White, Our High Calling, p. 171.

Amen!! Christ is glorified, not the culture of a particular society.

Look at the Ellen G. White statement above. Not worrying about others and what others do, but only yourself, ask: What can I do to help reach this wonderful goal of unity?

We must first be converted ourselves. Then we will be in unity of faith with all who truly converted. But, we must maintain that conversion daily. How do we do this?

Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Thursday March 2

The Holy Spirit Unites the Church in Mission and Service

Read Acts 2:4-11, 16-21.

2:4   And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 
 2:5   And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 
 2:6   Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 
 2:7   And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 
 2:8   And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 
 2:9   Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 
 2:10   Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 
 2:11   Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 

 2:16   But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 
 2:17   And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 
 2:18   And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 
 2:19   And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 
 2:20   The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 
 2:21   And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

What was the result of the Holy Spirit's being poured out on the New Testament believers?

The conversion of thousands.

The Holy Spirit was responsible for the most powerful missionary outreach that history had witnessed to that point. God can do more through a small group that is united in their devotion to Him than He can through a large group divided in their loyalties. But God can do even greater things when we all have devoted our lives and our energies, our talents and our resources, to Him.

God does not work mightily when the church remains in a Laodicean condition. If many were brought into a Laodicean church, many would leave through the back door and be hard to bring back in.

     Christ longs to work mightily by His Spirit for the conviction and conversion of sinners. But, according to His divine plan, the work must be performed through the instrumentality of His church; and her members have so far departed from Him that He cannot accomplish His will through them. He chooses to work by means, yet the means employed must be in harmony with His character. 
     Who are there in Battle Creek that are faithful and true? Let them come over on the Lord's side. If we would be in a position where God can use us, we must have an individual faith and an individual experience. Only those who trust wholly in God are safe now. We must not follow any human example or lean upon any human support. Many are constantly taking wrong positions and making wrong moves; if we trust to their guidance we shall be misled.  5T 189. 

Out of the unity in life and mission of the believers grew the New Testament church. A small and timid group of believers was changed into a powerful troop that became an effective tool that reached people from many different cultures and languages. They were united in proclaiming "the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). The same God who was active in New Testament times will be active at the end of time, when the work needs to be finished before He comes again.

Read Acts 2:42-47.

2:42   And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 
 2:43   And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 
 2:44   And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 
 2:45   And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need. 
 2:46   And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 
 2:47   Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. 

In what other things were the New Testament believers united?

"They continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." 

The Pentecost mission enterprise was accompanied by a number of other factors where the early church stood united. They were united in Bible study and continually devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42). They were united in fellowship and the breaking of bread, possibly a reference to united worship (Acts 2:42). They were united in prayer (Acts 2:42) and in praising God (Acts 2:47). They were united in serving those in need when they freely shared what they possessed and had all things in common (Acts 2:44, 45). United Bible study and fellowship will result in the desire to share the good news with others and to help others in very practical ways. The Holy Spirit will open our eyes to the needs of those around us.

What activities in your local church help reveal the unity of your church? What more could be done?

It is the gospel of grace that enables souls to be unified in Christ. If we want to see unity of Spirit and doctrine, then we must have a converted church. It leads to perplexity and difficulties when new members are "buried alive". It happened in the day when a prophet was in the church. It still happens today. Evidence of a new heart must be seen before new members are baptized.

     The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world. This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches. Many, so many, who assume the name of Christ are unsanctified and unholy. They have been baptized, but they were buried alive. Self did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ
Vol 6, SDA Bible Commentary, pg 1075. 
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Friday March 3

Further Thought: "This is the work in which we also are to be engaged. Instead of living in expectation of some special season of excitement, we are wisely to improve present opportunities, doing that which must be done in order that souls may be saved. Instead of exhausting the powers of our mind in speculations in regard to the times and seasons which the Lord has placed in His own power, and withheld from men, we are to yield ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit, to do present duties, to give the bread of life, unadulterated with human opinions, to souls who are perishing for the truth." - Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 186.

Amen!  Let us look to Inspiration for our wisdom. And, understand we need to yield completely to Jesus so that the Holy Spirit will take possession of the heart.

"Every individual is striving to become a center of influence, and until God works for His people, they will not see that subordination to God is the only safety for any soul. His transforming grace upon human hearts will lead to unity that has not yet been realized, for all who are assimilated to Christ will be in harmony with one another. The Holy Spirit will create unity." - Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 20, 21.

Amen!! What is meant "transforming grace"?  It means that we have beheld the unmerited love of Jesus and it has transformed our nature. What? We are no longer living in sinful flesh? No! We we still live in sinful flesh, but it is kept under by the power of the indwelling Savior (through His representative, the Holy Spirit). There can be no unity until we are converted, born again of the Spirit (John 3).

Discussion Questions:

    What does Ellen G. White mean when she says that "every individual is striving to become a center of influence"? Why is that such a natural tendency of all of us, and what can we do to fight this tendency in our own lives?

How can a Christian be the center of influence if He is in complete submission to Christ? It is Christ, not I if we are truly converted. Who is moving upon the heart to speak and do? If we belong fully to Jesus, it is Christ, not I. Are we to have influence? Absolutely. We have influence either for Christ and His Word, or against it. But, this influence is not to bring glory to self, but to Christ. We are to be His witnesses, not putting self in God's place. We are "worms". The more clearly we see the character of God, the more clearly we see who we are apart from Christ.

    Some argue that what will really unite us is service, not doctrine. In fact, they argue that doctrine tends to divide people; thus, it should not be made prominent. But why can't there be unity in mission and service if there is division in doctrine? Why is a commonly shared faith a powerful factor for united and effective mission?

If we are fully surrendered to Jesus, then we will be following another Leader who is also leading all others who are fully surrendered. All of the glory then goes to God. When we are not fully surrendered, the whole heart given to Christ, then what are we doing and who is leading?

    At the same time, how much room is there for theological differences? Few people are going to understand truth in the exact same way. How can we be united as a church while, at the same time, allowing for minor differences that will arise? How do people in your local church deal with differences in understanding and yet still maintain unity?

If our guide is the Bible, then we ought to have a basic understanding that will help us in the important things. If we do not have a good understanding of the "milk", then it will be more difficult, but those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will be guided by Him into truth which has been not understood. If, on the other hand, we are not surrendered, then self is leading and there will be no acceptance of those who disagree with "me".

The fully surrendered Christian will want to know if he is wrong, so he will listen closely to those with whom he disagrees. Bring wrong in doctrinal matters brings reproach upon Christ, His Word, and His church.

    How can the Bible be an instrument that will bring unity? What attitude is needed in our study of the Word of God so that we can be united as a church in mission and in faith?

It is the attitude of Jesus that we need. We need to be filled with the Spirit of God in order to be united as a  church in our mission and in our faith. When the church is in a Laodicean condition, this unity is not there, it cannot be, for self is alive and active. But, the solution for ending that condition is clearly laid out in the very same message. Jesus tells us exactly what we need, and He encourages us to know He has not left us, as a people, but is standing at the door of hearts, knocking, wanting in.

Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.