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Thursday         October 18

One Faith Shared in Love

In John 17:3, Jesus said that eternal life is to know God. Read 1 John 2:3-6.

 2:3   And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 
 2:4   He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 
 2:5   But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 
 2:6   He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. 

What does it mean to know God? How do we demonstrate our knowledge of God in our daily lives?

Generally, while people in society today wish to call themselves law-abiding citizens, these same people often will downplay the biblical obligation to keep the commandments of God. Some even argue that God’s grace does away with God’s commandments. But that is not the biblical teaching: “Keeping the commandments is not a condition for knowing God but a sign that we know God/Jesus and love Him. Therefore, knowledge of God is not just theoretical knowledge but leads to action.” - Ekkehardt Mueller, The Letters of John (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2009), p. 39. Jesus Himself emphasized: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:15, 21, NKJV). “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2, 3, NKJV).

Read John 13:34, 35.

 13:34   A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 
 13:35   By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. 

What new commandment did Jesus give His disciples, and how does this relate to the idea of unity among Jesus’ followers?

The command to love one’s neighbor was not new in itself; it can be found in the instructions God gave Moses (Lev. 19:18). What is new is Jesus’ command for His disciples to love one another as He has loved them. Jesus’ example of self-sacrificial love is the new ethic for the Christian community.

What a wonderful standard has been set before us! Jesus’ life had been a practical demonstration of love in action. The whole work of grace is one continual service of love, of self-denying, self-sacrificing effort. We can imagine that Christ’s life was an unceasing manifestation of love and self-sacrifice for the good of others. The principle that actuated Christ should actuate His people in all their dealing with one another. What a powerful witness such love would be to the world. And what a powerful force for unity among us such love would provide, as well.

Until we have that love, all ought to understand what the problem is when we discuss unity. Where is the call for revival and reformation? Until there is, there will not be a unified church, not in the manner in which we are reading this week. If we break one of the commandments, we offend in all. Why is this? What does it have to do with unity in the church?

How can we learn to reveal the kind of self-sacrificing love for others that Jesus had revealed?

The answer is always the same, we need to be fully surrendered to Jesus. We need to love Him with the whole heart, not 90% of it. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit then we shall have love, joy, and peace no matter how many are unconsecrated in the church.

Wednesday         October 17

Unity Among Christians

Read Mark 9:38-41 and John 10:16.

 9:38   And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 
 9:39   But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 
 9:40   For he that is not against us is on our part. 
 9:41   For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. 

10:16   And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd. 

What does Jesus’ response to the apostle John teach us about exclusivism and quick judgments about who is a true follower of Jesus?

Seventh-day Adventists have tended to understand Jesus’ prayer in John 17 as directly applying to the unity of their church denomination. We must be united as a church to fulfill our mission to share the three angels’ messages to the world. On this point, there is little contention.

But what about unity with other Christians? How are we to relate to them in light of what Jesus had prayed?

No question, we believe that God has faithful people in other churches besides our own. Besides, the Bible makes it clear that God has His faithful ones, even in Babylon: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4, NKJV).

At the same time we know that according to the book of Revelation, there is great apostasy among those who profess the name of Christ, and that in the last days many false Christians will unite with each other and with the state in order to bring about the persecution graphically depicted in Revelation 13:1-17. Hence, Adventists always have been very careful about getting involved in calls for unity with other churches, such as seen in the ecumenical movement.

How can someone call for unity and expect it when we do not agree? The Bible says we cannot walk together unless we be agreed. Let's get more specific as to what this means. The unity that Christ is speaking of in our lesson this week is not something someone can call for and expect it to happen. No, we must go to Jesus in order for this unity to appear. We are unified with all who love God and keep His commandments. Who love God supremely holding nothing back. Any other unity is not of God.

How, then, should we relate to other denominations? Ellen G. White wrote the following in regard to the Seventh-day Adventist Church working together with other Christians, at least on this specific issue: “As the human agent submits his will to the will of God, the Holy Spirit will make the impression upon the hearts of those to whom he ministers. I have been shown that we are not to shun the W.C.T.U. workers. By uniting with them in behalf of total abstinence we do not change our position regarding the observance of the seventh day, and we can show our appreciation of their position regarding the subject of temperance. By opening the door and inviting them to unite with us on the temperance question we secure their help along temperance lines; and they, by uniting with us, will hear new truths which the Holy Spirit is waiting to impress upon hearts.” - Welfare Ministry, p. 163.

Though she was dealing with a specific issue at a specific time, she does give principles that we can follow regarding how we relate to other Christians, especially on the question of uniting around a cause.

First, we can work with them on common social interests. Second, if we do unite with them, we must do so in a way that will not compromise our beliefs or practices. Third, we can and should use this “unity” to share with others the precious truths with which we have been blessed.

Our first effort ought to be to share the gospel with other Christians. If they understand, then praise God. But, to share doctrinal truth without first sharing the gospel of grace will not work very well. The last message of mercy is the three angels message which begins with proclaiming the gospel to the whole world.
Tuesday         October 16

“For Those Who Will Believe in Me”

After Jesus prayed for His disciples, He broadened His prayer to include “those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20, NKJV).

Read John 17:20-26.

 17:20   Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 
 17:21   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. 
 17:22   And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 
 17:23   I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 
 17:24   Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 
 17:25   O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 
 17:26   And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare [it]: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. 

What was Jesus’ greatest wish for those who would later believe in the Gospel message? Why is it so important that this prayer be fulfilled?

As the Father and Son are one, Jesus prayed that future believers would also be one. In a few places in the Gospel of John, Jesus referred to the unity of the Father and Son. They never act independently of each other, but are always united in everything they do (John 5:20-23). They share a common love for fallen humanity to the extent that the Father was willing to give His Son for the world, and the Son was willing to give His life for it too (John 3:16, 10:15).

The unity Jesus refers to in this prayer is a unity of love and purpose as it is between Father and Son. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, NKJV). Manifesting this unity in love will give public confirmation, both of their relationship with Jesus and with the Father. “The display of their genuine unity ought to provide a compelling witness to the truth of the Gospel.” - Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), p. 498.

"Ought to"? No, it will. Read again what Jesus said. He did not say it ought to, but that it would. If the unity is not there, then what conclusion can we draw?

This is how the world will know that Jesus is the Savior. In other words, this unity Jesus prayed for cannot be invisible. How can the world be convinced of the truthfulness of the Gospel if it cannot see love and unity among God’s people?

It is very hard to overcome the fact that many who profess to love and serve Christ do not manifest this unity. What can be done to rectify this Laodicean condition?

“God is leading out a people to stand in perfect unity upon the platform of eternal truth. … God designs that His people should all come into the unity of the faith. The prayer of Christ just prior to His crucifixion was that His disciples might be one, even as He was one with the Father, that the world might believe that the Father had sent Him. This most touching and wonderful prayer reaches down the ages, even to our day; for His words were: ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word.’”

“How earnestly should the professed followers of Christ seek to answer this prayer in their lives.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 17.

What are we doing in our lives and churches to help reach the kind of unity presented here? Why is a certain amount of death to self crucial for each of us if we want our church to be united as it should be?

Before I comment on this statement, does anyone see a difficulty with what was said? If so, what is  wrong with it?

Monday         October 15

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

Read John 17:9-19.

 17:9   I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 
 17:10   And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 
 17:11   And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are]. 
 17:12   While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 
 17:13   And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 
 17:14   I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 
 17:15   I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 
 17:16   They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 
 17:17   Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 
 17:18   As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 
 17:19   And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 

What is Jesus praying specifically about in regard to His disciples?

Jesus knows our weakness and our continual need of grace in order to glorify God. He is asking for that help that the disciples will be sanctified (made holy) through the indwelling of the Spirit.

Jesus prays next for His disciples, who are in grave danger of losing their faith in Him in the days ahead, when He, Jesus, will no longer be with them in the flesh. Thus, He commits them to the care of His Father.

The prayer of Jesus is for their protection in the world. As such, Jesus does not pray for the world, because He knows it intrinsically is opposed to the will of the Father (1 John 5:19). But because the world is the place where the disciples will do their service, Jesus prays that they may be preserved from the evil in the world. Jesus is concerned for the world; indeed, He is the Savior of it. But the spread of the Gospel is tied to the witness of those who will go and preach the good news. That is why Jesus needs to intercede for them that the evil one will not defeat them (Matt. 6:13).

One disciple, however, has been defeated. Earlier that evening Jesus had mentioned that one of them had decided to betray Him (John 13:18-30). Even though Jesus refers to the fact that Scripture had predicted Judas’s betrayal (Ps. 41:9), Judas was not the victim of fate. During the Last Supper, Jesus appealed to him in a gesture of love and friendship (John 13:26-30). “At the Passover supper Jesus proved His divinity by revealing the traitor’s purpose. He tenderly included Judas in the ministry to the disciples. But the last appeal of love was unheeded.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 720.

Knowing that envy and jealousies could divide the disciples, as it had done on occasion before, Jesus prays for their unity. “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11, NKJV). Such unity is beyond human accomplishment. It can be the result and gift of divine grace only. Their unity is grounded in the unity of the Father and Son, and this unity is an indispensable prerequisite for effective service in the future.

Their sanctification or consecration in the truth is also indispensable for service. The work of God’s grace on the disciples’ hearts will transform them. But if they are to witness to God’s truth, they themselves must be transformed by that truth.

What does it mean to be “not of the world”? What is it about us, our lives, and how we live that make us “not of this world”?

If we are fully surrendered, then self is dead and Christ sits on the throne of the heart. We are filled with the Holy Ghost, therefore we manifest love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, not one of the fruits is missing. This is what it means to be sanctified, to be made holy. It is Christ in us that makes us partakers of His divine nature.
Thursday ↥         October 25

Human Relationships in Christ

Christianity is a religion of relationships: relationship with God and with one another. It makes no sense to claim to have a deep relationship with God without that relationship having an impact on the relationships one has with other people. Christianity cannot be lived in a vacuum. The principles of unity Paul discusses in his Epistle to the Ephesians also are applicable to how we relate to others.

Read Ephesians 5:15-21. What is Paul saying to us in verse 21? What is the relationship between submission and unity?

Paul’s exhortation to be submitted to one another is connected with the phrase being “filled with the Spirit” in Eph. 5:18. One of the expressions of the infilling of the Spirit is submission to one another. This refers to the proper attitude of humility and thoughtfulness that we should have toward people. Of course, this is not a natural attribute of most personalities but is the result of the Spirit’s living in our hearts. It is a gift of the same Spirit, who is the bond of unity in Christ. Viewed from this perspective, submission is an inner quality that expresses our reverence for Christ and His sacrifice for us.

Read Ephesians 5:22-6:9. What impact on our human relationship does this quality of mutual submission have in the home and workplace of a believer in Christ?

To some extent, unity in the church depends upon unity in the home. Paul emphasized that the unity, love, and respect that should exist between husband and wife should exemplify the love of Christ toward the church, a self-sacrificing love. Thus, Christlike respect in the home as well as in the church is required of husbands and wives and church members. This Christlike attribute is also to be exemplified in relationships between children and parents and between employees and employers (bondservants and masters). The kind of harmony and peacefulness that should pervade our homes should pervade our church life, as well.

What principles can you take from the verses for today that can help you better understand how you should act (depending upon your situation) toward a member of your family or a coworker?

Friday ↥         October 26

Further Thought: Ellen G. White, “The Spirit of Unity”, pp. 179-188, in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9.

“Christ recognized no distinction of nationality or rank or creed. The scribes and Pharisees desired to make a local and a national benefit of all the gifts of heaven and to exclude the rest of God’s family in the world. But Christ came to break down every wall of partition. He came to show that His gift of mercy and love is as unconfined as the air, the light, or the showers of rain that refresh the earth.

The life of Christ established a religion in which there is no caste, a religion by which Jew and Gentile, free and bond, are linked in a common brotherhood, equal before God. No question of policy influenced His movements. He made no difference between neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. That which appealed to His heart was a soul thirsting for the waters of life.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 190, 191.

Discussion Questions:

    Reflect on this statement: “In the fourth chapter of Ephesians the plan of God is so plainly and simply revealed that all His children may lay hold upon the truth. Here the means which He has appointed to keep unity in His church, that its members may reveal to the world a healthy religious experience, is plainly declared.” - Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1117. What do you see in Ephesians 4 that points to the unity of the church? What can we do to help ensure that unity?

    So central to the question of unity is the need for humility and submission. Without these traits, how could any unity exist in the church? If we are proud, sure of our views and positions, and unwilling to listen to others, we have no chance of unity. How can we learn this humility and submission?

    How can we have unity even when we don’t always agree on everything?

Summary: In his Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul gives many counsels regarding what it means for Christians to be “in Christ.” Salvation in Jesus transforms our lives in practical ways. All our human relationships, including relations between brothers and sisters in the church, are transformed by the power of Christ in our lives. And this transformation is crucial in order for us to have unity.
Tuesday ↥         October 23

Unity in One Body

Paul is practical in his inspired words to the Ephesians. The unity that exists between Jews and Gentiles, between people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, is not a myth or simply a theoretical construct; it is a reality that demands us “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Eph. 4:1, NKJV).

According to Ephesians 4:1-3, in what way are Christians to walk worthy of their calling in Christ?

The practical outcome of these virtues and graces in the Christian’s life helps “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3, NKJV). All these attributes are rooted in love (1 Cor. 13:1-7). The active practice of love preserves relationships among brothers and sisters and promotes peace and unity in the Christian community and beyond. Unity in the church manifests God’s love in unique ways that others can witness. The church is called to be such a witness, especially in a time of strife, divisions, and wars.

Read Ephesians 4:4-6. What is one crucial theme in these three verses?

In the first verses of this chapter, Paul expresses his deep interest in the unity of the church. He begins with an exhortation to unity (Eph. 4:1-3) and follows with a list of the seven elements that unite believers (Eph. 4:4-6). Unity is simultaneously something that believers already possess (Eph. 4:4-6), something that must be constantly worked on and maintained (Eph. 4:1-3), and something that is the future goal toward which we strive (Eph. 4:13).

“The apostle exhorts his brethren to manifest in their lives the power of the truth which he had presented to them. By meekness and gentleness, forbearance and love, they were to exemplify the character of Christ and the blessings of His salvation. There is but one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith. As members of the body of Christ all believers are animated by the same spirit and the same hope. Divisions in the church dishonor the religion of Christ before the world and give occasion to the enemies of truth to justify their course. Paul’s instructions were not written alone for the church in his day. God designed that they should be sent down to us. What are we doing to preserve unity in the bonds of peace?” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 239.

What choices can you make right now in order to be sure that you are walking “worthy of the calling with which you were called”?

Wednesday ↥         October 24

Church Leaders and Unity

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7, NKJV). While salvation is a gift given to all people who will receive it, some spiritual gifts are given to certain people for a special purpose.

Read Ephesians 4:11. What gifts of leadership does God give to the church?

According to Ephesians 4:12, what is God’s purpose in giving special gifts of leadership to the church? How do these gifts relate to each other?

All Christians are in a sense ministers and servants of God and the Gospel. Christ’s commission in Matthew 28:19, 20 is given to all Christians to go, to make disciples of all nations, to baptize, and to teach. The work of ministry is not given only to a privileged few, such as pastors and/or evangelists, but to all who bear the name of Christ. No one can claim exemption from the work of spreading the Gospel, and no church leader can claim to have an exclusive ministry. The spiritual gifts of leadership are specifically to edify the church. Church leaders are needed to foster, promote, and encourage unity.

Paul’s list of gifts of leadership tells us that these roles are also for equipping God’s people to reach the lost. It is the responsibility of some specially called people within the church to help others fulfill their ministry and service for Christ, and to edify the body of Christ, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13, NKJV). The example of Jesus’ style of leadership must guide how we do ministry. Jesus came to serve others and not to be served (Matt. 20:25-28); we must go and do likewise.

There is a strong tendency among humans to be independent and not accountable to anyone. Western society, in particular, is plagued by this inclination. Paul reminds us, however, that no Christian is alone in this world and that we form a community of faith with spiritual leaders to help encourage one another in our common journey. We are, all together, part of the body of Christ.

What spiritual gifts do you have, and how are you using them for the unity of your local church?
Lesson 4 October 20-26

The Key to Unity

Commentary in Navy                  Inspiration in Maroon

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Eph. 1:3-14; Gal. 4:7; Eph. 2:11-22; 4:1-6, 11; Matt. 20:25-28; Eph. 5:15-6:9.

Memory Text: “Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him” (Ephesians 1:9, 10, NKJV).

Ephesus was a major center of commerce and influence in Asia Minor. The church there, in Ephesus, was made up of Jews, Gentiles, and people in all social walks of life. Such a diverse membership might have been as prone to conflicts as the world in which they lived; that is, if it weren’t for Christ and the unity they had in Him as members of the body of Christ. Thus, Paul’s concern for unity among Christ’s followers is the central theme of his Epistle to the Ephesians.

Paul’s concept of unity has two dimensions: unity in the church, where Jews and Gentiles are brought together in one body-Christ; and unity in the universe, in which all things in heaven and earth find their ultimate oneness in Christ.

The source of this unity is Christ. Paul’s expression “in Christ” or “with Christ” is used numerous times in this epistle in order to show what God has accomplished for us and for the universe through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s ultimate purpose in the plan of salvation is to reunify all things through Christ. This unity will be made fully manifest only at the end of the age.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 27.

Sunday ↥         October 21

Blessings in Christ

Read Ephesians 1:3-14. What, according to Paul here, have we been given in Christ?

The followers of Jesus have much to praise God for. In Christ, God has chosen to adopt us as sons and daughters and to represent Him to the world. Paul uses many images to describe our new relationship to God in Christ. Of these images, the image of adoption addresses this lesson’s theme of oneness. In Christ, we have been adopted, and we belong to the family of God. This family image is also a reference to God’s covenant with the children of Israel. In the context of Paul’s epistle, Gentiles who accept Jesus as the Messiah are also children of God, heirs of the promises made to Israel (Rom. 8:17, Gal. 4:7). The benefit of this relationship with Christ, to be in Christ, is fundamental to all Christian unity. This passage also tells us that it has been God’s desire all along to reunite all humanity in Christ. And, in God’s family, knowing Jesus does not provide any special status: we are all children of God, equally loved and cherished.

Some get confused when, in this passage, we read about predestination (Eph. 1:5, 11). The promise that God has chosen us to be saved seems to imply also that God has chosen some to be lost. But that’s not the biblical teaching. Rather, God prepared the plan of salvation before the foundation of the world in order that everyone might be saved. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV; see also 1 Tim. 2:6, 2 Pet. 3:9). God knows beforehand who will accept His offer of salvation, but that is not the same as predetermining one’s decision. Salvation is offered to all humanity because of what Christ has done for us. The question is: How do we respond to this offer? God does not use coercion to save anyone.

“In the council of heaven, provision was made that men, though transgressors, should not perish in their disobedience, but, through faith in Christ as their substitute and surety, might become the elect of God, predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will. God wills that all men should be saved; for ample provision has been made, in giving His only-begotten Son to pay man’s ransom. Those who perish will perish because they refuse to be adopted as children of God through Christ Jesus.” - Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1114.

Monday ↥         October 22

Breaking Down the Wall

Some of the deepest divisions among people are caused by differences of race, ethnicity, and religion. In many societies, identity cards indicate the ethnicity or religion one belongs to, and these distinctions often are connected with privileges or restrictions that people have to live with on a daily basis. When wars or conflicts arise, these markers of identity and differences often become catalysts for repression and violence.

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul indicates a better way for the Christian community. How does our unity in Christ affect our differences? What was broken down by Jesus’ death on the cross?

Paul invites the Ephesians to remember what their lives were like before they received the grace of God in Christ. Ethnic, cultural, and religious differences created animosity and conflicts between people groups. But the good news is that, in Christ, we are all one people with a common Savior and Lord. We all belong to the people of God. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13, NKJV).

The ancient temple in Jerusalem had a wall of separation to distinguish the sections of the temple accessible only to ethnic Jews. This wall had an inscription that forbade foreigners to go any further, under pain of death. It is this regulation that Paul was accused of transgressing when he entered the temple after his missionary journeys. When Paul was arrested he was charged with bringing into the Jewish section of the temple an Ephesian named Trophimus (Acts 21:29). In this epistle Paul argues that Christ “is our peace, who has made both [ethnic groups] one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Eph. 2:14, NKJV).

In Christ, believers are descendants of Abraham and receive the circumcision of the heart. The physical circumcision that God gave to Abraham pointed to the spiritual circumcision that believers would receive in Christ (see Deut. 10:16). “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11, NKJV).

Read again Ephesians 2:11-22. In what ways do we see in our own church the reality of what Paul has written here? What challenges remain?
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--44-The True Sign
« Last post by Richard Myers on Today at 09:21:18 AM »
What a joy to read how God is leading a people to know Him and serve Him! Let us pray for the Lord to send more workers into His church, for the harvest field is white.

Many years ago I was afflicted with a condition that I was having difficulty overcoming. I thought I might die. Dr. Agatha was giving me instruction, but it was not working. When I almost passed out from giving myself hot and cold treatments in the shower, I realized I needed someone to help me with the treatments. God provided a medical missionary who was trained and the first treatment, a full hot and cold treatment with heat packs turned the tide. As I was thanking God, I asked Him to finish the healing miraculously. The Spirit revealed to me I had already seen the greatest miracle of all, the conversion of my heart so that I would not follow the ways of the world, but trust in His divine counsel and healing.

In today's reading we find the same revelation, that a new heart is the greatest of all miracles.

    When the message of truth is presented in our day, there are many who, like the Jews, cry, Show us a sign. Work us a miracle. Christ wrought no miracle at the demand of the Pharisees. He wrought no miracle in the wilderness in answer to Satan's insinuations. He does not impart to us power to vindicate ourselves or to satisfy the demands of unbelief and pride. But the gospel is not without a sign of its divine origin. Is it not a miracle that we can break from the bondage of Satan? Enmity against Satan is not natural to the human heart; it is implanted by the grace of God. When one who has been controlled by a stubborn, wayward will is set free, and yields himself wholeheartedly to the drawing of God's heavenly agencies, a miracle is wrought; so also when a man who has been under strong delusion comes to understand moral truth. Every time a soul is converted, and learns to love God and keep His commandments, the promise of God is fulfilled, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." Ezekiel 36:26. The change in human hearts, the transformation of human characters, is a miracle that reveals an ever-living Saviour, working to rescue souls. A consistent life in Christ is a great miracle. In the preaching of the word of God, the sign that should be manifest now and always is the presence of the Holy Spirit, to make the word a regenerating power to those that hear. This is God's witness before the world to the divine mission of His Son. 

I was not asking for a sign as were the Jews, but I had already been given a sign, so I needed no other. We ought to appreciate the miracle Christ works every day in our lives when we die daily to self.
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--44-The True Sign
« Last post by Dorine on Today at 06:26:36 AM »
The following is a quote from Jim I believe at the end of todays reading. I've posted it again because they were the exact thoughts I had this morning as I meditated on what the Holy Spirit was impressing me with. My heart overflows this morning with love and gratitude to God for His long suffering and patience and for revealing to me things in my own life that remind me that I have not 'arrived' yet. Each day there will be new revelations and new victories when we daily surrender self to Him.

I read this a few days ago and all I could think of was if the disciples were like this while in the very physical presence of Christ, I wonder how many times my own deficiencies have kept me from growing and understanding the things I should.

Their lack of faith and spiritual insight had often led them to similar misconception of His words. Now Jesus reproved them for thinking that He who had fed thousands with a few fishes and barley loaves could in that solemn warning have referred merely to temporal food. There was danger that the crafty reasoning of the Pharisees and the Sadducees would leaven His disciples with unbelief, causing them to think lightly of the works of Christ. 

The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--44-The True Sign
« Last post by JimB on Today at 05:40:48 AM »
Amen, pastor Sean.

When the faith we accept destroys selfishness and pretense, when it leads us to seek God's glory and not our own, we may know that it is of the right order.

I was reading last night the Psalms and I was reminded that our life is just a vapor at best compared to God and eternity. In the end it's only God's glory that matters. Let's seek Him while can be found as He is the rewarder those who diligently seek Him!
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