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I love how close God is to us continually, and that ministry after the similitude of Christ is the greatest gift, the most weighty trust, that He could bestow upon us in preparation for heaven! God has infinite love in His heart for us, and as we behold the infinite loveliness of Jesus, we are changed from glory to glory, and find His character wrought out in us as a result of union and communion with Him. What is His character? It is the revelation of Christ in the law, it is all of the fruits of the Spirit without one missing. This is the outflow of the heart and mind that has been renewed to partake of the divine nature, and there is no limit the usefulness of one who has such a continuous experience with God whose love never fails!

    "The Bible shows us God in His high and holy place, not in a state of inactivity, not in silence and solitude, but surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of holy intelligences, all waiting to do His will. Through channels which we cannot discern He is in active communication with every part of His dominion. But it is in this speck of a world, in the souls that He gave His only-begotten Son to save, that His interest and the interest of all heaven is centered. God is bending from His throne to hear the cry of the oppressed. To every sincere prayer He answers, 'Here am I.' He uplifts the distressed and downtrodden. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. In every temptation and every trial the angel of His presence is near to deliver."  {The Desire of Ages, page 356, paragraph 3}

Praise God for how by experience in becoming one with God in selfless ministry we have heaven in our hearts! Then it is the most natural thing to want to ever be near Jesus, and do His will as He works in us, and we abide in Him!

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 2:42-46; Acts 4:34, 35; Acts 3:1-26; Acts 4:1-18; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 5:34-39.

Memory Text: “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,  Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:46, 47

The early church’s sense of urgency could not have been stronger. The way that Jesus had answered the question concerning the establishment of the Messianic kingdom, leaving the issue of time open (Acts 1:6-8), could be understood to mean that everything depended on the coming of the Spirit and the completion of the apostolic mission. So, when Pentecost came, early believers thought that everything was fulfilled: they had received the Spirit and shared the gospel with the whole world. Not that the apostles had left Jerusalem and had gone out to the world, but the world had come to them (Acts 2:5-11).

What happened next was the church’s detachment from material goods. Sensing that the time was short, they sold all they had and devoted themselves to learning and to fellowship while continuing to witness about Jesus, but only in Jerusalem. The communal life they developed, though effective in helping the poor, soon became a problem, and God had to intervene to keep the church united. This was also the time when they began to find themselves facing opposition. Yet amid it all, their faith remained unshakeable.

Amen! That opposition (persecution) kept the church relatively pure and holy. Why do we not face opposition and persecution today?

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 21.

The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--37--The First Evangelists
« Last post by Richard Myers on July 17, 2018, 07:01:53 AM »
     Jesus Himself never purchased peace by compromise. His heart overflowed with love for the whole human race, but He was never indulgent to their sins. He was too much their friend to remain silent while they were pursuing a course that would ruin their souls,--the souls He had purchased with His own blood. He labored that man should be true to himself, true to his higher and eternal interest. The servants of Christ are called to the same work, and they should beware lest, in seeking to prevent discord, they surrender the truth. They are to "follow after the things which make for peace" (Romans 14:19); but real peace can never be secured by compromising principle. And no man can be true to principle without exciting opposition. A Christianity that is spiritual will be opposed by the children of disobedience. But Jesus bade His disciples, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." Those who are true to God need not fear the power of men nor the enmity of Satan. In Christ their eternal life is secure. Their only fear should be lest they surrender the truth, and thus betray the trust with which God has honored them. 

Two thoughts. First, no need to express what is being said about our duty to speak the truth in love when the Spirit leads. It is made plain that all may understand. Second, "fear" means fear, no matter how often it is translated otherwise. If we surrender the truth, then we ought to be fearful.
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--36--The Touch of Faith
« Last post by Richard Myers on July 16, 2018, 09:44:39 AM »
Amen, Pastor Sean. I too chose this truth to share. I was greatly impressed that it is important for us and others to understand our testimony is so very important. It is God's grace that has changed me, has cleansed my heart, and put me on my face. Who am I that the King of Kings should love me so!

Our confession of His faithfulness is Heaven's chosen agency for revealing Christ to the world. We are to acknowledge His grace as made known through the holy men of old; but that which will be most effectual is the testimony of our own experience. We are witnesses for God as we reveal in ourselves the working of a power that is divine. Every individual has a life distinct from all others, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality. These precious acknowledgments to the praise of the glory of His grace, when supported by a Christ-like life, have an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls. 

We by our character are to reveal the character of God to the world. As impossible as it seems, we are to be transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3:18). We are to have power over the flesh. We are to love those who despitefully use us. Yes, grace has power to change our lives!!
I couldn’t miss the parallel in the following beautiful promise in The Desire of Ages to 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“Our confession of His faithfulness is Heaven’s chosen agency for revealing Christ to the world. We are to acknowledge His grace as made known through the holy men of old; but that which will be most effectual is the testimony of our own experience.” {The Desire of Ages, page 347, paragraph 3}

I confess that God has forgiven my sins that put Jesus on the cross. I confess that it has been just over ten years that I have been rebaptized, but that baptism is a way of life abiding in Jesus Christ so He reveals His perfect character in me in spite of my weaknesses. Baptism is not merely an event! I am not in bondage because Jesus is my continuous Healer and Deliverer!!! I confess that through full surrender to Christ by beholding His infinite loveliness of character, I am a new creature in Christ Jesus. I am a walking miracle—and you can be, too! I am at Camp Sagola with the intense purpose of seeing the souls of God’s children thoroughly converted. “God is faithful” (1 John 1:9).
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--35--Peace Be Still
« Last post by Pastor Sean Brizendine on July 15, 2018, 07:12:36 AM »
I love spending hours with Jesus morning by morning, so He fills my heart with love and removes my fears!!

“When Jesus was awakened to meet the storm, He was in perfect peace. There was no trace of fear in word or look, for no fear was in His heart. But He rested not in the possession of almighty power. It was not as the ‘Master of earth and sea and sky’ that He reposed in quiet. That power He had laid down, and He says, ‘I can of Mine own self do nothing.’ John 5:30. He trusted in the Father’s might. It was in faith—faith in God’s love and care—that Jesus rested, and the power of that word which stilled the storm was the power of God.” – {The Desire of Ages, page 336, paragraph 1}
“As Jesus rested by faith in the Father’s care, so we are to rest in the care of our Saviour. If the disciples had trusted in Him, they would have been kept in peace. Their fear in the time of danger revealed their unbelief. In their efforts to save themselves, they forgot Jesus; and it was only when, in despair of self-dependence, they turned to Him that He could give them help.” – {The Desire of Ages, page 336, paragraph 2}
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--34--The Invitation
« Last post by Pastor Sean Brizendine on July 14, 2018, 03:01:21 AM »
“If we were left to follow our own inclinations, to go just where our will would lead us, we should fall into Satan's ranks and become possessors of his attributes. Therefore God confines us to His will, which is high, and noble, and elevating. He desires that we shall patiently and wisely take up the duties of service.” {The Desire of Ages, page 329, paragraph 3}

Amazing! Our own inclinations are not safe to follow—we need a living connection with Christ in whose heart is God’s law! I choose by the faith of Jesus to walk in His will today motivated by His infinite loveliness of character!
Thursday ↥         July 19

The Second Arrest

If the apostles could be used to bring God’s judgment on sin, as in Ananias and Sapphira’s case, they could also be used to bring God’s grace on sinners. Their powerful healing ministry (Acts 5:12-16) was tangible evidence that God’s Spirit was working through them. That even Peter’s shadow, it was believed, could heal people is striking. The closest parallel in the Gospels is that of a woman who was healed by touching Jesus’ garment (Luke 8:43, 44). Luke, however, does not say that Peter’s shadow actually had healing power but that the people thought so. Yet, even if popular superstition was involved, God would still dispense His grace.

Notwithstanding, the more the apostles were filled with the Spirit, and signs and wonders multiplied, the more the religious leaders were filled with jealousy. This led them to arrest the apostles a second time (Acts 5:17, 18). It was only after their miraculous escape (Acts 5:19-24) and another bold speech by Peter, stressing that they should “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), that some of the authorities began to consider the possibility that supernatural influences could be at work.

Read Acts 5:34-39. How did Gamaliel try to dissuade the Sanhedrin from killing the apostles?

The Sanhedrin was controlled by the Sadducees, with the Pharisees forming an influential minority. Gamaliel was a Pharisee and a doctor of the law. He was so highly regarded among the Jews that he became known as “Rabban” (“our teacher”), rather than simply “Rabbi” (“my teacher”). Paul was one of his disciples (Acts 22:3).

Gamaliel recalled two other rebel movements in Israel’s recent history that had also attracted followers and caused turmoil. The leaders, however, were killed and their followers were completely dispersed. The lesson he drew was that if the Christian movement was of human origin, it would soon disappear. On the other hand, if it was a divine movement, as claimed by the apostles, how could they hope to withstand it? Gamaliel’s advice prevailed. The apostles were flogged and once again commanded not to speak in Jesus’ name.

What does this story tell us about how needful and helpful good counsel can often be? How can we learn to be more open to getting counsel even when it may consist of what we don’t necessarily want to hear?

Friday ↥         July 20

Further Study: “We are stewards, entrusted by our absent Lord with the care of His household and His interests, which He came to this world to serve. He has returned to heaven, leaving us in charge, and He expects us to watch and wait for His appearing. Let us be faithful to our trust, lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 37.

“The people need to be impressed with the sacredness of their vows and pledges to the cause of God. Such pledges are not generally held to be as obligatory as a promissory note from man to man. But is a promise less sacred and binding because it is made to God? Because it lacks some technical terms, and cannot be enforced by law, will the Christian disregard the obligation to which he has given his word? No legal note or bond is more obligatory than a pledge made to the cause of God.”—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1056.

Discussion Questions:

    Among many other things, Jesus left two immediate legacies to the disciples: the expectation of His soon return and a worldwide mission. How should these two factors impact our sense of mission and the call to preach the gospel to the world?

    Someone once said: “We should be ready as if Jesus would come today but continue working [in the mission of the church] as if He would take another hundred years to come.” What wisdom is found in this sentiment, and how can we apply it to our calling in life?

    Why must the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus be central to all that we preach? Or look at it like this: What good is anything we preach without these events?

    What should the story of Ananias and Sapphira teach about just how difficult it is for us to know the hearts of others, either for good or for evil?

    Who are some modern-day Gamaliels whom you know? Or, perhaps, are you in a position to play that role for others? Either way, in class talk about times and share examples about how the giving or the receiving of wise counsel did some good. What lessons can we learn from these accounts?

Tuesday ↥         July 17

The Rise of Opposition

It was not long until the church’s success aroused opposition from some Jerusalem leaders. The Jerusalem temple was run by the high priest and his associates, most of whom were Sadducees. The high priest was also the president of the Sanhedrin council, which in those days was comprised mostly of Sadducees and Pharisees. Because the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, they were greatly disturbed that Peter and John were teaching that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Arrested by the temple guards, the apostles were put in custody until the following day, when they were brought before the council (Acts 4:1-7).

Read Acts 4:1-18. When asked about by what authority they had been acting, how did Peter reply? What was an underlying message in what Peter said that the leaders would have found so threatening?

The challenge about authority posed by the Jewish leaders suggests a concern for power. Peter, however, declared not only that the miracle had been performed in the name of Jesus but also that salvation comes from Him only. The apostles were before the highest Jewish body; yet, they were in the service of a much higher authority. These men were simple, unschooled Galilean fishermen; thus, their courage and eloquence struck those who were there. Although the leaders did not realize it, the point was that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, exactly as Jesus had foretold (Matt. 10:16-20).

Without being able to deny the miracle—the healed man was also present so that all could see him—the Sanhedrin commanded the apostles to stop preaching. They feared the message as much as the increasing popularity of the movement. Failing to evaluate the evidence properly, they allowed prejudice and desire for self-protection to dictate their actions.

Peter’s final words are among the most precious gems of the book of Acts: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19, 20, NKJV).

Think about the desire for power and how potentially dangerous it can be, at any level and in any context. As Christians called to be servants, why must we be careful about the lure of power?

Wednesday ↥         July 18

Ananias and Sapphira

The pooling of goods in the early church was not compulsory; that is, it was not a formal condition of membership. Yet, there certainly were several examples of voluntary generosity that inspired the whole community. One such example was Barnabas (Acts 4:36, 37), who will play an important role later in the book.

However, there were also negative examples that threatened the unity of the church from within, right at a time when attacks from without had just begun.

Read Acts 5:1-11. What are the lessons of this story?

Though Luke has not given us all the details, there is no question that the fundamental problem of Ananias and Sapphira was not the attempt to keep the money but the practice of deceit within the community. Their sin was not the result of an impulsive act but of a carefully laid plan, a deliberate attempt “to test the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9, ESV). They were not under the obligation to sell their property and give the money to the church. Thus, when they committed themselves to doing so, perhaps they were acting in their own interest only, maybe even trying to gain influence among the brethren with what appeared to be a commendable act of charity.

This possibility may help to explain why God punished them so severely. Even if the church’s communal life resulted from the conviction that Jesus was just about to come, an act like that of Ananias and Sapphira at such an early stage could disparage the importance of loyalty to God and become a bad influence among the believers. The fact that there is no mention of Ananias’s being given the chance to repent, as in the case of Sapphira (Acts 5:8 ), may be due only to the shortness of the account.

The bottom line is that, from the beginning to the end, they had acted sinfully, and sin is a serious matter in God’s eyes (Ezek. 18:20, Rom. 6:23), even if He does not always punish it immediately. In fact, that punishment is often deferred should constantly remind us of how gracious God is (2 Pet. 3:9).

Why must we be careful about pushing the limits of grace, as these two early members of the church did?
Lesson 3 July 14-20

Life in the Early Church

Commentary in Navy                  Inspiration in Maroon

Sunday ↥         July 15

Teaching and Fellowship

After Pentecost, Luke shifts the narrative to a general description of the inner life of the church in Jerusalem. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42, NKJV). The four items noted appear to be basically teaching and fellowship. According to verse 46, the teaching was carried out in the temple, while the fellowship was in private homes.

The temple court was surrounded by roofed porches that were frequently used for rabbinic instruction. That the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching shows that the gift of the Spirit did not lead them to a contemplative religion but to an intense learning process under the apostles, whose authoritative teaching was authenticated by wonders and signs (Acts 2:43).

Spiritual fellowship was another distinctive mark of early Christian piety. The believers were constantly together, not only in the temple but also in their homes, where they shared meals, celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and prayed (Acts 2:42, 46). By having such daily celebrations, the early Christians expressed their hope in Jesus’ soon return, when His fellowship with them would be restored in the Messianic kingdom (Matt. 26:29).

Private homes played a key role in the early church’s life. The believers still attended the temple’s daily ceremonies (Acts 3:1), and on Sabbaths they presumably were in the synagogues with their fellow Jews (James 2:2), but the distinctive elements of Christian devotion were performed in homes.

Read Acts 2:44, 45; 4:34, 35. What was an important aspect of early Christian fellowship?

Believing that the end was near, they decided that their material possessions, “private property” (to use a more up-to-date term), were not that important anymore. A common use of their material resources, therefore, seemed appropriate. There was no reason to worry about tomorrow, as the Messiah Himself would provide for their needs in the Messianic kingdom (Luke 22:29, 30). This sharing allowed them to experience a deeper sense of unity, besides becoming an extraordinary example of Christian generosity.

How generous are you with what you have been given from the Lord?

Monday ↥         July 16

The Healing of a Lame Man

In Acts 3:1, Peter and John went to the temple for the three o’clock prayer service. This indicates the essentially Jewish character of the church’s faith at this early period. That is, the apostles did not go to the temple only to instruct or make new converts but because Peter and John were still Jews and, as such, were still committed to Jewish religious traditions (Acts 20:16, 21:17-26), at least up to this point. There they performed an astounding miracle (Acts 3:1-10), which gave Peter the opportunity to preach another sermon.

Read Acts 3:12-26. What are some of Peter’s main emphases in his sermon?

Five main points characterized early Christian preaching: Jesus was the suffering Messiah (Acts 3:18); God resurrected Him (Acts 3:15); Jesus was exalted in heaven (Acts 3:13); He will come again (Acts 3:20); and repentance is necessary for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:19).

In many ways, this is the same message we are taking to the world, even if the context has changed. The apostles were still in a Jewish setting, when instead of changing religions the people basically just had to “migrate” from the old covenant to the new one. As part of God’s people, they had to accept the Messiah and experience the new birth that follows a true acceptance of Jesus.

Now, though the situation is different, the message is still essentially the same: Christ died for our sins, was resurrected, and He will return again. This means, then, that we can find salvation in Him. Even in the context of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, Jesus Christ crucified, Jesus Christ risen, and Jesus Christ returning must be the center of how we proclaim those messages.

“Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. The proclamation of the third angel’s message calls for the presentation of the Sabbath truth. This truth, with others included in the message, is to be proclaimed; but the great center of attraction, Christ Jesus, must not be left out. It is at the cross of Christ that mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other. The sinner must be led to look to Calvary; with the simple faith of a little child he must trust in the merits of the Saviour, accepting His righteousness, believing in His mercy.”—Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, pp. 156, 157.
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