Lesson for July 19-25
After introducing us to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, something very high on Jesus’ teaching agenda was to show His disciples what salvation was all about. The concept many held at the time was for a Messiah to save them from the Romans, a narrow view of what salvation accomplishes for us.
But are we any less narrow today? We’ve heard about salvation almost since we’ve heard about Christianity. And for a good share of us, that’s our whole lifetime. For someone with a prosperous, blessed life–a good job, loving family, and plenty of material possessions–the need for salvation must seem rather irrevalent. They might ask, “What in the world do I need saved from?” Are you ready to divert their attention to heavenly, eternal themes by showing them a comprehensive view of our need for salvation? It’s more than acquiring “the abundant life” so many prosperity preachers promote.
Key Text: “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life'” John 3:16 NKJV
Undoubtedly the most popular Bible verse in the whole Bible, this verse teaches us that “perishing”, or dying, is one thing that salvation saves us from. But remember Matthew 1:21 includes something else we are saved from: “for he shall save his people from their sins.”
The name Jesus in Hebrew means “Jehovah saved”, so salvation was perhaps His greatest mission in coming to earth as a babe. If we don’t get this teaching of Jesus right, we will have miscontrued His whole message.
What many don’t realize is that someone must pay for our sins. Either we choose to pay for them ourselves in the lake of fire some day, or we allow Christ to pay for them for us on the cross of Calvary. Eternal life or eternal death. It really is a matter of life and death.
Sunday: Salvation Is a Gift From God
We’ve heard it said when speaking of receiving a gift from someone that “it’s the thought that counts”. And indeed we do count the motivation behind a gift as more important than the gift itself.
Therefore, talking about salvation as being a gift of God would mean nothing unless we understood the motivation behind His giving. John 3:16 clearly states this motivation is love, the most prominent element of God’s character. As a matter of fact, John further tells us that God IS love (I John 4:8). This places love as more than an impulse or a fleeting feeling. It’s deep and constant, and applies to all God’s creatures, including those who don’t love Him.
As all gifts, however, it’s more than the thought. Love must be followed by action. God’s action, which constitutes our salvation gift, came in the form of His own Son dying for us on the cross. He gave us all He had–which was Himself.
Can we give less to Him? He asks only for our love in return, but it must come from our whole self. Total surrender, allegiance, and service, also motivated by love, is the only thing we can give God.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 KJV
“My little chiildren, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” I John 3:18 KJV
Discussion Questions: Although Jesus never used the term “grace”, what do you think the word “grace” means when speaking of our salvation? How does it support the idea of salvation being a gift? Do other world religions support this concept of grace? [Strong’s Concordance calls it “unmerited favor”]
Read John 1:16, 17, which says, “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace [or “blessing upon blessing”, other translations]. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” In what way did Jesus’ teaching contrast with what Moses taught? Could it be that both messengers had the right message, a balance between the law and grace, but the people who received it had an unbalanced view of salvation?
Monday–Salvation: God’s Initiative
If there was one thing that Jesus was anxious to teach His disciples it was that God takes the initiative in our salvation. Many of His parables centered on this theme (Luke 15: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son).
Verses that support the Father’s contribution:
- John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:…”KJV
- John 7:28 “…I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true,…But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.”KJV
- John 12:49 “For I have not spoke of myself; but the Father which sent me…”KJV
- I John 4:10 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Sonto be the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins.” KJV
We know that Jesus Himself was an active participant also, not just in dying for our sins, but for the motivation of love that it took:
- Luke 19:10 “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” KJV
- John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”KJV
- John 12:32 “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”KJV
The thrilling part is that God is not just waiting passively for us to come to Him. Like the shepherd and the woman who lost her coin, He is passionately searching for lost souls.
Discussion Questions: Even though we understand God’s desire and effort to save us, how do you explain some of Jesus’ statements, such as Matthew 6:33 and Luke 13:24, where He tells us to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and to strive to enter through the narrow gate?
What prevents us from finding God and what is our part in searching for Him?
Tuesday: The Required Death
Peter, and no doubt some of the other disciples, were resistant to hearing Jesus talk about His coming death. “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” Matthew 16:22 KJV
But God had from the very beginning used the illustration of the slain lamb to remind the world of His sacrifice. Abel brought a lamb for an offering. Abraham set up altars wherever he moved on his way to Canaan. And even in Egypt, a slain lamb became a symbol of their deliverance from slavery (Exodus 12:1-13).
Therefore when John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world'” (John 1:29 NKJV), they should have known His ultimate purpose, which included dying for their sins.
Jesus further explained it by calling His death a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28) and describing the act as giving “his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). He also wanted them to understand that He died voluntarily. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again…” John 10:18 KJV
Discussion Questions: In the sanctuary service, two lamb sacrifices were brought to the altar every day: one in the morning and the other in the evening (Exodus 29:38, 39). It has been a custom for Christian family worships to occur at either or both of these times. Why do you think our worship is important in the morning? In the evening? What ideas for family or personal worship have you found particularly useful over the years?
Death is never a pleasant topic of conversation. Why is it important that we not overlook the death of our Savior when sharing our faith, or when going through difficult times of our own?
Wednesday: Free From Sin
It’s ironic that most people envision freedom as being able to live as they want to live. The parable of the son who was prodigal (which means he was recklessly extravagant), lived as most people do after winning the lottery. And how many of us don’t want that for ourselves? But as with this wayward son, we soon find that life is more than just pleasing ourselves, even if that means being generous to others along the way. The prodigal son was generous with his friends too.
There are many things that keep us shackled to Satan and the evil impulses of our fallen nature. When we rely on anything apart from God for our salvation, we are headed for trouble. That could even be our knowledge of the Bible, our personal godliness, our family heritage, or our service to God.
One doesn’t have to be like Mary Magdalene with seven devils needing to be cast out (Luke 8:2). Jesus came to “preach deliverance to the captives” (Luke 4:18), which would include all of us who aren’t a servant of God. The bottom line is that we are either a servant of God or a slave to Satan.
Knowing Satan’s character should make our choice rather obvious, but there are many who find themselves caught somewhere in the middle. Jesus came to tell us though there is no middle ground. You are either for Him or against Him (Matthew 12:30).
Jesus talked about REAL freedom in these verses:
“Jesus answered them, ‘Verily, verily I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:34-36 KJV
Reading this passage in context is interesting, because Jesus is answering a question of the Jews. They couldn’t understand His language about the truth setting them free. They were Abraham’s descendants and did not feel they were anyone’s slave, needing to be set free.Do we not feel so secure in our salvation at times that our need for deliverance is neglected as well?
Discussion Questions: Jesus spoke tenderly of forgiveness many times in His ministry. On several occasions, He forgave sins on the spot. Who do you feel were more receptive to His message of salvation though–those in the established religion or those who had been broken by sin in their lives? Why was this so?
Do you feel Jesus gave equal attention to both groups? How can our church fulfill our obligations to both those inside and outside the church? What kind of programs are most effective?
If Jesus sets us free forever from sin, why do we still struggle with it so?
Thursday: Christ Gives Us Eternal Life
One of the main concerns of mankind and the reason most religions exist is to provide an answer to what happens after we die. Of course, Christianity recognizes this need and fear of death. But our answer to the question is more complex. It’s our belief that eternal life can begin as soon as someone accepts Jesus as their Savior.
Many wonder how this happens, and sadly many never fully appreciate this truth. Jesus wanted us to have a better understanding of eternal life by knowing how to experience it even before we die.
- John 3:36 “‘He who believes in the Son has everlasting life…'” NKJV
- John 5:24 “…but is passed from death into life” NKJV
- John 10:10 “…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” NKJV
What kind of abundant life did Jesus have in mind? A renewed spiritual life does three very important things for us:
- It cleanses us from sin (taking care of our past).
- It fills us with faith and peace (taking care of our present).
- It gives us hope of life in heaven (taking care of our future).
Worldly pleasures may fill us, but they don’t satisfy. I think of junk foods in much the same way. They may satisfy our appetite temporarily and even be very enjoyable to indulge, but with basic nutrients missing, what happens to our bodies long term isn’t pretty. They foster death, instead of life.
Discussion Question: Read about the living bread in John 6:35, 47-51. Why does Jesus call Himself the Living Bread? What impact does this statement have on the communion service?
Does being “asleep” after we die till Jesus comes (“rest in peace” or RIP is found on many older gravesites) take away from our experience of eternal life? Jesus’ resurrection did not occur until Sunday morning, which means that even He rested in His grave over the Sabbath hours. Could this be our example and give us courage to face our own future?
God freely offers humanity complete restoration, or salvation from sin’s punishment, its power, and eventually even its presence. Therefore we have three reasons to worship God, which Jesus continued to impress upon His disciples. God…
- created us (including creating us anew spiritually by forgiving our past sins)
- sustains us (providing us with everything we need to be His follower here on earth)
- saves us (is preserving a home for us in heaven someday)
Meditate this week on the theme of eternal life. How are we experiencing the joys of eternal life even now? In other words, does your view of “the abundant life” need any adjustments?
What could make you happier in this life? (Does your answer include primarily material possessions…or spiritual blessings that Jesus freely offers?) Be honest with yourself.
We all enjoy material benefits, but they should not be the source of our REAL joy in life. Salvation from sin should be our supreme source of happiness.
Can others see your true priorities from observing how and where YOU live?
Next week: How to be saved
To read the Sabbath School lesson or for additional resources, see www.ssnet.org