BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Chapter 11 can be divided into two main sections: Peter’s explanation of his association with Gentiles to the church elders at Jerusalem (vs. 1-18), and the spreading of the Gospel message to the Gentile world through evangelism (vs. 19-30). The traditional rites of the Jewish faith, particularly circumcision, were of great importance to Jewish believers. The most stringent disapproval of Peter’s actions related to the fact that he had eaten with the uncircumcised, which no strictly observant Jew would do. The church leaders in Jerusalem could make no rebuttal to Peter’s straightforward account, especially since his actions were validated by the Spirit’s descent upon the Gentiles. Additionally, Peter was accompanied by six brethren, who also witnessed this event. God had made evident that Gentiles could become believers, and that understanding began opening the door for the evangelizing of non-Jews. While early evangelistic efforts were being directed to Jews only, brave men of Cyprus and Cyrene (a city in the province of Libya in Africa) ventured to preach to the Grecians at Antioch. God blessed those efforts and “a great number believed” (vs. 21). Thus, it was at Antioch where evangelism first became a worldwide outreach, because the Samaritans to whom Philip had preached were part Jewish, and Cornelius and his household to whom Peter had preached were Gentiles who were already worshiping the Jews’ God. Having been informed regarding what was occurring in Antioch, the leaders of the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas, a Spirit-filled Cyprian Jew (Acts 4:36), to investigate. Rather than denouncing what he found at Antioch, Barnabas encouraged the new believers. Soon, evaluating that the job was too great for one man (Antioch at the time had a population of five hundred thousand or more), he travelled about 125 miles to Tarsus to find Saul, the educated young Jewish rabbi who had been converted some years before, and solicited his assistance.
Chapter 12 continues the theme of persecution, mentioning the death of James and describing the arrest, imprisonment, and miraculous release of Peter. Verse 1 records that King Herod vexed (ill-treated, afflicted, or distressed) the followers of Christ. One of Herod’s first actions was to execute James, the brother of John. James was the first of the original twelve disciples to suffer martyrdom, and the only one whose death is mentioned in Scripture. The Greek historian Eusebius related that the soldier who guarded James was so impacted by his witness that he declared himself a Christian before the court, and was willingly executed alongside of James. When Herod saw that his action pleased the Jewish populace, he had Peter apprehended.

The Apostle was placed under the supervision of four quaternions of soldiers — sixteen men, with groups of four taking three-hour watch periods each. Peter’s imprisonment stirred the believers to prayer on his behalf. An angel awoke the sleeping Apostle and led him out of the prison. After Peter explained to the assembled group what had happened, he instructed them to “go show” (or report) his escape to James and the brethren. At this time, his relationship with the people of the self-governing, but economically dependent cities of Tyre and Sidon, had been one of antagonism, and he had cut off their food supply. However, the people petitioned Herod for peace after gaining an audience through Blastus, his chief of staff. According to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, the “set day” (vs. 21) at which Herod was to make an oration to the people of Tyre and Sidon was a festival during which vows would be made regarding the safety of the Roman emperor. While Luke related only that Herod was “arrayed in royal apparel” as he came into this event, Josephus noted that Herod’s garment was made entirely of silver and was very resplendent, causing him to appear to be illuminated. In response to his vivid appearance, and perhaps to gain his favour, the people cried out “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.” Divine retribution was poured out, and Herod was smitten with worms. Josephus recorded that he endured great pain for five days before he finally died.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

In the centuries that have gone by since Luke penned the Book of Acts, followers of Christ have endured persecution. James and Peter, whose sufferings for the faith are recorded in today’s text, were just two of thousands upon thousands of believers who have experienced intimidation, opposition, assaults, imprisonment, and even martyrdom. Nik Ripken wrote about his travels to some of the spiritually darkest locations on earth to meet with those who have triumphed despite intense persecution. One of the believers Ripken met was Dmitri, a pastor in Eastern Europe who had been jailed for seventeen years. Imprisoned with fifteen hundred hardened criminals and subjected to terrible physical torture, Dmitri began two routines that he continued throughout his confinement: he would write Scriptures on any scrap of paper he could find, and every morning he would stand, raise his arms in praise to God, and sing a hymn. This went on for years, even though the prison officials did everything in their power to stop him. Finally, Dmitri was told he would be executed. As he was dragged down the prison corridor toward the courtyard, an amazing thing happened. Fifteen hundred hardened criminals rose to their feet, faced the east, and began to sing the song they had heard Dmitri sing every morning. The jailors were so shocked that they took the pastor back to his cell. What an impact that simple act of honouring God had made on those imprisoned with this faithful pastor! Sometime later, Dmitri was released and allowed to return to his family. Dmitri’s story, and those of other Christians whose faithful witness endured in the most difficult of circumstances, led Nik Ripken to an amazing conclusion: the Gospel message does not only survive under persecution, but many times it thrives! When stalwart believers do not allow their tormentors to silence their testimony, their courageous behaviour often inspires others to faith in Christ. In the face of intense persecution, the Early Church stood fast and “the word of God grew and multiplied.” Those of us who live in regions of the world that are safe from overt persecution (at least for now) have a challenge of our own: we must withstand the trend toward the secularization of the Gospel, and survive in an environment where our spiritual values seem increasingly strange in our culture. We should not only pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters; we should also learn from them how to live with courage and undaunted commitment to our Lord in spite of opposition. As we follow their examples, we can trust God that our lives will impact others, and that the Gospel will continue to grow and multiply in all areas of the world.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
The Apostles and believers in Jerusalem heard that Peter had visited Cornelius’ house. Acts 11:2-3 describes their reaction — they “contended” with him and condemned his actions, saying in effect, “You are supposed to be a faithful Jew, so why did you associate with and even eat with Gentiles?” How did Peter respond to their criticism? Why was the eventual understanding they reached so critical to the spreading of the Gospel? Acts 11:4,18
Question 2
According to Acts 11:20-21, what did the men of Cyprus and Cyrene preach to the Grecians, and what was the result? What are some ways you and your peers might be able to reach out to groups of people you have never approached before with the Gospel message?
Question 3
According to Acts 12:1-2, the Apostle James was beheaded by King Herod, making him the first of the twelve Apostles to be martyred. Subsequent verses in the same chapter relate how the Apostle Peter was spared — in fact, he experienced a dramatic deliverance from prison through the intervention of an angel! (See Acts 12:5-10.) Why do you think God delivered in one instance but not the other?
Question 4
Peter’s imprisonment inspired the believers to pray “without ceasing” on his behalf. However, when Peter miraculously appeared at their door, the saints found it hard to believe (see Acts 12:13-16). Why do you think they were so disbelieving of Rhoda’s report? What conclusion can we reach from this event about how God answers prayer?
Question 5
While we may not experience direct persecution for our faith, followers of Christ will face opposition from Satan. What are lessons we can learn from persecuted believers that will help prepare us to stand?

 

TAKE HOME

The Gospel is for all people everywhere. Let’s take care to include people of all backgrounds, cultures, and religions in our evangelism! The world will be blessed as we accept God’s divine plan and look beyond diversities, working together to proclaim the Gospel to all. Hostility and hatred do not thwart the advance of God’s kingdom. We can learn from persecuted believers to hold fast to our confidence in God through whatever trials He allows to come our way.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

This text describes the conversion of Saul, later known as Paul. His testimony is recorded in Acts 26:12-18, and referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:1 and 15:8. This emphasis is reasonable, as over half of the Book of Acts is a description of Paul’s activities, he authored thirteen of the New Testament books (not including Hebrews, which many scholars attribute to him). Acts 8:3 states that in Jerusalem, Saul “made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling [violently pulling] men and women committed them to prison.” In today’s passage, he purposed to expand his efforts to the Syrian city of Damascus. It is likely Saul and his companions travelled on foot. Damascus was 130 miles from Jerusalem, a journey of at least six days. Saul’s eagerness to make that trek shows how committed he was to his cause. Jesus addressed Saul by name in verse 4. The statement, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (vs. 5), alluded to the use of a goad — a long, extremely sharp stick used to move an ox in a certain direction. The inference was that Saul was only harming himself in his efforts because he was fighting against God. Ananias, whose name means “the Lord is gracious,” was not an Apostle, evangelist, elder of the church or deacon — he was simply identified as “a certain disciple.” Though the command he received was startling and he initially protested, he ultimately obeyed and went to the humbled persecutor of believers.
Chapter 10 records a vital lesson for the Early Church. The events caused the Apostles to realize that the Gospel was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. God used two men in two cities and a series of precisely timed events to reveal that all people are called to serve Him. The chapter begins with Cornelius in Caesarea. Cornelius was a centurion, which means he was an officer over one hundred men in the Roman army. Verse 2 gives five characteristics of Cornelius. He was “devout” which means godly. That he “feared God” tells us he was among a group of people who were familiar with the Jewish religion, attended synagogue, and observed the Sabbath and part of the ceremonial law. They believed in only one God, but they were not actual converts to Judaism. “With all his house” indicates that Cornelius had led his family to serve God. That “he gave much alms to the people” shows he was charitable, and “prayed to God alway” reinforces that he regularly worshipped God. When Cornelius was praying at 3:00 p.m. (the ninth hour) an angel appeared to him with a commendation and instructions. Cornelius immediately dispatched three men who had been affected by his godliness and could be trusted. They were to go to Joppa, which was about thirty miles south of Caesarea, and get Peter. At noon, when the messengers were near to Joppa (vs. 9), Peter was praying. The rooftops of houses of those times were quiet places that were ideal for prayer. Peter became hungry, and while lunch was being prepared, he saw in a vision a big sheet full of animals that Jewish people were prohibited from eating, and he was commanded to kill and eat them. When he protested, he was told, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (vs. 15). It would later be explained that this meant Peter was not to regard the Gentiles as inferior people whom God would not redeem. As he considered it, the men from Cornelius arrived, and the Spirit gave Peter specific instructions, which he followed.
Cornelius called together his family and close friends who believed as he did. When Peter arrived, he told them God had shown him that he “should not call any man common or unclean” (vs. 28). Peter had undergone a drastic change in thinking. He had housed the Gentile messengers in Joppa and had eaten with them. He had travelled with them and now was in a Gentile home. Peter began to preach (vs. 34-43), giving a message that summarized the Gospel. Before he was done, the Holy Ghost fell, with the evidence of people speaking in languages not known to them.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

Mosab Yousef was a young Palestinian who wanted to be a fighter. He was first arrested when he was ten years old. Before reaching his teen years, violence and terror had become so commonplace in his life that he was bored during the rare times when their town was quiet. Mosab wanted to be just like his father, a devout Muslim who was a founding leader of Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for countless deadly attacks against Israel. As he grew older, Mosab began helping his father, and before he turned twenty-one, he had seen abject poverty, suffering, torture, and death. While still in his early twenties, Mosab became an integral part of the Hamas organization and was even imprisoned several times by the Israelis. However, doubts about Islam and Hamas began surfacing in his mind when he observed how Hamas used the lives of innocent civilians and children to achieve its goals. One day as Mosab was walking past the Damascus Gate, a main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, he had an encounter that put him on a new path. After some casual conversation with a tourist from the UK, he was invited to a Bible study at the YMCA in West Jerusalem. Being a bit bored at the time, and somewhat curious about Christianity, he agreed to go. Mosab was given a New Testament at that meeting. Because gifts are respected in the Arab culture, he decided to read it. He recounted, “I began at the beginning, and when I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I thought, Wow, this guy Jesus is really impressive! Everything he says is beautiful. I couldn’t put the Book down. Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope.” Thunderstruck by what he read, Mosab realized that this was what he had been searching for all his life. Jesus’ words made sense to him and overwhelmed, he began to weep. He continued to read about Jesus and to pray and eventually was secretly baptized in Tel Aviv by an unidentified Christian tourist. Mosab’s story brings to mind another encounter that took place near the same location. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most significant events in the history of the Church. The transformations of Saul and Mosab stand as potent testimonies to the love of God. No belief system, no past history, and no political regime can block the hand of God from drawing seeking souls to Himself.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
From the perspective of the early disciples, Saul of Tarsus was an unlikely candidate for the Gospel. Based on Acts 9:1-2, 13-14, how would you describe Saul prior to the events that occurred as he travelled to Damascus? What happened that changed him?
Question 2
In what ways was Saul’s conversion similar to that of all Christians, and in what ways was it unique? What conclusions can we draw from these similarities and differences?
Question 3
Based on the example of Ananias, how should we treat those who oppose our religious beliefs? Acts 9:10-17
Question 4
In chapter 10, verses 1-8 describe a vision of the devout centurion, Cornelius, in which he was instructed by God to send to Joppa for Peter — a man he had never met. He obeyed, sending two of his household servants and a devout soldier to the location God designated. Shortly before their arrival, Peter was praying on the rooftop, and God sent him a vision as well. What did Peter see in his vision, and what was the lesson he was to learn? Acts 10:11-16
Question 5
What did the angel say to Cornelius about his prayers? Acts 10:1-4. Why do you think the people at Cornelius’ home so quickly experienced the outpouring of the Holy Ghost? Acts 10:44-45
Question 6
Why is Acts 10 especially important to us today?

 

TAKE HOME

God is still reaching out to seek and save those who will open their hearts to His truth, no matter what their upbringing, beliefs, or past history. The events at Cornelius’ house teach us that we must keep praying! There will be many days when it may seem that our prayers are not monumental. There will be many prayer meetings that do not appear to be life-changing. However, that does not mean those times are unimportant! Rather, those daily prayers are vital. God sees and hears our petitions. He will answer by giving guidance and strength and by fulfilling His promises in our lives. The end result will be eternal benefits.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The charges brought against Stephen are relayed in Acts 6:11, 13-14. Firstly, his accusers claimed that he spoke blasphemous words against Moses and the Law, and tried to change Jewish customs. Secondly, they asserted that he spoke blasphemous words against God and God’s dwelling place, the Temple. Stephen had begun his defence before the council by giving a historical account of God’s dealings with the Jewish people through events in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. The chapter ends with the irate response of his hearers, and Stephen’s martyrdom by stoning (vs. 54-60). Throughout Stephen’s speech, he repeatedly alluded to Israel’s continual rebellion and idolatry despite the mighty works of God which they had seen, thus condemning them through their own history. In verses 42-43, Stephen asserted that Israel’s rejection of Moses had led to false worship and breaking of the Law, so God “gave them up” to their worship of the host of heaven (the sun, moon, and stars) and their gods Molech (associated with child sacrifice) and Remphan (an Egyptian god). While the Jews insisted that the Temple at Jerusalem was the only place where the Divine Presence was manifested, Stephen asserted that neither the Temple nor the Tabernacle were intended to be the place where God permanently dwelt. In verse 51, Stephen’s tone abruptly shifts to that of a prosecutor. His charge that his hearers were “stiff-necked” was a description that had been applied to the Jews by God himself (Exodus 33:5). The members of the Sanhedrin responded to Stephen’s reproof with vehement anger. Stephen finished his life by committing his soul to the Lord and devoutly praying for his persecutors.
Chapter 8 of Acts can be divided into three parts. Verses 1-4 cover the dispersion of the Jewish believers into the regions of Judea and Samaria due to persecution, and the resultant expansion of the Church. The ministry of the evangelist Philip in Samaria is described in verses 5-25, and the remainder of the chapter recounts Philip’s meeting with and instruction of the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert of Gaza. According to verse 4, one endeavour common to the followers of Christ who were scattered abroad by persecution was that they “went everywhere preaching the word.” While Philip’s preaching brought “great joy” in the city of Samaria, the account of the false magician, Simon, in verses 9-24, reveals that not all continued in the faith. While Simon did believe (vs. 13), his commitment was only temporary. The fact that the Apostles prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Ghost (vs. 15) indicates that this experience of a personal Pentecost was considered a vital part of the believers’ spiritual walks. In the midst of a successful revival, Philip was called by God to a new task: he was to “arise, and go” to Gaza (vs. 26). The eunuch Philip met was from Ethiopia, a kingdom on the Nile which was located between Aswan, in modern-day Egypt and Khartoum in Sudan, rather than the country identified today as Ethiopia, which is further south. The passage the eunuch was reading aloud from the Scripture was Isaiah 53:7-8. His question of whom the prophet spoke of gave Philip a perfect opportunity to present Jesus and eventually culminated in the eunuch’s profession of faith in Christ.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

The power of God to put a forgiving spirit in the human heart is wonderfully exemplified in the life story of Jim, an ex-convict known for many years as “Forty-five” — a man who spent twenty-five years in prison at hard labour for a crime he did not commit. At the age of sixteen, Forty-five left his home in Rhode Island and headed west. One night he rode into the city of Tacoma, Washington, in a boxcar, reaching there just when a murder had been committed. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labour. In the penitentiary, Forty-five suffered all the severity of punishment issued out to desperate criminals in those days, including solitary confinement, rations of bread and water, being shackled by a ball and chain, and thirty lashes at a whipping post. Upon his release, Forty-fi ve was nearly wrecked in body and mind, homeless, and friendless. He took a train to Portland, Oregon, where he wandered the streets for four days looking for work, with nothing to eat and no place to sleep except the lumber piles. At last, he went onto the Burnside Bridge intending to jump into the Willamette River. Just as he climbed up on the railing, a bridge keeper came rushing to him and pulled him down. As Forty-five walked away, he noticed the large lighted sign on the Apostolic Faith Church a short distance away. An unseen power seemed to compel him to attend a service there. At the close of the meeting, Forty-fi ve went to the altar, prayed, and God saved him. About two years later, as he was testifying in a service about his experiences and conversion, a man sat listening in the back of the church with tears flowing down his cheeks. Someone who talked with the man later told Forty-fi ve that this stranger knew something about him. After tracing the man to San Francisco, California, Forty-five learned that he was dying of tuberculosis in a hospital there. Forty-five took a job in the hospital and had an opportunity to converse with the stranger. One night the sick man asked to have the Bible read to him, so Forty-five read aloud the story of the Prodigal Son. Then the man looked at Forty-fi ve and asked, “Can you ever forgive me for the wrong I have done you?” Brokenly, he confessed that he was the man who committed the murder that had sent Forty-fi ve to prison. Forty-fi ve’s thoughts immediately went to the long years he had spent in confinement and all that he had suffered. Could he forgive? He left the sick man and went into a little room where he could be alone. Kneeling down, he prayed and wrestled with God for nearly three hours, asking God to put a real spirit of forgiveness in his heart. At last he went back to the sick man’s room and took the dying man in his arms. He said, “I forgive you for all the injuries you have done me, but you will also have to ask God to forgive you.” The man began to cry out, over and over, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” God heard that broken plea and saved his soul. Three days later the man died, but because of Forty-five’s witness, he is spending eternity with the Lord. Forty-fi ve’s forgiveness of one who had caused him to suffer so terribly could only come from God. We see the same merciful spirit exemplified by Stephen, when he prayed the words of our key verse, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” as the stones were pummeling his body. Though most of us will never suffer as Forty-fi ve and Stephen did, there may have been events in our lives that were hard, that were wrong, that have deeply wounded us and are difficult to forgive. We can have the same freedom from bitterness and revenge that was in the hearts of Forty-five and Stephen.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
Stephen was charged with speaking blasphemous words against God and the Temple, and attempting to change Jewish customs. Chapter 7 records his defense before the Sanhedrin. In verse 52, whom did he accuse his hearers of murdering? Why do you think Stephen could so fearlessly address the council, even though he must have known his life was in danger for doing so?
Question 2
The cost for proclaiming the Gospel in the first century was civil, social, and physical persecution. What is the potential cost in your circumstances?
Question 3
According to Acts 8:5-8, Philip’s ministry to the people of Samaria had been blessed by God. Many afflicted individuals had been healed, and there was great joy in the city. Yet, God instructed this successful evangelist to go to a lonely road in the middle of a desert to witness to one man (verse 26). What spiritual lessons can we learn from this incident?
Question 4
After Simon saw the Holy Ghost being poured out through the laying on of hands by Peter and John, he attempted to pay money to obtain the same power. According to Acts 8:20-23, how did Peter respond?
Question 5
In today’s text, persecution led to a good result — the spread of the Gospel. What are some of the blessings and positive results that God has accomplished in your life through times of trial or adversity?

 

TAKE HOME

The grace to forgive can be ours when we remember how much we have been forgiven. God cares about each individual soul and will go to amazing lengths to draw hungry hearts to Himself and ensure that they receive the instruction they need. God clearly arranged the meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian, and this event provides us with a beautiful example of how God opens doors for evangelism. Are we doing our parts to step through the open doors God places in our paths? Be alert to the opportunities for evangelism that God places before you. Follow God’s leading!

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Acts 6 covers two key events in the Early Church: the appointment of seven individuals to attend to the physical needs of the growing group of believers (vs. 1-7), and the arrest of Stephen for supposed blasphemy (vs. 8-15). The first verse of chapter 7 gives the high priest’s question to Stephen, thus setting the scene for Stephen’s response. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was only a few years past, and the Early Church was growing rapidly. With this increase came a variety of people and cultures, resulting in new challenges. The majority of church members were Hebrew-speaking Jews. However, Greek-speaking Jews (or Hellenists), the returning Diaspora who came from other countries, also joined with the disciples. These Hellenists began to complain that their widows were not getting the help they needed. Whether or not this was the case, the disciples took their concern seriously, and with compassion and wisdom, took immediate action. The task of serving tables, referenced in verse 2, does not refer only to serving food. Trapeza, the Greek word used here, refers more specifically to a money changer’s table. This indicates that the responsibilities of these seven men probably included distributing money or provisions to those in need. The men chosen for this task all had Greek names indicating that they were Hellenists. As such, they would have been accepted by the Greek-speaking Jews and possibly were more sympathetic to their cause. The appointment of these men pleased everyone and helped restore unity in the church, as is evidenced by its continued success and growth. Most Bible historians agree that the Libertines (vs. 9) were descendants of slaves whom Pompey had captured in about 63 B.C., and later were sent back to Palestine, where they had constructed a synagogue. Cyrene was the chief city in Libya, and Alexandria was the capital of Egypt. Cilicia and Asia were both Roman provinces. The statement in verse 10 that those who disputed with Stephen could not resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke, indicates that it was not merely Stephen’s oratorical skill, but the Holy Spirit in him that made such an impact. His accusers could not win a debate against him, so they resorted to false witnesses and untrue accusations. These accusations against Stephen regarding the Temple, or holy place, were the same false accusations that had been brought against Jesus at His trial (Matthew 26:59-61; Mark 14:57-58). Speaking blasphemous words against the Temple, as both were accused of doing, was a crime punishable by death.
In Acts 7, Stephen commenced his address to the members of the Sanhedrin, who were to judge the false accusation of blasphemy (Acts 6:13), by giving a historical summary of God’s calling as illustrated by the lives of Abraham and Joseph. This Spirit-filled deacon began by outlining the call of Abram into a covenantal relationship with Jehovah including geographical details and quotes from Genesis that were familiar to all who were listening. He continued with the patriarchal genealogy, specifically noting the prophecy of future Egyptian control that began with the sale of Joseph into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. This was Stephen’s first example of Israel’s opposition to the purpose and plan of God, despite the mighty works of God which they had seen, thus accusing them throughout their history. He reminded the religious leaders how God providentially used what Joseph’s brothers intended as evil to accomplish good, both for him and for all his family, as well as succeeding generations. He summarized how Joseph was promoted, his family delivered from famine, and justice and mercy served. Stephen then summarized the birth of Moses — a Hebrew child adopted into and educated in Pharaoh’s household, and his calling as a deliverer for Israel. Stephen characterized Moses as being “mighty in words and in deeds” (vs. 22). While the Biblical account does not record much of Moses’ young life, Jewish historian Josephus notes his prowess as a military commander and leader, which was a fact known to Jews of Stephen’s day. Stephen was careful to make clear God’s faithfulness to every generation from the establishment of the Hebrew nation through their deliverance from Egypt and entrance into the Promised Land. In the Hebrew history recited in today’s text and the following verses, Stephen went on to make his contention that the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus was a continuation of the Jewish rejection of God’s plan for them as a nation. council.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

While attending university, I had worked for a local business for about six months when a new manager was appointed — a man who was younger than me. This manager seemingly was intimidated by the fact that I was a “college boy,” and set out to prove his worth by minimizing mine. He was quick to give me the most difficult assignments and then speak disparagingly when I completed them. There was no question about the fact that I was not his favourite employee! One time he even questioned my integrity concerning the amount of time I had worked in the shop training one of his relatives. Frustrating and hurtful as this situation was to me, there was little I could do to change anything other than pray, work hard, and try to do my best despite the negative surroundings. The time came when another job opened up for me that was much more pleasant and with a better working environment. I rejoiced that God had provided and I no longer had to endure the hassles of the old job. After I graduated, I started a completely different career. I thought very little about the old job until over ten years later when I was asked to become a pastor and needed to find employment in the small town where I was transferred. Providentially, God provided work in the same trade I had worked in during that difficult employment of the past. I realized at once that even in the challenging period when I was being treated unfairly, God had been with me, training and preparing me for a future which only He knew. In today’s text, Stephen drove home the point to the members of the Sanhedrin that God’s presence was not restricted to the Promised Land. Though Joseph had to endure being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, God delivered him out of all his afflictions. The truth Stephen illustrated that day through the example of Joseph was demonstrated in my employment situation as well. Just as God was with Joseph through his many challenges, God was with me. Just as God had a purpose for Joseph, God had a purpose for me. I have been reminded many times over the years that God has promised to be with us. God has a plan for our future. It is not only in the blessings and good times that He is with us, but also in the trials and difficult circumstances. Even when it is not evident to us, God is working for our benefit. Challenging situations and individuals will come and go in our lives, but God will be faithful to deliver and put us exactly where He desires, for His purpose and glory, as we faithfully serve Him.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
Multiple references in chapters 1-7 indicate that the early disciples were people of prayer even after the amazing prayer meeting where they received the infilling of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 3:1; 4:24-31; 6:4-6). What conclusion can we draw from this?
Question 2
Acts 6:1-7 describes the appointment of seven individuals to attend to the physical needs of the growing group of believers. According to verse 3, what qualifications were necessary in those who would fill the position? Why are these qualities important for the service of the Lord?
Question 3
According to Acts 6:4, what would occupy the Apostles’ time once helpers had been appointed to take care of managerial duties? What characteristics of the Early Church likely contributed to the fact that “the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied”? Acts 6:7
Question 4
In Acts 7, what can we learn from Stephen’s response regarding how to deal with those who oppose our faith today?
Question 5
Why do you think Stephen recited Israel’s history to these religious leaders who were well acquainted with the facts he laid out before them?
Question 6
God used adverse circumstances in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses to accomplish His will and plan for them and their succeeding generations. How is God using circumstances in your life to accomplish His will?

 

TAKE HOME

The appointment of the seven men in Acts 6 “pleased the whole multitude,” and was a testimony to their godly character and Spirit-filled lives. The question is, are we “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom”? Let us purpose, with God’s help, to be people of integrity, godly discernment, and empathy for others, guided by God’s Spirit, so that when a need arises in the work of the Lord, we are qualified to step forward and serve. Similarly, God was at work in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses as well as the generations in between them. Because of God’s faithfulness and mercy, we can trust that He is also at work in our lives no matter what circumstances we face.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Acts 5:1-11 covers the deception and punishment of Ananias and Sapphira, while verses 12-16 detail the signs and wonders the Apostles did through the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 33 of chapter 4 states that the unity in the church resulted in great power as the Apostles proclaimed the resurrection of Christ. Since the Jews thought that the death of Christ meant He could not have been the Messiah, one vital mission of the Apostles was to convince the Jews of the reality of Christ’s resurrection. In Acts 4 verse 36, Barnabas (who later travelled with Paul) is singled out as one who sold his land and gave the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute as needed. Since Barnabas is the only donor mentioned by name, the acknowledgement of his endowment may have been what caused Ananias and Sapphira to want similar recognition. His action was in contrast to their self-serving attitudes. In Acts 5:1-2, Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession and gave the impression that they were offering the full amount for God’s use while holding back part of the proceeds for themselves. This couple’s deceit and hypocrisy were a direct threat to the church’s unity and spiritual success and resulted in swift punishment from God. While the Early Church met in homes and other venues, the signs and wonders done by the Apostles had resulted in the number of converts growing to where they started to convene at “Solomon’s porch.” This was a covered walkway on the east side of the Temple compound within the area known as the “Court of the Gentiles.” Verse 13 indicates that while the people held the Apostles in high regard, those with impure motives did not dare join them for fear of what had happened to Ananias and Sapphira. However, multitudes of men and women did believe, and the church continued to grow. According to verses 15-16, the people were so impacted by Peter’s ministry that they brought those who were sick and laid them on cots or pallets in the streets, hoping they would be healed by the shadow of Peter when he walked by.
The next portion of chapter 5 describes the opposition of the religious leaders in Jerusalem to the preaching of Peter and the Apostles. It can be divided into three main sections. Verses 17-25 cover the Apostles’ arrest, confinement, and angelic deliverance. Immediately returning to preaching, they once again were apprehended and brought before the council, where Peter fearlessly stated their position that obedience to God must come first (vs. 26-32). Finally, Gamaliel’s restraining advice, the beating and release of the Apostles is related in verses 33-40. These religious leaders no doubt felt their authority as spiritual teachers was being threatened as more and more of the populace accepted what Christ’s followers were teaching. The Apostles’ supernatural deliverance from prison (verse 19), was evidence to the believers that the Lord was with His Church. However, that deliverance was not granted so the disciples could flee for their lives; this is made clear by the angelic charge in verse 20, where the Apostles were commissioned to go and take a stand by preaching at the Temple once more. Peter’s assertion that “we ought to obey God rather than man” (vs. 29) was not a defiance of secular authority but a statement of spiritual obligation. Verse 33 states that the members of the Sanhedrin were “cut to the heart” — they were furious at what they considered to be defiance, and determined to sentence the Apostles to death. Intervention came through the advice of Gamaliel, who was perhaps the most distinguished man of the entire council during the time of Christ. Gamaliel reminded the Sanhedrin of insurgents in the past whose rebellions had died out and pointed out that if the teachings of Jesus’ disciples were not of God, their movement would come to nothing as well. If the movement were of God, it would be imprudent for the Sanhedrin to resist it. Though the Apostles were beaten — the harshest punishment to that date in the emerging church — they were not cowed by the threats and demands of the council.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

From hostility and harassment to torture, imprisonment, and even death, Christians in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith. Christians in at least sixty countries around the world face persecution simply because they believe in Jesus Christ. Yet even in those locations, Christians continue to witness to those around them and meet for worship. Cheng Jie is one of those individuals. Living in China where religion is tightly controlled, this pastor’s wife, mother of two little boys, and former kindergarten director had prepared herself for the possibility of her husband’s arrest. However, she never thought she would be the one to spend time behind bars for her faith. In the end, it was her role as school director that caused her to be imprisoned for two years. Chinese authorities claimed the school and its administration were guilty of using what the authorities called “religious curriculum.” The school was closed, and Cheng Jie and three others were arrested. Sentenced to two years in a hard labour camp, Cheng Jie at first was afraid. She was housed in a cell with fifteen criminals, some of them due to be put to death for murder. Their fi fteen-by-fi fteen-foot cell had only one toilet. Though expected to work twelve-hour work days, the prisoners were fed very little, usually just rice with boiled cabbage or radishes. The prison guards refused to give Cheng Jie a Bible, but another prisoner had one and she gave it to Cheng Jie in trade for some personal items. Despite the long work hours, Cheng read the Bible faithfully every night and found strength in God’s Word. She also taught her cellmates hymns and Bible stories. Her faith and trustworthiness made her stand out to prison authorities and after six months, she even was put in charge of the cells. In February 2016, Cheng Jie’s sentence was complete and she was released. The future for their family was uncertain, but she and her husband continued to cling to their faith in God and trust Him to be with them no matter what might lay ahead. Today’s text describes the second instance in Scripture of followers of Christ being imprisoned for their faith (the first is recorded in Acts 4:3). In this instance, Peter and the other Apostles were arrested and put in jail by the religious leaders, but an angel of the Lord “opened the prison doors, and brought them forth” (verse 19). Although they had been commanded after the first arrest not to teach in the name of Jesus, the Apostles had immediately resumed witnessing. How would we respond if we were threatened with imprisonment and even death for talking about the Lord? To what extent are we willing to suffer for the sake of sharing the Gospel with others?

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
What do you think caused the people in the Early Church to willingly share their assets with those in need? ·
(Acts 4:34-37; Acts 2:44-45)
Question 2
In Acts 5:1-2, Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession but conspired together to hold back part of the proceeds, while giving the impression that they were offering the full amount for God’s use. The Greek word translated
kept back
in verse 2 means “to set apart or appropriate for one’s own use,” indicating that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was deliberate deception to portray full submission and participation. Divine judgment was immediate, and caused a healthy fear of God among the people. Why do you think God punished this couple so quickly and with such finality? What can we learn from this?
Question 3
What did the angel of the Lord tell the Apostles that they were to do when they were released from prison (Acts 5:20)?
Question 4
What doctrinal precepts of the faith did Peter refer to in Acts 5:30-31?
Question 5
With reference to Acts 5:17-42, what lessons can we learn from the behaviour of Peter and the other disciples in this portion of the text?

 

TAKE HOME

God’s Word makes it clear that lying is abhorrent to Him. To please Him, we must always openly declare the truth in both our words and deeds. Even though we live in a society where lying and deception are commonplace, we need to remember that God cannot lie, and He wants His children to be truthful at all times. Telling the truth isn’t always easy, but it is the right thing to do! Opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ will come, but God will embolden and strengthen those who courageously take a stand for Him.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The Apostles were dwelling in Jerusalem and therefore were in proximity to the centre of Jewish life — Herod’s Temple. As Jews, Peter, John and the other disciples attended the different services of worship there. Herod’s Temple was a complex with several precincts or courts to which admission was progressively restricted. All people were allowed to gather in the Temple’s outer court. From there, Jewish people could enter the area exclusively reserved for them. (Gentiles attempting to go beyond the outer court would have been subject to punishment, possibly even death.) The first of the inner courts was as far as the Jewish women were allowed to go; the next area was exclusively for ritually cleansed Jewish men; and the innermost court was reserved for the Temple priests. The healing of the lame man not only would have been witnessed by residents of Jerusalem but also by a mixed multitude of God-fearing Gentiles and Jews who had made a pilgrimage to the Temple from outside the local area. This location provided a rich opportunity for Peter and John to bear witness to the power of Jesus Christ to a large and diverse audience. In particular, it allowed the disciples to challenge a Jewish audience, to acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah. Traditionally, many individuals with sicknesses of all types sat at the Beautiful Gate asking for alms (money, food, or other donations given to the poor or needy). No doubt this lame man whom Peter and John healed was a familiar sight. Thus, his healing was an authentic miracle from God. Both his actions of leaping and walking and his words of praise to God were a testimony to the miraculous event that had taken place. No one present could deny the power of Jesus Christ, nor could they ignore the message that Peter proclaimed after the miracle. Peter’s sermon repeated the theme of “repent” that characterized his first sermon (chapter 2). He admonished his hearers to “repent and be converted” (vs. 19).
Chapter 4 describes the reaction of the religious leaders and their efforts to stop the Apostles. Christ’s followers responded by praying for boldness to preach the Gospel (vs. 23-31). In verse 1, those who “came upon” Peter and John were the chief priests, the Temple guard captain (who was also a priest and responsible for maintaining order around the Temple), and the Sadducees. Many scholars conclude that most of the priests were Sadducees, a political and religious sect which did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, they were particularly indignant that Peter and John “preached through Jesus the resurrection.” Peter and John were incarcerated for the night. The next day Peter and John were brought before the “rulers, and elders, and scribes” (vs. 5-7). These included the Sanhedrin, which was the highest Jewish court. It consisted of seventy members and the high priest. When they asked Peter and John the name by which they had preached, they may have been questioning the disciples’ authority. Peter began his response with, “Ye rulers of the people and elders of Israel,” which was a respectful way to address them. He proceeded to boldly attribute the healing to Jesus and to reference Christ’s death and resurrection. The words “unlearned and ignorant” in verse 13 referred to the fact that the Apostles had not received formal training as rabbis. The members of the Sanhedrin — teachers who were well educated in Rabbinic schools — marvelled that Peter and John could so confidently and aptly present their theology. To stop the spread of the belief in Jesus, they threatened the Apostles, commanding them not to teach in the Name of Jesus. Peter and John refused to acquiesce, and boldly declared their determination to “speak the things which we have seen and heard.” The only response the Sanhedrin could give was further threats. When Peter and John were allowed to go, they met with believers to give a report, to praise God, and to pray for courage (vs. 23-31). The believers’ petition was not for protection, but rather that they would have the boldness to speak and work for God. The place where they were praying was shaken, and they received an assurance that their prayers were answered. Verses 32-37 describe the oneness that existed in the Early Church, resulting in the members being sensitive to each other’s needs, with some selling their possessions to meet those needs as they arose.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

Many times when we need to make a decision, there are a number of possible options. A while back, my wife and I decided we needed a newer vehicle. We went to a used car lot where there were four or five hundred cars on display and gave the salesman who approached us a general description of what we were looking for and our approximate price range. He directed us to an aisle of cars, and we started working our way along, looking at various makes and models. We discussed colour and style, studied documentation, compared prices, and sat in a number of them. About halfway down the aisle, I asked my wife what she thought so far. She said, “I don’t know. They are all running together!” There were just too many choices. Sometimes, however, our options are limited. A few years ago, my wife and I were getting ready to go on a vacation out of the country. About two weeks before we were scheduled to leave, I was examining our paperwork and suddenly realized that my passport had expired. We had paid for most of the trip in advance, and many of those payments were non-refundable, including our plane tickets and hotel. I had a sinking, desperate feeling that our money would be wasted because I would not be able to travel with an expired passport! Thankfully, a bit of online research revealed that others have faced a similar dilemma, and the United States government has an option for people who need a quick passport renewal. For an extra fee, travellers can get their passports renewed in a single day. I made an appointment at the nearest U.S. Consulate in Seattle, Washington, took a day off work, and made the three-hour drive to Seattle. It was the only good option, and I was thankful to have it. When it comes to salvation from sin, there are not multiple options. In today’s key verse, Peter said that there is only one Name under Heaven through which we can be saved. He was speaking to the Jewish leaders, and they did not want to believe that Jesus was the way to salvation. Today people may suggest there are many religions and ways to Heaven, but the Bible is clear that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. He who was sinless became the sacrifice for our sins, paying the price for our redemption. His option is the only option, and it is a good one. Over the centuries, it has proved true and reliable for those who have taken advantage of it. Today, we can rejoice that God has made a way for any person to be saved. And once we are forgiven, we want others to know about this way of salvation as well. We want them to find the only option for receiving everlasting life.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
The lame beggar by the Beautiful Gate of the Temple asked Peter and John for alms. The disciples had no money to give, but the lame man received far more than the monetary donation he had hoped for. What did he receive, and how? Acts 3:6-8
Question 2
What was the implication behind Peter’s words, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth . . .”?
Question 3
Are there moments in your life when you do not expect God to do the things that He has promised to do in His Word? What can you do to reawaken your faith and have the expectations of Peter and John?
Question 4
How old was the man who was healed (Ch 3. vs. 22) and why was his age significant?
Question 5
The Jewish rulers were afraid that this notable miracle would cause the Gospel message of Jesus to spread. Why do you think that would be a concern to them?
Question 6
How can we have the boldness to proclaim that Jesus is the way to salvation?

 

TAKE HOME

What challenges are you facing in life today? Do you expect God to show up and work out those challenges for His honour and glory? Remember, you can always count on Him . . . because He loves you!
After the healing of the lame man, Peter saw an opportunity to preach to the amazed onlookers and began by confronting their astonishment. His purpose and desire was to help them see that Jesus Christ, through whose Name the miracle had occurred, was indeed the Messiah prophesied by their forefathers. It is only through him, that salvation comes. We want to embrace that truth and share it with others.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The first chapter of the Book of Acts begins with an introduction by Luke, the book’s author. Verses 3-8 provide Jesus’ final earthly commandment to His followers — a requirement to tarry in Jerusalem until they were filled with the Holy Ghost. Jesus’ ascension is documented in verses 9-11. Then, verses 12-14 indicate that the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions by returning to the Upper Room in Jerusalem immediately following His ascension. The chapter ends with an account of Matthias being chosen to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth disciple. Two important designations in this chapter are “apostle” and “disciple.” The term “apostle,” used in verse 2, comes from the Greek word apostolos, and means “a delegate, ambassador, commissioner, messenger, or one who is sent.” This term typically is reserved for Jesus’ twelve closest followers, eleven of whom are listed by name in vs.13. The term “disciple,” in vs. 15, comes from the Greek word “mathetes”, which translates into English as “learner” or “student.” Luke used this term in vs. 15 to describe all those who were gathered in the Upper Room. Verse 8 is a key verse in the Book of Acts, as it describes both the power given to the Church (through the Holy Spirit), and its mission (to witness first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and then in all the earth). The verse also provides a summary outline of the contents of the book: the outreach in Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), the outreach in Judea and Samaria (chapters 8-12), and the outreach into the Gentile world (chapters 13-28).
The second chapter of Acts can be divided into three sections: the empowerment of the disciples who had tarried in the Upper Room after Jesus’ ascension (verses 1-13); Peter’s sermon to the onlookers in Jerusalem (verses 14-36); and the effects of Peter’s sermon and the beginnings of the Early Church (verses 37-47). Pentecost, the Greek word for “fifty,” was the Jewish holiday traditionally celebrated fifty days after Passover; it was also called the “Feast of Weeks” and the “Feast of Harvests.” The phrase translated “with one accord” (vs. 1) is from the Greek word “homothymadon” and indicates unanimous like-mindedness. For ten days, the 120 brethren had obeyed Christ’s final instruction, spending their time in prayer, supplication, and patient waiting in harmonious expectancy. Then the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit took place. The coming of the Spirit was accompanied by two manifestations: the sound of “a rushing mighty wind” (vs. 2) and the appearance of “cloven tongues like as of fi re” (vs. 3). John the Baptist had foretold One who would baptize “with the Holy Ghost, and with fi re” (Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16), these two physical evidences were a graphic portrayal of the coming of the Spirit. The evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost was that those who had been filled began to speak in “other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (vs. 4). The Greek word translated “tongue” is “dialektos”, which means “language” or “dialect.” We know that these “other tongues” were known languages because Jewish individuals from faraway countries who were in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost understood what was being spoken. They were amazed to hear their languages spoken by men who had never learned them. The fact that the speakers were Galileans (vs. 7) made this evidence even more remarkable to the hearers, for the Galileans typically were looked down on as being unlearned and culturally inferior, and their speech was very heavily accented. Although the baptism of the Holy Spirit was typified in the Old Testament and promised by Old Testament prophets, it was not until the Day of Pentecost that the Holy Ghost was poured out upon believers. Peter, the disciple who had been so fearful that he denied his Lord before Jesus’ death, was divinely chosen to be the person who spoke to the gathered crowd. His confidence came from the Holy Spirit, and his message explained what had just taken place to individuals from multiple locations. In his sermon, Peter drew attention to “that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (vs.16), referring to Joel 2:28-29.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

Some years ago, I started a new job at a cabinet-making factory. During the fifteen years I held that job, the management of the company continuously focused on improving the business processes to try to keep the factory profitable. One word I heard repeatedly in staff meetings was “effective.” Effectiveness was the measure of whether or not we, as employees of the firm, were able to accomplish our purpose and produce the intended outcome. Management did their best to make sure every worker was motivated, equipped, and encouraged to achieve maximum results. Effectiveness mattered! Have you ever wished your efforts for God were more effective? Have you ever felt the need for more boldness or strength or ability to work successfully for God? The Lord has promised the gift of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire to give us the power we need. In today’s text, we read of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus’ followers who, after Christ’s ascension, had gathered in the Upper Room in obedience to His instruction for them to “wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). After the baptism of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon their waiting hearts, Peter addressed the crowd that had gathered when news of what happened was “noised abroad.” The effectiveness of Peter’s message is evidenced by the fact that at the close of his sermon, “the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (vs. 41). That effect was not because of Peter’s oratorical skills, but because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:43 tells us that subsequently, “many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” The Holy Spirit truly had filled those early believers with power from on high, and their witness had an impact on those around them! Jesus still wants His followers to be effective as they work to fulfill the Great Commission. Strength, ability, and natural talent will only take us so far. We need God’s power in our lives to most effectively accomplish what He has called us to do. That is why the baptism of the Holy Ghost has been made available to us, as it was to the disciples of old. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of might, of power and strength, of vigour, courage, and holy boldness — not confidence in ourselves, but in God. The Spirit gives us grace to face dangers or trials without wavering, and to speak with clarity, liberty, and convincing power. May God put a desire in each of our hearts for the power of the Holy Spirit, that we might accomplish the work of God on earth most effectively. The promise that the Spirit would come to “all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” includes us! As we offer our lives to God with a sincere desire to be our best for Him, He will hear and answer.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
Just before His ascension, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus’ final words to His followers are recorded in Acts 1:4-8. What were they instructed to do, and what was promised to them before fulfilling the Great Commission?
Question 2
What do Jesus’ instructions to the disciples tell us about the value or importance of having the power of the Holy Ghost upon our lives? What are some things we can do while we wait for the promise to be fulfilled?
Question 3
The disciples obeyed Jesus’ instructions to tarry in Jerusalem, and Acts 2:1 tells us that when the Day of Pentecost came, they were “all with one accord in once place.” What does this statement tell us about the disciples’ spiritual condition when the Holy Ghost descended?
Question 4
On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost descended upon those who had tarried in prayer. According to Acts 2:4, what was the external evidence that the Spirit had descended?
Question 5
Following the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, Peter stood and preached with courage and boldness to the crowd that had gathered. According to Acts 2:37, what was the response to his message? What does this reveal about the effect the Holy Spirit has on the unsaved?

 

TAKE HOME

The disciples needed the infilling of the Holy Spirit to be effective witnesses for Christ throughout the world. We have the same need today, and the same provision is available. God has provided the baptism of the Holy Ghost to empower believers and make them effective witnesses as He did for the apostles centuries ago.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The Philistine army that gathered at Shunem in the broad valley of Jezreel to fight with Israel, was an awesome spectacle for the much smaller Israelite army that had assembled just south of them in Gilboa. The sight of the Philistine army caused Israel’s King Saul to fear and “his heart greatly trembled” (vs. 5). King Saul had no one he could turn to for help and direction. The prophet Samuel, his primary adviser in matters relating to God, was dead. David, once the protector of the king, had escaped to the land of the Philistines, leaving Saul to his own devices. Vs. 6 tells us that Saul sought the Lord for direction. However, God did not answer him. In that day, divine instruction was generally received in three ways: dreams, Urim, and the prophets. With a dream, individuals prayed for instruction and asked that God would answer with a significant dream. These dreams were either revelations received while the individuals slept, or were dreams received by prophets. The Urim was an oracular answer given to the high priest when he was clothed with the ephod and breastplate, which had a pouch that held the Urim and Thummim. These were two small objects that the priests used to determine God’s will when simple yes or no answers were needed. God used them to guide His people. The prophets were specifically asked by an individual to consult God regarding the subject in question and to report back to God’s answer. At this point in history, the prophets may have been those from the schools of the prophets, which were established by Samuel in Naioth and Gibeah. Endor, mentioned in vs. 7, was located north of Shunem. The woman of Endor with a “familiar spirit” has posed questions for countless theologians through the centuries. Necromancy is the term for the conjuring of the dead alluded to in vs. 11 by the question, “Whom shall I bring up unto thee?” Necromancers typically personified the individual the seeker desired to see. They also were known to assume the form and character of the person and provide information related to the seeking individual. This information was often scanty, vague, and uncertain. Necromancers were among a list of individuals whom God told the Israelites to drive out as they were an abomination to Him (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). However, it seems that God allowed Samuel to appear to accomplish His purpose with Saul. Credence is given to this theory due to the medium’s reaction of crying “with a loud voice” when she saw Samuel (vs. 12). This was not customary for her because Samuel appeared before she did any incantations. In no way does this incident justify the practice of witchcraft, mediums, spiritualists, etc. God is against all such practices (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6,27).
David’s battle with the Amalekites was a direct result of Saul’s disobedience. God commanded Saul to destroy all of the Amalekites, but Saul chose not to complete his mission. As a result, the people of Ziklag suffered and David was forced into another battle. David and his men destroyed the Amalekites. While David was fighting the Amalekites, Saul and his army were fighting the Philistines on Mount Gilboa. After being mortally wounded, Saul requested that his armour bearer take his life. The Philistines had a well-earned reputation for torturing their captives. One of the first priorities of combat was to capture the king. Once captured, the king was often tortured and mutilated if still alive. Saul knew he was going to die, and when his armour bearer refused to kill him, he fell upon his sword. The men of Jabesh-Gilead heard about Saul and his sons being slain, and risked their lives, traveling 10 to 20 miles to rescue the bodies and carry them back across the Jordan River. The flesh was then burned off the bodies, following the tradition of the day, when it was not possible to give a proper burial to the bodies in their current state.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

“Discouragement is of the devil,” my mother used to say emphatically when I would get into one of my teenage mood swings. I was not sure I believed her then. I rather enjoyed a little pity party occasionally! However, the longer I lived, the more certain I became that she was right. Discouragement — that feeling of gloom, and oppression, like nothing will ever work out right again — spiritually disables us as long as we allow it to remain. Madame Guyon lived a wonderful Christian life in the early 1700s. She was persecuted and imprisoned for her faith. This is what she had to say about discouragement: “I entreat you, give no place to despondency. This is a dangerous temptation—are fi ned, not a gross temptation of the adversary. Melancholy contracts and withers the heart, and renders it unfit to receive the impressions of grace. It magnifies and gives a false colouring to objects, and thus renders your burdens too heavy to bear. God’s designs regarding you, and the methods of bringing about those designs, are infinitely wise.” You might respond, “But my problems are real, not just a teen age girl’s mood swings.” David’s problems were real too! His family and the families of all his men had been kidnapped, and now his men were talking, not of banding together to rescue the captives, but of stoning David!“And David was greatly distressed.” Sometimes things happen that will be distressing. When they do, we must follow David’s example. First, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”The Bible does not say exactly how he did this. Maybe he pulled out his harp and sang one of his psalms. One great way to encourage ourselves is to sing a song of praise. Perhaps David rehearsed how the Lord had delivered the giant, Goliath, into his hand when all of the armies of Israel thought the situation was impossible. Remembering how the Lord helped us through a hard time, or helped someone else when they faced a problem similar to ours, is another great way to encourage ourselves in the Lord. After David had encouraged himself, he asked the Lord what he should do about his problem.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
For whom did David become the captain of the guard? I Samuel 28:1-2. Why was David later sent back from going to battle? I Samuel 29:3-7
Question 2
The news that Saul received was not what he wanted to hear. What do you think Saul hoped would be said? I Samuel 28:15-20
Question 3
What are some possible consequences if we insist on our ways despite what God tells us?
Question 4
How did God use the Egyptian slave, which the Amalekites had left behind, to assist David? I Samuel 30:9-11
Question 5
Why did David send some of the battle plunder to the tribe of Judah? I Samuel 30:26
Question 6
How can we apply the provisions and guidance God provided for David to our situation in life? What example of David can we follow to ensure we have God’s guidance?

 

TAKE HOME

Saul experienced the ultimate refusal — rejection by God. Given his history of disobedience and arrogance, we know that Saul caused his own downfall. Through Saul’s mistakes, we can learn to follow God in obedience and enjoy the blessings that come to one who is wholeheartedly doing God’s will. We would do well to heed God’s voice and instructions when He speaks to us, and not take matters into our own hands. The ultimate rejection will occur if we refuse God and His plans. Our success, now and eternally, rests in our acceptance of God’s will and plan for our lives.
Are you tempted to feel discouraged by life’s dilemmas? Encourage yourself in the Lord like David did, and trust God to guide and help you overcome!

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

At the beginning of this chapter, it is noted that Samuel died. David did not go to the funeral, though Samuel had been a great mentor to him. It is possible that David realized Saul’s spies would be at the funeral and it was not a safe place for him to be. Instead, David retreated to the wilderness. Nabal’s name means “a fool.” The word churlish in vs. 3 means “hard to deal with.” The phrase “son of Belial” (vs. 17) was used to refer to someone considered to be a wicked, worthless man. David’s irritation at Nabal was not unfounded. First, the social etiquette of the day required that travellers were to be fed, regardless of number. Nabal was financially able to do this. Second, David and his men had been protecting Nabal’s men and his sheep, and a meal was the least he should have offered as a token of appreciation. Abigail was a wise woman, and God used her wisdom to stop David from making an unwise and extremely harmful action — taking vengeance upon Nabal and also killing innocent people. Abigail clearly understood that David would be king. Nabal indicated his unwillingness to acknowledge that when he said, “Who is David?” (Ch. 25 vs. 10). The rest of that verse shows that Nabal was a backer of King Saul. Abigail honoured David; fourteen times she called him “lord.” David showed his wisdom by listening to the advice of this woman and admitting his error. The phrase “he became as a stone” (vs. 37), probably means that Nabal had a stroke. Ten days later, he died. Michal was David’s first wife, Saul’s daughter, whom Saul had given to David. When David fled, Saul gave Michal to Phalti, forcing her into adultery. No doubt Saul felt that removing Michal from David’s household further weakened David’s claim to the throne by severing his legal ties with royalty. When Abigail became David’s wife, Nabal’s property and riches came to him also. The land was near Hebron, where David later made his royal residence.
Saul had ample warnings to change from his murderous ways. On an earlier occasion, after David had spared his life, he seemed to have repented and had promised to leave David alone, but that resolve was not genuine. Evil had taken root in Saul’s life and was firmly in control of him. With 3,000 men, Saul resumed his hot pursuit of David. This pursuit of David was encouraged by the tale-bearing Ziphites. They betrayed David’s location to Saul as a means of obtaining favour from him. The Ziphites had two distinct reasons why they should not have done this. They were related to Caleb, one of Israel’s founding spiritual giants, though they shared none of his spiritual valour. Secondly, like David, they were members of the tribe of Judah. They had every reason to be loyal, but they went in the opposite direction, jeopardizing the life of a man of God. Still, the Lord’s hand of protection was on David, and all their efforts were futile. David had a strategic need to know Saul’s location so he could stay ahead of him. Through his network of spies, David kept Saul’s exact location and the strength of the army with him. Ch. 26 Vs. 12 mentions that a “deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them.” God’s hand was clearly protecting David. This was the second distinct time that David had the opportunity to take Saul’s life if he had wanted to do so. The first time is noted in chapter 24 where we see that the locations, David’s companions, the items removed from Saul, and the verbal exchanges between David and Saul were all different. Abner was the captain of Saul’s army and also his cousin (1 Samuel 14:50). Abishai was David’s nephew. “Sleeping within the trench” means that Saul was in the camp and the baggage and wagons were around the outside. On this occasion, as in the first, David’s men urged him to take Saul’s life. David’s refusal was based on his reverence for God and the fact that Saul had been appointed by God. David had learned to discern and respect anything that had God’s signature on it, and God had directed Samuel to anoint Saul as king. David knew that even when Saul had forfeited his kingship, respect for God’s appointment was still needed. Taking Saul’s water jug and spear proved that David had been right beside him, and also that he had no intention of taking Saul’s life. The spear was a king’s symbol of authority. The ensuing dialogue between Saul and David was their last. David knew that despite his words, Saul could not be trusted, so he went again to Philistia. The Philistines had five major cities and five co-rulers. Achish was the ruler of Gath, and he allowed David to move to Ziklag. From there, David and his men made guerrilla-type attacks that benefited and helped both the Philistines and the Israelites. The group of people with David may have numbered as many as two or three thousand.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

One time, our family had the opportunity to observe a glassblower at work. She was shaping a vase, which was mounted on a tube so she could put it into the furnace for heating. Repeatedly she placed the vase in the furnace, then took it out and shaped it by rolling it against newspapers that she held in her gloved hand. The glass was so hot that the newspapers charred. When the artist was satisfied with the vase, she prepared to remove it from the tube. She said that this was one of the most critical points of the whole process. The vase was heated again and then cooled to a particular temperature. Next, she gave a sharp blow at the exact point of the mounting. She told us that sometimes a vase breaks under a sharp blow, and then all her labour is wasted. Watching the glassblower was an object lesson in how God works on us. He may allow us to be heated in the furnace of affliction — financial problems, stresses, difficult relationships, loss of a loved one — so that we can be shaped as He desires. If God in His infinite wisdom allows a “sharp blow” as a test, we do not want to “shatter” at that moment. God had been shaping David in the furnace of affliction. He had been running and hiding from Saul for some years. At the time of our text, David experienced a sharp blow — a test of his integrity. When he had the opportunity to take his enemy’s life, David did not shatter. He knew that God had appointed Saul to be king and that, in His own time, God would work out every detail. His respect for God’s anointed led David to act honourably. God can help us behave honourably also when a sharp blow comes to us. We cannot survive in our strength, but by God’s strength, we can be victorious.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
What was David’s reaction when he heard Nabal’s response to his request? I Samuel 25: 9-12
Question 2
What are some possible reasons that Abigail stepped in to remedy the situation? What was David’s attitude when Abigail confronted him and prevented him from acting rashly and unwisely (1 Samuel 25)? Name three things we can learn from his response.
Question 3
Think of a time in your life when you wanted to seek revenge. How did you overcome that feeling?
Question 4
What did Saul say when he found that David had spared his life again? Why do you think God allowed David this opportunity to kill Saul? I Samuel 26: 8, 9, 7, 21-25
Question 5
David had several opportunities to take matters into his own hands (chapters 24-26). How did David “behave himself wisely?”
Question 6
How can actions in small matters of integrity prepare us to act honourably in a crisis?

 

TAKE HOME

God used Abigail to prevent David from taking justice into his own hands. If we will let Him, God will help us handle difficult situations when they arise. A deep respect for God and His actions and timing can help us stay right in our hearts. God may be working on us today, but He will bring us through if we honour Him.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

King Saul, a man who had been an example of humility and grace, had become the vicious pursuer of David, a man after God’s own heart. Something had happened to Saul. He lost his favour with God through disobedience. In today’s text, Saul hunted down one whose only crime was doing the will of God. At this time, the Tabernacle was in Nob, a city south of Gibeah and north of Jerusalem. Nob could be seen from Jerusalem. The “common bread,” referred to in vs. 4, meant bread that anyone could eat. Hallowed bread was also called “shewbread.” Each Sabbath, twelve fresh loaves were put in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle by a priest. Only the priests could eat the bread from the week before. Ahimelech confirmed with David that his men were ceremonially clean, and then he applied the spirit of God’s laws when he gave the bread to David. Jesus cited this occasion to illustrate that the spirit of the Law was more important than the letter of the Law(Mark 2:25-26). The following details add to an understanding of this text. Gath was about 23 miles from Nob, and Achish was the Philistine king. David pretended insanity to gain refuge there. The word scrabbled means “scratched.” Sane men would not allow saliva to fall upon their beards. The cave of Adullam was approximately 10 miles east of Gath, and 15 miles west of Bethlehem. His brothers, no doubt, deserted the army of Saul to join David. The “discontented” refers to those who did not like how Saul governed. Largely, this was a group of outlaws, yet David managed them wisely enough to make them mighty and heroic. The height of Saul’s spiritual depravity was apparent when, in addition to pursuing David, he commanded the destruction of the priests of God. 85 people died because he felt that they supported David. David ran farther from Saul and sought refuge for his family in Mizpeh under the king of Moab. Moab was not friendly toward Israel, however, Ruth, David’s great-grandmother, was from Moab, which may have made some difference. Saul’s hostile actions against David made him a greater threat than the heathen kings.
David loved God with all his heart. Before any major decision, he sought God’s direction and will. In our text, David was being pursued by Saul almost continually. Saul was obsessed with finding and killing David, because he was jealous of David, and he knew David would be the king someday. Although David wanted deliverance from his enemy, he still wanted God’s will in the situation. Abiathar, a priest, escaped Saul’s massacre of the priests of Nob, and he managed to take an ephod with him. This means that he had the Urim and Thummin with him when he came to David. The Urim and Thummin were two flat stones that were used to discern the will of God. David welcomed Abiathar and promised him protection. Although Saul had spies looking for David, Abiathar was able to give the Word of God to David and advise him on what God wanted him to do. The meeting between Jonathan and David that is mentioned in this text may have been the last time they saw each other. Being a true friend, Jonathan encouraged David. At one time, Saul and his army were within one mountain ridge of David and his men. Then a messenger came to call Saul to battle with the Philistines, and God once again delivered David. En-Gedi is a natural fortress that overlooks the Dead Sea. The area has many caves, and some were used as houses or tombs. Some caves were big enough that thousands of people could get inside them. “To cover his feet,” means that Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. The Law of Moses had strict rules regarding sanitation, so Saul was probably away from his camp. He no doubt left his robe at the cave’s entrance. Since David and his men were hidden in the sides of the cave, they had easy access to Saul. David’s respect for God and also for Saul’s position as king provided deliverance for Saul. Our key verse mentions, David called on the Lord, asking Him to declare him innocent and keep him from Saul. God did not fail. David was safe in God’s hands and was delivered from his enemy.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

The man was consumed by revenge. Thugs had beaten his son so badly that he had a skull fracture. The doctors suspected brain damage and possible permanent vision loss. The father tried everything he could to locate the perpetrators. Meanwhile, the son showed no signs of improvement. One Sunday in church the father was considering what he would do if he caught these fellows. Even though he was not really listening, he realized the minister was preaching about forgiveness, and he did not care for the subject! As the preacher continued, the man realized he could not pray for his son’s healing without first forgiving those who had hurt his son. That morning he asked God to help him forgive. God released his soul from the hatred, and he prayed for both the son and the attackers. That day, when he went to the hospital, his son was sitting up! New x-rays were taken, and the fracture had been healed. His son left the hospital on Monday, completely well. This father knew that his son needed a touch from God to deliver him from his injuries. However, the father also needed a touch from God to deliver him from his vengeful spirit. In today’s society, many need deliverance — from addictions, troubling situations, financial difficulties, or broken relationships. Others need deliverance from wrong attitudes and fears. God can bring true deliverance, and David found this out. In our text, we read repeatedly about David’s desire for deliverance. Each step of the way, David continued to seek God’s will, and the Lord helped him every time. Do you need deliverance in your life today? Open your heart to God, and tell Him your needs, because He answers prayer. God does not answer or deliver according to our will. For example, His deliverance may be the grace to cope with a situation. However, He never fails, and He wants to deliver us in the best possible way.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
Why do you suppose David fled to Ahimelech in Nob?
1 Samuel 21:1-6
Question 2
What was the significance of David getting hold of Goliath’s sword?
Question 3
Who was Doeg? I Samuel 22:9, 17-22
Question 4
Why do you think Saul wanted David killed?
Question 5
How did David demonstrate his faith and trust in God? 1 Samuel 22:5; 23:2. How did David receive deliverance from Saul and his pursuing army?
Question 6
Name some areas of life from which we might like to run and what types of deliverance might God give today from such situations.

 

TAKE HOME

We may not be facing physical persecution, but the enemy of our souls will pursue us with temptations and try to discourage us from following the Lord. We are running for our lives spiritually, and the safe refuge is Heaven. Until we reach that Goal, we need to be sure that we stay tuned to God’s directions for us and then remember that He knows where we are and will be with us. No matter what trials or temptations are “pursuing” us, we know that God can give us victory. The key is in having a heart toward God, as David did. Let us be like David and rely on the Lord in every situation. God is waiting for us to ask Him to work in our lives.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

In our text, David had just returned from killing the Philistine giant, Goliath. He was taken before King Saul, who took him into his own house. As a man, perhaps as young as eighteen years of age, this must have made a real impression on David. There were probably many temptations that came with living in the King’s palace and having a position of authority in the army, but we read how David behaved himself in spite of these temptations. David and Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a deep and close friendship. This was based on their mutual trust in God and the fellowship in their souls that resulted from that trust. Both men were warriors who were victorious because they believed God would give Israel the victory. It is possible that Jonathan was as much as ten years older than David. Jonathan’s gift to David was symbolic of the covenant between the two of them. When David was successful in battle, he received praise from the people of Israel. Although the numbers the women sang about were exaggerated, King Saul became jealous and twice tried to kill David. He even devised a plan to send David into a battle that appeared to be a certain defeat and his probable death, but God was with David. We read three times the statement, “David behaved himself wisely” (Ch 18 vs 5, 14 & 30). He was prudent. Saul had not fulfilled his promise to give his daughter in marriage to the warrior who slew Goliath. In this chapter, he demanded a further dowry from David. The requested dowry seemed humanly impossible, but with God’s help, David brought twice the required number. The intense jealousy King Saul had for David turned to fear because he knew the Lord was with David and had departed from himself. This combination of jealousy and fear made King Saul perceive David as his enemy. These feelings continued until King Saul finally committed suicide in battle a few years later.
In ch. 18, when Saul failed on two occasions to take David’s life by throwing a javelin at him, he tried placing David in harm’s way during battle and through a cunning dowry price for his daughter, Michal. By the time the events in ch. 19 occurred, however, Saul was no longer trying to be discreet in his hatred but openly commanded Jonathan and his other servants to kill David — despite the fact that David was now his son-in-law. Jonathan, being David’s best friend and seeing the error of his father’s ways, refused to do so. Instead, he warned David and interceded for him to Saul. That conversation calmed Saul, but only until David was once again successful in the next battle. After that, Saul planned to have his men wait at David’s house through the night and kill him the next morning. Michal loved her husband and did not want her father to succeed in his wicked schemes. She, like her brother Jonathan, warned David of the threat to his life and encouraged him to flee. Their house was likely built on a wall, and she was able to help him escape through the window without Saul’s “messengers” knowing. Michal then came up with her own cunning plan to buy David some time. The image she placed in David’s bed may have been a statue of a pagan household god. The Hebrew word used here, teraphim, means, “family idol.” (The same word is used in Genesis 31:19 when Rachel stole 2 of her father’s household idols.) It is unusual that such an idol would be life-size. It is also possible that the word is used figuratively meaning a depiction of a human. Whatever the case, her creation of the appearance of a person sleeping was at least somewhat convincing, for it was not until Saul ordered the messengers to bring David up in his bed that they realized what Michal had done. When Saul confronted her with her deception, rather than use wise words to appease him as Jonathan had done, she simply lied to him, saying David had threatened to kill her if she did not help him escape. Michal schemed, but David prayed. Psalm 59 records his thoughts and prayers during this time. This event marked the beginning of approximately ten years in which he was exiled and running for his life, always trusting God for his deliverance.
David found himself in Ramah, fleeing Saul’s attempts to kill him. Naioth was not a city, but the dwelling place of a particular school of prophets. It was likely a temporary village set up adjacent to Ramah, where Samuel lived. The Bible tells us that David “dwelt” there; how long he remained with Samuel is unknown. While David was there, Saul sent three sets of messengers to Ramah to capture David. Finally, Saul went himself. When he arrived in Naioth, Saul was overcome by the Spirit of God, as his messengers had been. He removed his outer garments — his armour and royal robes — and lay all that day and night, singing and praising God. In this manner, God showed His power over the hearts of men — even the king — and provided David with time to make his escape. Ramah was about four miles from Gibeah where David returned to talk to Jonathan, while Saul was looking for him in Ramah. Jonathan was David’s loyal friend and David wanted to share with him the fact that he thought Saul was out to kill him. Each new moon marked the beginning of a new month when the Law required the people to offer burnt sacrifices unto the Lord. It was a religious holiday, and the Jews were very careful to observe it. Though God had rejected Saul, he continued to bring sacrifices to God in a public way. It was also customary for him to eat publicly on this occasion along with his family and chief officers. David knew this and requested that Jonathan be excused from this assembly. He knew that if Saul indeed had it in his heart to kill him, his displeasure would show and it would be revealed to Jonathan that indeed Saul was in definite pursuit of him. After devising the plan to test Saul, David and Jonathan went into a field where they laid out their plan before God. Vs. 8 and 16 describe their covenant. In vs. 8, it is called a “covenant of the Lord,” and vs. 16 speaks of a covenant Jonathan was making with the house of David to protect his seed. A covenant is a binding contract of two or more persons who have agreed to its terms. It is usually created by a deed in writing, sealed, and executed. In this case, it was a verbal agreement between two friends whose utmost desire was to do God’s will and to be true to their friendship. Their covenant was witnessed by God, whose presence they implored, and who would be the final executor of its terms. In their covenant, they agreed to be honest in their communication with each other regarding what would transpire in David’s absence. At the feast, when Saul angrily made it known that Jonathan was a traitor for letting David leave, Jonathan knew that David’s life was in danger. According to their agreed-upon signal, Jonathan shot three arrows beyond the place where David was. David knew that this meant to leave and the two friends parted after much grief and tears — Jonathan went back to his father and family and David away from them.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

Have you ever had a situation when you needed an intercessor — a time when your explanation would not be heard or accepted, but you thought maybe the words of someone else would get through? Years ago, I worked with someone whose attitude indicated that I must have offended her in some way. Yet, no matter how much I thought about it, I could not think of what it might be. As I took the matter to the Lord in prayer, I considered apologizing. However, I was concerned that doing so would make the situation even more awkward. She was probably thinking that any hard feelings she had for me were completely hidden. Worse yet, maybe she had not even realized resentment was there! I did not know what to do, so I continued to pray with all my heart that God would show me, or that somehow the situation would change. Suddenly, and in a way I cannot account for, God answered that prayer. Her attitude changed seemingly overnight and I had a new friend. The only plausible explanation is that the ultimate Intercessor spoke on my behalf. Through the years since I am still awed at how the Lord completely turned that situation around. In ch. 19, Jonathan was an intercessor to his father, King Saul, on behalf of his best friend, David. Saul was extremely jealous of David’s success in battle and his resulting popularity with the people (1 Samuel 18:6-7), so much so that he sought to kill David. In our key verse, Jonathan reminded Saul that David had always been good to them and persuaded Saul to put aside his jealousy. It was not long, however, before Saul was once again seeking to take David’s life — just after the next battle in fact. The truth is that human intercession can only do so much good. It is only the influence of the ultimate Intercessor that can make remarkable and lasting changes in a life. If Saul had humbled himself before God, He would have turned Saul’s heart completely, as He did in my situation. However, because of Saul’s disobedience, the kingdom was taken from him and given to David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David also learned many valuable lessons while running for his life, and we benefit t today by his thoughts recorded in the Book of Psalms. Doyouneedan intercessor today? Trust Jesus with the situation! He can work wonders in difficult places, and even if the situation does not work out as you would have liked, He always has your best interest at heart and will do what is ultimately best.
David had a friend when he really needed one. He had some unusual circumstances take place in his life. He went from taking care of sheep to being anointed king over Israel. Imagine such a change! A lot of events were to take place in David’s life before he sat upon the throne, and God was faithful to bring Jonathan along at that time to help him through the difficult days ahead. Jonathan, King Saul’s son, loved David. The Bible says, “Jonathan loved him as he loved his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1). That is quite a friend! God knew that David needed just that type of friend. God is so good. I remember a time when a friend gave me his car to drive to work, and he took the bus! I could not imagine that, but he insisted, so I did! The worst part about that kind gesture is that I wrecked his car twice, and he was still kind to me and had it fixed and gave it back to me! I was flabbergasted. I used to ask myself, how could someone be so good to me? Well, I did not let that one pass me by — I married him. He is still kind to me to this day, after seventeen years of marriage. Though David and Jonathan’s relationship was unusual, given the circumstances, it withstood great challenges. The element that made it possible was that they both loved God. Jonathan, though loyal to his father, recognized that God’s plan included David being the next king. From a human standpoint, that must have been difficult to deal with, however, Jonathan loved God and he submitted to His plan. This made it possible for him to extend his friendship to David at a time when David needed it most. Today, the same elements can be present in our friendships. When God is at the center of our lives, we can extend ourselves to others in acts of kindness. As Christians, we have experienced God extending His love to us each day. That makes us the most qualified individuals to spread kindness to others. We must look for ways to do just that each day.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
What quality in David’s character is revealed in I Samuel 18:18?
Question 2
Why do you think the Lord withdrew his presence from King Saul?
Question 3
Why was Saul seeking to kill David? I Samuel 19:1
Question 4
Why do you think God allowed David to be chased by Saul?
Question 5
What do we learn about Jonathan’s character in I Samuel 20?
Question 6
Consider your character and integrity. Do you find any weaknesses? If so, what steps can you take to strengthen your Christian integrity?

 

TAKE HOME

What we do in private is the real indicator of who we are. May God help us to spend quality time with Him privately, so that we may behave ourselves wisely, with character and integrity, when we are in public and living our lives with the watching world.
David trusted God to be his ultimate Intercessor and Deliverer. We should do the same in our lives so that God can bless us as He did David! A friend you can trust is of great value in time of need. God has extended His love to us, so we must show kindness to others. By being true and loyal to God, we will be the kind of friend that God intends for us to be to someone in need.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Because of Saul’s disobedience, God rejected him from being king of Israel. The prophet Samuel loved Saul, and Saul’s failure to repent caused Samuel to mourn. In the original language, the word mourn meant “to mourn for the dead.” This shows how deeply Samuel was grieved. Eventually, God said that Samuel had mourned long enough. God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse and told him to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. Samuel’s home was in Ramah, and to get to Bethlehem, he had to take a road that went by Gibeah, the location of Saul’s headquarters. At the Lord’s direction, Samuel concealed his chief purpose for the trip and took a heifer to offer sacrifices as he usually did when on his duties as a circuit rider. The directions for “sanctifying” as used in this text were given in the Law and included bathing and changing clothes. As the sons of Jesse came before Samuel, he may have been looking for someone with a stature similar to Saul’s, but God had already made His choice by looking at the heart. The Bible indicates that David was handsome. “Ruddy” means red. It may mean that David had red hair, or it may indicate that he was fair-skinned. Either characteristic would have been unusual among the Hebrews. In the East at that time, red hair was considered “a rare mark of beauty.” “Of a beautiful countenance” may refer to David’s eyes, indicating that they were penetrating, keen, lively, and warm. David was chosen by God because of his inner qualities, and Samuel anointed him in a simple ceremony before his brothers. This was not a public appointment. Legally, Saul continued as the king, and David respected him as God’s anointed until Saul’s death. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward to guide and empower him, making him strong and efficient. God helped David to behave wisely and with courage. The Spirit of the Lord departed from King Saul.
This battle between the Israelites and the Philistines took place around 1025 B.C. The Philistines were an aggressive sea people who invaded the eastern Mediterranean coast and settled in coastal Palestine about 1200 B.C. They had been Israel’s principal enemy from the time of Samson. During those years, the Israelites had lost many battles and experienced major defeats at the hands of the Philistines. With their history of many victories, and with Goliath as their champion, the Philistines were confident they would be victorious this time as well. To minimize bloodshed, armies of that time would choose the strongest warriors from each side to fight against each other. At the time of this battle, David, the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, was not a warrior. This does not mean he had not shown himself to be courageous and capable of dealing with conflict. He had killed a bear and lion while caring for his father’s sheep. The historical accounts in 1 Samuel are not meant to be in chronological order. This account is given here to show that God intended to use David to deliver Israel. Also, God used this event to spread the fame of David’s name throughout the nation. David may have acted as Saul’s armour bearer at a later date, or the title may have been honorary. Goliath was over nine feet tall. A coat of mail was made of overlapping brass plates, and Goliath’s armour probably weighed about 125 to 150 pounds. Greaves were armour for the shins. The target of brass was a spear that was slung on his back. His iron spearhead weighed between fifteen and eighteen pounds. The trench in verse 20 refers to the camp or the baggage and vehicles around the edge of the camp. “The host was going forth to fight” means that Israel’s army was marching out to put themselves into formation for a battle.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

We know there are degrees of fear — it can range from anxious concern to sheer terror. Fear associated with the danger of imminent death is no doubt one of the most terrifying. My brother tells of an incident that occurred when he was in Vietnam. He was serving in a Marine Recon Battalion and had been dropped behind enemy lines. One night, his team of six people was being hunted by a regiment of the North Vietnamese army. All night they were essentially “pinned down” in a jungle thicket with enemy troops searching for them — at times within 50 feet of their location. For seven long hours, my brother was convinced that he was going to be killed. His mind agonized about dying. He visualized his funeral and thought about who would be attending it. That was terror — seven hours of terror. However, focusing on the fact that “the battle is the Lord’s” can make a difference in a person’s state of mind when facing death. A World War II veteran who served as a frontline infantryman testified, “I found that God was right there to take good care of anyone who would trust Him. Shrapnel came so close to me that it burned the side of my head parallel to the stem of my eyeglasses, but it never even drew blood. I crawled through muddy drainage ditches until my knees were raw, with machine gun slugs whizzing over my head, yet God brought me through it all.” The Children of Israel knew about the fear of death. In today’s text, King Saul and the Israelite army were on one side of the valley; the Philistine enemy was on the other. However, the two forces were not evenly matched. Facing the giant Goliath decked in his military armour, the Israelites were filled with fear. Verse 11 states they were “greatly afraid.” The fact is, they were terrified! Apparently, they were facing their circumstances in their own strength, and they had been in terror for forty days. David, possibly the youngest Israelite in the valley of Elah, had a different perspective. He undoubtedly had less military experience than Saul or the Israelite army; yet David had experience that gave him confi dance to overcome the fear that crippled the Israelites. He had proven that God was a match for circumstances that can cause fear; he realized that “the battle is the Lord’s,” and he relied on God for protection. How much easier it is to face fearful situations when we understand this principle!

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
What caused Samuel to believe that Eliab was the one to be king?
Question 2
The Lord commanded Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16). What characteristics did Samuel use to evaluate Jesse’s sons? What did the Lord use?
Question 3
What basis should we use when we evaluate people or situations?
Question 4
What statements did David make that showed his confidence in God’s ability to protect him against Goliath?
Question 5
What does David’s attitude and perspective tell us about his relationship with God?
Question 6
Perhaps you are facing a fear-causing event. What can you do to encourage yourself to be like David and expect deliverance from God?

 

TAKE HOME

It is easy to react to what we can observe. However, it is good to remember that we can see only the surface. God can see the heart! David said, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this.” This shows where he placed his trust. Just as David did not have fear when facing the giant, we can be shielded from fear when we face the Goliaths in our lives, by looking to the Lord for our deliverance and protection.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Even though Saul was the king and leader of the Children of Israel, in this chapter Jonathan was the one who stood out as the hero. Jonathan believed that numbers did not matter to God. He believed that God would stand behind His promises and work for Israel, and he and his armour bearer were brave enough to believe God and take action. Saul and his men were camped under a tree, and Ahiah the priest was with them. The ephod, in v. 3, was a part of the priest’s robes, which contained the Urim and Thummim. The Urim and Thummin were two flat stones or plates used for finding God’s will. The meaning of the names are “curses” and “perfection,” and their relative positions when they came out of the ephod indicated a yes or no answer from God. This way of finding God’s leading was also referenced in v. 19 when Saul said, “Withdraw thine hand.”
Jonathan, however, asked God directly for a sign as to whether or not he and his armour bearer should go up to the Philistines (v. 9). God sent help in the form of an earthquake. The result was confusion among the Philistines and a disorderly retreat in which the Philistines killed one another. Israelites came out of hiding to fight, and some Israelites that had been in the Philistine army changed back to Israel’s side. Sadly, Saul made rash and unwise decisions. His oath that no one should eat caused his men to be faint and tired when they should have been fighting. Then once the oath had expired, they were so hungry that they did not prepare the food properly and ate it with the blood, which was a violation of the Law. Jonathan was not aware of his father’s command. He ate some honey and nearly had to die when the lots that were cast showed he was guilty. Saul was not willing to admit that he had made a mistake and a rash command. He would have allowed his son to be killed, but the people rescued Jonathan.
In chapter 15, God gave Saul another opportunity to choose complete obedience to His instructions. Explicit commands were given, but v. 9 gives an accurate account of what transpired. To “utterly destroy” may seem like a harsh directive, but the Amalekites lived by using guerrilla terrorist tactics. They attacked nations and took their riches and families. Descendants of Esau first fought the Children of Israel not long after the exodus from Egypt. After Israel arrived in the Promised Land, the Amalekites attacked them and continued their raids whenever they possibly could. They wanted to wipe out Israel. Additionally, their idolatry was a threat to Israel’s obedience to God. Saul’s actions were a direct violation of God’s commands. Then Saul was hypocritical enough to tell Samuel that he had followed God’s directions. When Samuel challenged him, Saul blamed the people. When God said, “It repenteth me” in v. 11, He was not indicating He had made a mistake in making Saul king, but He was expressing His sorrow at Saul’s disobedience. Later in v. 29, Samuel said that God would not repent, meaning He would not change His mind or His course of action. “To obey is better than sacrifice” is a phrase that defines a Biblical principle — giving something to God cannot replace a heartfelt desire to do God’s will. How could Saul expect God to accept sacrifices of animals that God had commanded should be killed? Samuel’s words were not discounting the Law and Israel’s worship system. Rather, he was challenging Saul to look at his hypocrisy. Although Saul finally said, “I have sinned,” a truly contrite admission of guilt before God never took place. Vs. 30 reveals that Saul wanted to save his reputation as king. He was more concerned about heeding the people than he was about obeying God. His rebellion cost him the kingdom. Saul had failed to follow God’s commands, but Samuel was obedient and made sure that God’s instructions were accomplished. Note Samuel’s grief for Saul and his legacy of failed assignments.

 

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

My father gave me a bit of advice when I embarked on my first experience as an employee, and his words illustrate the importance of heeding those in authority over us. He said, “You may not always agree with your boss’s instructions or methods, but perform as instructed just because he is your boss and he signs your check!” He was not referring to being asked to do something sinful or illegal, of course. He was warning me not to do things in my own way, but rather to simply follow directions. How often do people desire to substitute some other action for obedience? Yet, “obedience is better than sacrifice.” Any number of good works or positive actions cannot take the place of following instructions. This is especially true when it comes to yielding ourselves to God and doing His will. One man testifies of how sinful and desperately unhappy he was. He said, “I thought I was going to lose my mind. Hoping to shake the feeling, I started going to church. I thought that maybe giving money to the church would help. I even tried to ‘help the poor’ by making about fifty sandwiches to take downtown and hand out to the street people. Nothing helped.” He was trying to rid himself of guilt by making “sacrifices.” This man came to a church service one evening, and the minister asked, “Who are you serving?” The man knew that he was not serving God. At the end of that service, he went forward to an altar of prayer and cried out from the depths of his soul, “God, have mercy on me!” God answered and changed his life. He found out that obedience to God was what mattered. In today’s text, Saul had followed his own judgment and the will of the people rather than obeying God. He told Samuel that they had saved the cattle to sacrifice them to God. However, God was looking for obedience, not Saul’s excuses and plans. God is looking for obedience in our lives too. Let’s do what God says to do today!

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
Why do you think Jonathan did not tell his father that he was going to go over to the Philistine garrison?
Question 2
You may not be facing a Philistine stronghold today, but you may be facing daunting difficulties. How can you show the same type of faith that Jonathan showed?
Question 3
Contrast the actions of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14:6-15 with those of Saul in 1 Samuel 15:2-9. What was done right? What was done wrong?
Question 4
Compare verses 3 and 9 of chapter 15. What are the differences between what God commanded and what was performed?
Question 5
Why do you think Saul listened to the people rather than obeying God’s instructions?
Question 6
What are some blessings that result from our obedience?

 

TAKE HOME

God wants to be glorifi ed in your life. He can be if you will trust Him as Jonathan did. Who knows how He might use you today! Also, God is looking for those who will obey Him. Will you?

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Judges had governed Israel for almost five hundred years. With the anointing of a king, Samuel took the opportunity to remind the Children of Israel of his credibility. It was common at that time for officials to make money because of their positions, but Samuel had not done that. Samuel also reminded the Israelites of how God had sent leaders who had helped them in the past. He referenced the cycle that had become common to Israel, of forgetting God and then repenting and seeking deliverance. Finally, Samuel challenged them to obey God’s commandments. “The Lord” is mentioned over thirty times in this chapter, indicating how much Samuel wanted Israel to serve God. Samuel’s intentions were clear. He planned to continue serving God, and this included interceding for the people of Israel and teaching them God’s Word. Samuel was meeting with the Children of Israel in late May to early June — an important time in wheat harvesting. There were two rainy seasons: yoreh (the early rains) and malqosh (the latter rains). Today, we would refer to these times as fall and spring. Knowing this, the thunderstorm that ensued was considered miraculous, as rain rarely fell during harvest time. The people knew that rain at this time could cause great damage to the crops and that it was a sign of God’s displeasure regarding their request for a king. The miracle also confirmed that Samuel’s words were from God. God chose Israel as His people because He wanted them to help other nations learn about Him. God promised not to abandon them, but He would discipline them for disobedience, to cause them to live right.

King Saul started with high ideals, good motivation, and God’s strength behind him. Two years into his reign he chose a small group of three thousand fighting men. Michmash was north of Jerusalem. Gibeah, where Jonathan and his one thousand men were camped, was approximately fifteen miles away. Jonathan and his troops defeated the Philistine garrison at Geba, and King Saul sent the word around to encourage his people. The Philistines took this act as a declaration of war and gathered their massive army together to fight against Israel. The Children of Israel, seeing the army gathering against them, quickly became fearful. Many went into hiding, and those who stuck with Saul were described as “trembling.” Saul became impatient and made a sacrifice just before Samuel arrived. Saul’s downward slide was characterized by three attitudes: impatience, pride, and unbelief. Saul made unwise decisions because he looked at things with the natural eye instead of the spiritual eye of faith. He then tried to cover up his actions with half-truths and lies, minimizing his faults and not taking any blame. Israel was greatly outnumbered. The Philistines were “as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude” (v. 5). In chapter 13 verse 2, Saul had three thousand men. By verse 15, he was down to six hundred.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

As a mother, I am responsible for many different aspects of my children’s care: grooming, clothing, meals, and much to their distress, discipline. My husband and I have established a policy of following through with what we say. If we say we will go to the park, we make every effort to take them there. Follow-through carries into the discipline area, as well. If we tell our children there are consequences for certain behaviours, we follow through. As we do, it assures them that they can count on us to do what we say. Do they understand this principle? I believe they do. Not long ago, as I drove my son to preschool, I told him that I would look for new sneakers while he was at school. When I picked him up from school, he asked me if I brought his new sneakers in the car. I asked him, “How did you know I had new sneakers for you?” He said, “You told me you were going to get some.” Then I asked him if I always do what I say I’m going to do. He quickly said, “Yes!” Although my son may sometimes hope I don’t follow through with my words, he knows that he can depend on me for the truth. I have established a track record. In this verse, Samuel was making a point about his track record with the Children of Israel. He asked them, “Whose ox have I taken?” “Whom have I defrauded?” The Children of Israel answered back that Samuel spoke the truth! He was to be believed because his track record was clean. Samuel was establishing a point of reference. Basically, it was: I have not lied to you and I am not going to start now; believe me when I tell you that you have done wrong. We should be careful to keep our word. Then those around us can always be sure that we will do what we say.
Disobedience does not pay. That is a concept that we try to teach our children while they are still young. The discipline we give them is intended to help them understand just how foolish their disobedience was, and also to cause them to remember not to disobey in the future. However, once we become adults, we must take care not to forget this concept ourselves. In today’s text, Saul became nervous when Samuel did not arrive, and the men of his army began to desert him. He disobeyed God’s commandments when he made a sacrifice, which should have been done only by a priest. Samuel told him that he had “done foolishly.” As we face each day, we do not want to do foolishly. We want to ask God to help us obey Him. We will be glad that we did!

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
In 1 Samuel 12:3-5, Samuel asked if there was anyone who was accusing him of any misdeeds. In his high offices as prophet and judge, he would have faced opportunities to become corrupt. What can we do to make sure that we are not corrupted by power at any level?
Question 2
What miracle did God perform at Samuel’s request?
Question 3
What lessons can we apply to our own lives about keeping God first? What is your track record?
Question 4
In 1 Samuel 10:8, Samuel tells Saul to wait in Gilgal seven days and Samuel would come and offer a sacrifice. After Saul disobeyed Samuel and offered the sacrifice himself (1 Samuel 13:8-12), who did Saul blame? How does this parallel some people’s actions today?
Question 5
Saul’s downward slide seems to follow a pattern in 13:8-12. What pattern do you see? How could a pattern like this apply to one’s spiritual maturity?
Question 6
Perhaps you are waiting for an answer from God. How can you encourage yourself to keep holding on in faith?

 

TAKE HOME

We want a reputation that we do what we say we will. Even more importantly, we want to obey what God says to do. God is never late. He wants us to wait on Him no matter what the circumstances appear to be. He wants to help us build our faith and spiritual maturity and to lead us to victories. If we are obedient, God will give us the victory in His time.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

God’s plan for Israel was that He should be their King. From time to time, He had raised leaders as needed. Gideon, Barak, and Samson were examples of military leaders, and Deborah and Samuel were examples of spiritual leaders. At the time of today’s text, Samuel had served the nation of Israel well for many years as a prophet and priest. The end of his life was drawing near, and without an heir apparent, the people wanted a king to lead them so they would be just like all their neighbouring countries. This was against God’s will, and Samuel told them as much, but they were resolute in their demands. Therefore, God chose Saul to be a captain (“commander” in the original Hebrew) of his people. When Samuel anointed Saul, it was a symbolic act showing that he was appointed by God. Priests or prophets anointed Israel’s kings. The oil was a special mixture of costly spices, myrrh, and olive oil, and this same oil was used to anoint the priests. To confirm the authenticity of the anointing, Samuel foretold three events that would happen to Saul: two men would report the asses had been found and that Kish, his father, was concerned about Saul; he would receive two loaves of bread from three men; and a company of prophets would meet him, and God’s Spirit would come upon him. All these events came to pass. Saul was given a spiritual anointing from God when he received a new heart and the Spirit of God came upon him (vs. 6 and 9-10). God came into Saul’s life and changed him from what he had been before, thereby enabling him to do what God had called him to do, which was to be the king. When he met the prophets and God’s Spirit came upon him, Saul praised God and worshipped Him. The surprise of the people who knew Saul (“Is Saul also among the prophets?”) indicates that Saul had been noticeably changed. The public appointment of Saul as king took place at Mizpeh, where God had previously delivered Israel from the Philistines (ch. 7). When Samuel told the people the “manner of the kingdom” (v. 25), he was, no doubt, confirming that Israel’s government would operate in the manner that God directed in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Gibeah was Saul’s home and therefore became the political capital of Israel at this time. Samuel resided in Ramah, and therefore that town was the religious centre. This was the first time the political and religious centres were separated.
In chapter 11, God established Saul as king in the hearts of his countrymen. The Ammonites were Lot’s descendants. Nahash means “snake.” When Saul heard that the people of Jabesh were threatened, the Spirit of God came upon him. Further proof that God was in control was shown when the fear of the Lord fell on the people as Saul moved into action. Ultimately, the mighty army of the Ammonites was partially destroyed and completely scattered, while the nation of Israel was unified under their new king. As a result, Saul’s position as king was solidified, and the whole nation rejoiced and gave thanks to God.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

My wife always has crafts for the little ones in her preschool Sunday school class. She does her best to provide them with materials to make something especially nice that they can be excited to take home and show to their families. Of course, when dealing with such young children, she makes the craft simple and demonstrates with careful step-by-step instructions. Even so, there are some youngsters who feel they MUST do everything their own way! No amount of encouragement and careful demonstration will sway them otherwise. As you might expect, the results vary! How disappointing it is to see a messed-up project. However, her love for the little ones in her class keeps her going, and you can be sure next Sunday there will be another charming craft for the children to work on. The Children of Israel insisted on their own way of having a king. God had given them everything they needed to be successful, including step-by-step instructions. They had not followed His commandments, and at this time they were convinced that having a king would be the solution to their problems. Perhaps you can look back in your life and see times when you followed your own way and ended up in a mess. Also, you may be able to look back to situations when you heeded God’s step-by-step instructions, possibly without understanding them, and saw the Lord work out details in your life in a better way than you could have imagined. How it must grieve the Lord when He sets out a pattern for our success, but we are so consumed with our own desires that we are blinded to His plans! How often do we settle for a “mess” when God has far greater plans for our lives? Today, may the purpose of our hearts be to follow God’s directions and have His will worked out in our lives.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
Why did the people of the nation of Israel want a king? Why did Samuel oppose the idea?
Question 2
What three prophesies did Samuel make regarding the signs that would happen on Saul’s journey home (1 Samuel 10:2-6)? What can we learn from them for our lives today?
In God’s infinite love and mercy, He continues to bless us when we stray into His permissive will rather than cling to His perfect will. How much greater our blessings are when we stay centred in His perfect will.
Question 3
Saul was anointed king three times: privately by the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 10:1), in public at Mizpeh (1 Samuel 10:17-24), and after his first victory as the leader of the tribes in battle against the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:15). At the second coronation, Saul “hid himself among the stuff ” (1 Samuel 10:22). Was this an appropriate action? Why or why not?
Question 4
How do you suppose the history of the nation of Israel would have been different if they had not insisted on having a king?
Question 5
In what ways do we benefit when we discern the will of God for our lives and follow His leading?

 

TAKE HOME

In God’s infinite love and mercy, He continues to bless us when we stray into His permissive will rather than cling to His perfect will. How much greater our blessings are when we stay centred in His perfect will.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The time between chapters 7 and 8 may have been twenty or twenty-five years. This chapter marks a transition between the era of the judges and the beginning of the monarchy. Samuel had judged Israel well, saved them from the Philistines, and led them back to God. However, by this time he was an old man, and the Children of Israel did not want another judge. Instead, they demanded to be given a king to judge them and lead them in battle (v. 20), so they could be like the nations around them. God knew that Israel would someday want a king, and so Moses gave directions regarding that time (Deuteronomy. 17:14-20). Even before that, God had told Abraham and Jacob that their descendants would include kings (Genesis 17:6; 35:11). In his final days, Jacob had said, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah” (Genesis 49:10). God wanted these changes to come at His timing and instigation, but Israel was determined to have a king and refused to wait on God’s timing. At God’s instruction, Samuel warned them, carefully explaining the negative consequences of such a choice. He said the king would:

• Take their children to serve in the palace and army
• Take the best of their grains, grapes, olives, and animals
• Demand slave labour
• Tax them
These predictions were fulfilled, especially in the time of Solomon’s reign. Despite the warnings, Israel insisted on a king. Their rejection was not of Samuel, but rather of God, that He would not reign over them. God granted their request, and for the next 450 years, they had forty-one kings, most of whom did not follow God but led the people far from Him.
Chapter 9 marks the shift of focus from Samuel to Saul. The first two verses of the chapter show that Saul’s family had prestige and that, from a man’s perspective, Saul appeared to be an excellent choice for a king. It is important to remember that God directed Samuel to anoint Saul, but it was only God’s permissive will because the Children of Israel insisted on having a king. Saul’s father had sent him on a mission to find their lost donkeys. In Biblical times, donkeys were considered necessities and were used for many purposes, including farming, hauling, and transportation. Even the poorest families owned at least one. Owning a number of donkeys indicated wealth, and losing them was a disaster. Kish, Saul’s father, was wealthy, as evidenced by his many donkeys. In verse 6, Saul and his servant prepared to travel to the city where Samuel the prophet lived — believed to be Ramah. The phrase, “All that he saith cometh surely to pass” confirms Samuel as a true prophet according to Deuteronomy 18:22. Before Saul arrived, God had revealed to Samuel that he was to anoint Saul to be captain over Israel. He also told him about the missing donkeys. Although Samuel’s heart was heavy because of Israel’s insistence upon having a king, he obeyed God and prepared for Saul’s anointing. Because the maidens were preparing to draw water, we know that Saul and his servant arrived at the city in the evening. The “high place” these young women referred to (v. 12) was a place for sacrifice and prayer. It also had a banquet hall (“parlour” in v. 22), and thirty people were invited to the special meal that Samuel had arranged. Saul did not understand at this time the full implications of all Samuel said to him. However, he did humbly protest that his family was “the least in the smallest” tribe in Israel. Samuel disregarded that comment; he knew that was not important to God. The right shoulder of the animal was the portion of the offering that went to the priest, yet Samuel had reserved it for Saul. After the feast, Samuel had Saul spend the night with him so they could talk. By the time Saul left Samuel, he knew what was happening.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

Our pastor tells of a time when he was applying for a different employment position, one that he really wanted. He had been interviewed, and it seemed that he was going to be awarded this job. As he was driving to what he expected would be the final interview, he prayed, “Lord, You know that I really want this job. I want it so much that I am not sure if I can truly see Your will. Please help me! If this position is not Your will for me, please close the opportunity.” He did not get the job, and he was disappointed at the time. However, within a year that company was no longer in business. He had proved, once again, that following God is the best plan. Though most of us know that principle in our heads, sometimes when we want something badly, we may be tempted to press God to give us our way. The Lord has a particular plan for each of our lives, but He can only direct us on an individual basis if we are willing to do what He says. If we are determined to have our own way, He may allow that — granting His permissive will — but it will not be to our advantage. God’s plans for us are the best, and we cannot improve them by pushing for our own ways. In our text today, the Children of Israel determined to have a king. They pressed until God said yes. Their wilful rejection of God’s kingly rule and His plans for them was wrong. However, God granted their desire, although their self-centered request had tragic results. The Omniscient Lord could see their future unhappiness, and He had Samuel warn them of the disadvantages of having a king. Still, they determined to have their own way. What we consider right by our natural thinking is not always spiritually best for us. Doing what God wants us to do may not always be according to our will. If we will yield to Him and follow His instructions, we will be blessed every time. Obeying God always results in good, although we may not see that good until eternity.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
What were the reasons given by the elders of Israel for wanting a king (1 Samuel 8:4-5)? Were these claims legitimate? Why or why not?
Question 2
What was God’s reaction to the people’s request? Discuss with your class the difference between God’s permissive and perfect will. 1 Samuel 8:7-9
Question 3
Samuel expressed to Saul that “all the desire of Israel” was on him, speaking about his upcoming responsibility. What was Saul’s response, why do you think he reacted the way he did to Samuel’s words 1 Samuel 9:19-27
Question 4
What safeguards can we place in our lives to help us do God’s will even when it seems difficult and name some things we should do when we need direction from God?

 

TAKE HOME

Sometimes we may be tempted to want to go our way rather than to obey God. We need to be careful to submit to and obey Him because His ways are always best in the long term. When God gives you direction, listen and obey!

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The Israelites had gone to war with the Philistines without the blessing of God. They lost four thousand men. Instead of beseeching God to go before them, they arrogantly sent for the Ark of the Covenant and two priests to carry it out before them. God had set in place rules regarding how the Ark would be transported, and this involved four priests, not two. These two priests, Hophni and Phinehas, were the evil sons of Eli. They believed that the Ark was the winner of wars, rather than God, whose glory was represented by the Ark. Therefore, Israel lost the battle and the Ark. The Philistines were not unfamiliar with the God of the Israelites. They had heard stories of the Israelites escape from Egypt and their crossing of the Red Sea. They were aware of the power of God. When they heard the noise the Israelites made when the Ark entered into the camp, they were afraid, but they challenged themselves and chose to fight diligently. The result was that they killed thirty thousand Israelites and captured the Ark of the Covenant. The Philistines often brought the spoils of war to their temple as an offering to their god. Accordingly, they placed the Ark in the temple of Dagon, in the city of Ashdod. Dagon was the Philistines’ primary god. Today, the image of Dagon might be referred to as a mermaid, with the upper body and head of a woman and the lower part a fish. At this time, the Philistines had five capital cities — Gath, Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza — and each city had a “lord. ”The Ark was taken to three of these cities, and judgment came on the people in these places. Bible scholars feel the plague may have been the bubonic plague, perhaps spread by rats or mice. The “trespass offering,” which the Philistines made to stop the judgment, was typical of how they would have tried to pacify their gods when they thought they were angry. They incorporated another test to confirm whether or not Israel’s God had really sent the plagues. Only God could cause cows to leave their new-born calves and go in another direction. Beth-shemesh was a priestly city, and the men there should have treated the Ark according to God’s directions. But some of them looked into it, and judgment fell on them also.
The departure of the Ark of the Lord (in chapter 5), captured by the Philistines in battle, signified that God had forsaken the people of Israel and would not help them. The Philistines quickly learned that the presence of God’s Ark was not compatible with their idolatrous ways, and in time, they voluntarily returned it to Israel. The Ark eventually was taken to Kirjath-jearim, where it was put in the care of Abinadab and Eleazar and remained there until King David brought it to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). Having spent twenty years in a state of defeat and subjugation, the Israelites realized that they were in a pathetic condition. With the help of Samuel who exhorted and prayed for them, Israel turned back to the Lord. The nation repented and destroyed the idols. In the Canaanite religion, Baal was the son of Dagon, and the chief god. Baalim is the plural form of Baal, which indicates there were many statues of Baal at different places. Israel recommitted themselves to the Lord. Their confession, “We have sinned against the Lord” (v. 6) was crucial to God working for them. The glory of God returned to Israel. The power of God was once more upon the people, and they regularly gathered together to worship Him. The Philistines heard that the Israelites were gathering, and waged war against Israel. At this time, Israel did not have a standing army (a permanent army maintained in peacetime as well as war). Samuel and the people called upon the Lord, and God thundered on the Philistines, confusing them, and giving Israel a miraculous victory. The meaning of Ebenezer is “stone of help.” It was placed as a memorial to remind Israel that they had only received victory because God had helped them. This memorial is referenced in the old hymn, Come, Thou Fount, by Robert Robinson, when it says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’m come.” Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges. He was also a prophet, a priest, and a ruler. It appears that almost single-handedly, through God’s help, he was instrumental in this national revival and in educating the people again in God’s laws.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

You have probably seen signs along highways that say, “Historical Marker ¼ mile ahead.” The purpose of a historical marker is to point out a particular place where some significant event transpired and to give a mini-history lesson. Something worth remembering happened at that place. We need to have spiritual historical markers — landmarks that we can look back to when we are facing spiritual battles. The experience of salvation is such a marker; sometimes people say, “I could take you to the very place where God saved me.” One man in our congregation testifies, “In the tabernacle, right under the flagpole, that was my spot.” Receiving sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Ghost are also landmarks in a Christian’s life. Additionally, we need to have faith landmarks, times when God worked for us personally. When our son was a senior in high school, God made it possible for him to have a job-school arrangement that was different from any other in his school. His counselor said, “I have never heard of this being done here before.” We told our son that her comment was an additional confirmation sent by the Lord, so that when the enemy came and said the circumstances “just happened,” we would have that verification of the miracle. That experience has been a reminder to our family that God can do the impossible. You and your family may have similar stories of times when the Lord helped financially, gave miraculous healing, or protected from danger. Some people write these experiences down to help preserve the landmark. In our focus verse, Samuel established a historical marker. He had Israel put up a memorial to commemorate the great victory that the Lord had won for them. They called it Ebenezer and said that the Lord had helped them to that point. We can benefit from the example of the Israelites. Just as they established physical landmarks, let us make certain we establish spiritual landmarks. Then, if we take time to review them periodically, our faith will increase in God who performed these miracles on our behalf.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
The Philistines took the Ark of God and tried to humiliate the God of Israel by placing the Ark, which represented God’s presence, before their god Dagon. How did the Lord prove to the Philistines that He was the true God? 1 Samuel 5
Question 2
When the Ark arrived in Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6:10-21), many people looked inside it and were slain by God. Why do you suppose the punishment was so severe?
Question 3
How would you behave differently in your everyday life if you believed someone was watching?
We want to remember the importance of showing reverence to God and His power. The primary way to do this is by living a life of obedience to Him.
God is our Helper. As long as we maintain our loyalty to Him and stay within His will, we can expect to have victories that will cause us to praise Him for His supernatural works.
Question 4
What did Samuel tell the Israelites to do if they were serious about serving God? What do you think Israel expected would happen when they asked Samuel to pray for them as they faced the Philistines?
Question 5
We find a key to Israel’s successful turn-around in 1 Samuel 7:3-6. What did they do, and what was the result?
Question 6
How can you preserve accounts of the extraordinary helps that the Lord has given you so you can pass them onto your family and friends?

 

TAKE HOME

We want to remember the importance of showing reverence to God and His power. The primary way to do this is by living a life of obedience to Him.
God is our Helper. As long as we maintain our loyalty to Him and stay within His will, we can expect to have victories that will cause us to praise Him for His supernatural works.

BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Samuel started his ministry under Eli’s guidance. This was a dark time in the history of the Tabernacle worship. Eli was the high priest, but he did nothing to restrain the behaviours of his two sons, even though he knew that they were desecrating the Tabernacle. Weak leadership often leads to moral decay as evidenced in the lives of Eli’s sons and the people of Israel, who also worshipped idols at this time. Most seemed uninterested in God or His messages to them. Ch 3 v. 7 says, “Samuel did not yet know the Lord.” This means he did not yet have the experience of receiving God’s Word. When God called, Samuel did not recognize that he was hearing the voice of God. After hearing his name called for the third time and running to Eli, Eli understood that something great was happening and helped shape Samuel’sanswer for when God called again. Eli was 98 years old at this time and almost blind. He lived in a room next to the sanctuary. Samuel is thought to have been about 12 years old when the Lord called him. He slept near where the Lamp and the Ark of God were kept. The Lamp in the sanctuary was supposed to burn continually, not just during the night, and it was Samuel’s job to see that it stayed lit. Because of this, as well as Samuel’s ministry in the Tabernacle, there was still a divine presence in Israel. It is interesting to note that God chose to tell Samuel His message, rather than the high priest. Eli then had to seek God’s message from the child, Samuel. The phrase in verse 20, “all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba,” referred to the widespread reputation that Samuel was developing. Dan was the farthest north of the provinces, while Beer-sheba was the southernmost territory, thus giving a visual of the far-reaching effects Samuel had in the land.
The Ark of the Covenant, in which Israel had placed their trust, was a beautifully constructed box that Moses had built following God’s instructions. The Ark was constructed of a wood called eron (in Hebrew), but more commonly known as acacia. It measured five spans; a span being the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the little finger fully extended; generally accepted to be nine inches. The breadth and height were three spans each. A lid was attached with gold hinges. Two golden rings were attached to each of the longer boards and passed through the entire box. Gilt bars passed along each board through the rings, to enable the priests to carry it on their shoulders. On the lid were two images, which were called cherubims. The entire Ark was overlaid inside and out with pure gold so the wood was not seen. The things that God wanted kept in the Ark were: the two tables of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written, Aaron’s rod that budded, and shewbread. God had told Samuel about the impending demise of Eli and his two evil sons. As Hophni and Phinehas retrieved the Ark and went forward in battle, they were fulfilling the very words God had spoken to Samuel — that He would bring down Eli’s house and the iniquity would not be purged either with sacrifice or offering. Eli, his two sons, and his daughter-in-law all died that day. Generally, Israel’s enemies were the aggressors, determined to defeat them before anything was started. But this was one of the times Israel used their initiative and went out against the enemy. Ebenezer was about three miles east of Aphek, where the Philistines were camped.

 

A TESTIMONY FROM OUR DAY

My two youngest daughters enjoy using the computer to talk online with their friends. Whenever a call comes on our phone line and my daughters are using the Internet, the name and number of who is calling pops up on the computer screen. They have the choice at this time to accept the call and get off line, to answer it, or to ignore the call and continue talking with their friends. Often, from what I have heard, they choose not to answer the phone. When confronted about this, they will usually say that they did not know the caller. The screen had told them the caller’s name was“unavailable.” In today’s text, Samuel did not know what the call of God sounded like nor“was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him”. Still, he answered, running to Eli the priest when he heard his name called, thinking that Eli had called him. As we see in Ch. 3 v. 19, Samuel grew and the Lord was with him because he responded to God’s call. In the world today, God calls Christians to be His messengers. Maybe they will not hear an audible voice as Samuel did, but their calling is just as real. Some may be called to preach or to minister to the sick. Others may be called to share their testimony with a neighbour or relative. Some may be called to give their time to writing a message of salvation and hope to those in need. Regretfully, some choose to ignore God’s call. They may rationalize that they want to do something different or less demanding. As a result, they miss out on the wonderful blessings the Lord wanted to give them. Because of their disobedience, they also put themselves in grave danger of missing Heaven and eternal life. Like Samuel, we, too, can have the reputation among those who know us that we are the Lord’s. As we endeavour to hear the Lord’s voice in this noisy world, He will be faithful to guide our lives and to make us a blessing to those around us. May we always listen for the Lord’s voice and be quick to answer, no matter what His message is. As we heed God’s call, others may feel inspired to follow our example. Many souls could be won for God’s kingdom as a result of our decision. Let’s each be a “Samuel” today, listening and answering God’s call, telling the world there is salvation and eternal life through the Saviour of the world.

A while back, my mother gave me a letter she had copied more than fifty years ago. It was called, “Our Saviour’s Letter.” Some of its contents stated that if the commandments were observed, many blessings would be received. If a woman in childbirth had a copy of this letter, she would safely deliver her child. Any seagoing vessel having a copy of this letter on board would not be lost. The original writer of the letter stated that it had been written by our Blessed Lord Jesus and had been found under a stone eighteen miles from Jerusalem, sixty-eight years after His crucifixion. I was told that over the years, this letter had been kept as a good luck letter, and my mother was told that if this letter were kept in the house, there was no danger of the house burning. It was just a piece of paper with words written on it, and it had no power at all. Similarly, I have heard of others carrying a New Testament in a shirt pocket for good luck. While keeping a Bible close by is good, unless it is read and practiced it will not keep individuals safe or bring good fortune. True security is not in possessing a letter or even a Bible; true security is in having faith in the living God to provide, protect, and bless our lives. The Children of Israel had been defeated by the Philistines, and in the process had lost four thousand men. This loss was due to Israel’s disobedience to God. Instead of searching their hearts and confessing their sins, the elders believed that if they had the Ark of the Covenant in their possession, it would save them from the enemy. They were merely attempting to use God to accomplish their purpose. To move the Ark from one location to another, it had to be carried upon the shoulders of four priests. Eli’s two wicked sons were sent to fetch the Ark from Shiloh and bring it to their battlefield. God will not be used to fulfill the selfish purposes of sinful people. The Children of Israel were looking to the Ark of the Covenant to save them like people trusting good-luck charms. Possessing a symbol of God does not ensure His presence or power. Needless to say, their faith in the Ark was misplaced. They lost thirty thousand footmen, and the enemy captured the Ark. God requires obedience, submission, and purity of heart. A “good luck” letter will not stop a vessel from breaking apart in rough seas. Neither did the Ark of the Covenant prevent God from pronouncing judgment upon sins. If we are covered by the Blood of Jesus Christ, we can fully trust in God for daily victories.

 

A CLOSER LOOK

Question 1
What was young Samuel’s response to God’s call and what can we learn from his example? 1 Samuel 3:1-10

Question 2
Why did Eli respond with acceptance and offer no excuses when Samuel told him what the Lord had said?

Question 3
How might the Lord call us today? Is it in a different way than He called Samuel?

Question 4
In this portion of text, we find the nation of Israel attacked by a familiar enemy, the Philistines. According to 1 Samuel 4:1-11, what was wrong with Israel’s approach? What can we learn from this?

Question 5
Hannah, Samuel’s mother, is a great example of God’s blessing extending to others through one person’s obedience. Conversely, what tragic events do we see in 1 Samuel 4, which were a result of the priests’ sins and Israel’s disobedience?

Question 6
Share a specific instance in your life that caused you to have confidence in God.

 

TAKE HOME

Many times it may seem easier to ignore God’s message and continue with what we are doing or “sleep” through it. We may ignore a phone call once in a while, a call to dinner because we are working, or a call to do something we don’t have time for, but let’s always keep our hearts tuned for the call of God! In addition to this, a person who has his heart covered by Jesus’ Blood has the greatest protection afforded to mankind. Such a person does not need a good luck charm.

SERVING CONTENTEDLY Series

Led By a Child

WHEN WILLIE STRUHAR was a child, her father spent his time and money
in gambling halls and saloons. It seemed divorce was imminent, but one day,
an Apostolic Faith paper came into their home. She read of the wonderful
change God could make in a person’s life, poured her heart out to Him and
felt His peace sweep through her soul. Upon going to sleep that night, she had
a wonderful dream. She had never read the Scriptures which tell of
eternal judgment, but she recounted:
“I saw the Lord in the midst of a throng. There were people of all
ages and nationalities. As far as I could see there was just a great sea
of humanity. The Lord stood there with white and fl owing robes. His
countenance was sweet to those who could look upon Him, but some
were hiding their faces because the brightness was too great.
“There was a huge crack in the earth, like a gulf, and smoke was
ascending from this great hole in the ground. On the other side was
the devil and he seemed to be waiting for those whom the Lord would
reject. A transparent stairway led up into Heaven, and on this stairway
angels were hovering. As the people came up before the Lord, each
one was either accepted or rejected. It just seemed to be a nod of the

Lord’s head or a smile that told. When my turn came, the Lord smiled
and motioned for me to go with the angels, but I didn’t go. I hid by His side
in the folds of His garment, and waited until my father came before the Lord.
He was rejected! I began to pull on the garments of the Lord and beg Him to
please save my father. Up to that time, the Lord had not seemed to notice me,
but He turned and smiled at me and said, ‘Tell your father to get ready!’ That
was the end of my dream.”
The next day Willie’s father came home drunk, after spending sixteen
hours at the gambling table. Willie’s face shone as she told him her dream.
Her father realized that God was speaking through his little daughter, and fell
on his knees in repentance. God saved his soul, and from then on, their home
was completely transformed.

Historical Context: The Bible doctrines of Christ’s Second Coming, the Tribulation, Christ’s Millennial
Reign, the Great White Throne Judgment, the New Heaven and Earth, and Eternal Heaven and Eternal
Hell were established in Scripture, and upheld in the preaching and publications of the Apostolic Faith
organization from its inception.

A Closer Look . . .
1. Defi ne the word rapture. What
is the sequence of events when the
Rapture of the saints takes place?
2. What will happen on earth during
the Great Tribulation?
3. Name at least four aspects of life
during the Millennial Reign that will be
different from life as we know it now.
4. What aspects of Heaven are you
most looking forward to enjoying?

 

Counted the Cost

“AFTER MY MOTHER was saved, she began to
teach us of a Heaven to gain, of a Hell to shun, and
of the great eternal Judgment. She told us that we
had never-dying souls that were going to live on
throughout all eternity.
“I ran around with a preacher’s son. He said if
he went to Hell, he would have plenty of company.
I couldn’t console myself with the thought of
having company in that lake of fi re where everyone
would be weeping and wailing.
“I began to count the cost. I said to myself, ‘If
I should gain the whole world, live to be a ripe one
hundred years of age without an ache or a pain,
and then spend all eternity in that lake of fi re and
brimstone where the worm dieth not, and the fi re is
not quenched, I would still be the loser.’ I looked
at the other side of the picture and thought how
much better it would be to have salvation even if I
had barely enough worldly possessions to get by. I
decided Heaven was cheap at any price.
“I left my home and came to Portland,
Oregon, for one reason—to get saved. At the altar
of prayer, I asked God to have mercy on me. After
praying a while, I looked up and said, ‘I feel free!’
That night I went home singing, ‘There’s a new
name written down in Glory, and it’s mine!’
“Today, my determination is to make Heaven
my eternal home.” – Bill Cripps.

MY BROTHER WROTE TO ME when I was living on a homestead in Montana, and told me about the Apostolic Faith Church in Portland, Oregon, and also sent me one of their papers. At that time I was a brokenhearted young woman, condemned every day. I had married a man who had a living companion. That is wrong according to the Word of God and I knew it. I thought I would lose my mind in my misery, but I thank God that as I read that paper and compared the doctrines with the Bible, I knew their teachings were according to the Word of God. Such a hope sprang up in my soul! I wanted the same peace I read about in that paper.
In my kitchen, I knelt and asked God to open the way for me to get out of that life of adultery. I wanted to get saved
and live a clean life. I wrote to the Apostolic Faith people and asked them to pray for me. I told them my problem. They
answered my letter and said they would pray for me. I had talked to different ministers before this, and they would say
that so long as I was the innocent party, it was all right for me to continue in my marital state. But in reading God’s Word, I
found this was condemned. About two years after receiving the paper, I left my home with my two little girls, who were just fi ve and three years of age, and came to Portland to be in the meetings here and to seek God. My neighbors there in Montana told me I was foolish to leave my home, but I had to find God. The Lord showed me my responsibility to line my life up to His Word; and I have never been sorry that I took my stand for the Truth. After arriving in Portland, I attended a church service. At the end of
sermon, I knelt and confessed my sins to God and asked His forgiveness. He saved my soul and delivered me from all my sins, and put the joy and peace of Heaven into my soul! I then sought the Lord for sanctification and He gave it to me—purity fi lled my soul. I prayed for the baptism of the Holy Ghost and He also gave me that blessing. I never knew a person could be so happy!
I found that Jesus never fails. He gave me a happy Christian home and strength to work and support my two daughters, providing for every need. — Sarah Schmick

Historical Context: The Bible doctrines of Marriage, Water Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Foot Washing were established in Scripture, and upheld in the preaching and publications of the Apostolic Faith
organization from its inception.

An Early Ordinance Service

One of the pioneers of the Apostolic Faith work, who attended her fi rst service on January 6, 1907, gave an account of the fi rst ordinance
service held in the Portland mission: “We had our first ordinance at this little mission [the renovated
blacksmith shop at Second and Main.] It was just like one big family.
“I had never heard of the practice of Washing the Disciples’ Feet, which is one of the ordinances
instituted by our Savior and which He commanded us to observe. Sister Crawford gathered the
women folk around her, in a part of the hall set apart . . . for this portion of the service. The men
had a place set apart for them in another part of the building.
“She took the basin and the towel and girded herself, meanwhile explaining the Scriptures to us
who sat in a big circle around her. Then she started to wash our feet, and we took it up and began to
wash the feet of others. Oh, how God met with us there as we observed His Word! . . .
“I have often thought of what a wonderful blessing would be denied us today if she had not patiently instructed us in those early days in those things that were new to us. She leaned hard on God for guidance and on the Word of God for instruction, and always showed us on those blessed pages the reasons for everything.”

A Closer Look . . .

1. To what other relationship does Christ liken marriage? List at least five similarities.
2. According to Romans 6:3-4, what does water baptism symbolize?
3. How do we discern between accusations of the enemy concerning our worthiness, or the convicting hand of God?
4. What godly character attributes was Christ modeling when He washed His disciples’ feet? Why is this attribute so important in a Christian’s life?

Challenge: If you are married, each day of this week, thank God for five/ten specific things about your spouse. If you are not married, think of five/ten married couples that you can pray for specifically every day this week.

 

God’s Healing Power

MY LITTLE GIRL had tuberculosis in the glands of her body and had been given up by the doctors to die. When a baby of but three months old she was vaccinated and her blood poisoned. My husband and I spent a fortune trying to get healing for our little one. Climates failed, medicine failed, nine physicians where we lived in Scotland had failed, and after we moved to Portland, Oregon, two of the best specialists in this city failed to cure her. Many times when I was on my way to the doctor’s office, I would look up into the heavens and say, “Jesus, I know if You were on earth You would heal my child.”

Something in my heart told me to go to Portland, Oregon. When I spoke of coming to America, my people said I would bury my child
at sea. But God brought us over seven thousand miles to this place. We tried the best specialist in Portland after we arrived to try to find healing for our child. He treated her with serum every week to try to kill the germs in her blood, but he failed to heal her.
Then God led me to the door of a little saint of God and when I told her about my little one, she said, “If you had only known to have brought her down to the Apostolic Faith Mission on Burnside Street, our people would have prayed and God would have healed your child.” I came down to see these people, and as I sat in the back of the hall, God whispered in my soul,
“These are the people you have prayed so long for.” They told me, “There  is power in the Blood of Jesus to heal all manner of diseases.” That was all I needed to hear. I heard the Shepherd’s voice. I promised God I would trust in the healing power of the Blood of Christ. From that moment she began to improve and God completely healed her body. That has been many years ago and she is a strong, well woman today, a mother and grandmother, and has never had a trace of that disease from that day to this. — Agnes Clasper

Historical Context: The Bible doctrines of The Divine Trinity, Repentance, Restitution, and Divine
Healing was established in Scripture and upheld in the preaching and publications of the Apostolic
Faith organization from its inception.

Right With God and Man

“When God saved my poor, backslidden soul, I told Him I would go back and straighten up my life—make restitution—and I did. I asked the ministers to pray for me and for the letters I would be writing. I have letters today from people I made restitution to, letters of forgiveness. It is hard to believe the things I did after having been brought up in a godly Christian home.
“I worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and stole from them for years. I made trip after trip back there until one time someone said, ‘Not
again! You are bringing back more things?’ I said, ‘Yes, everything that says U.P.R.R. on it I am bringing back to the railroad.’ I was bothered over three years about something I had taken but couldn’t find. I looked high and low, in the garage, in all the cupboards, in the attic, and in the basement, but just couldn’t locate it.
“One day my son-in-law came over needing a large cardboard box. I said, ‘I don’t know if I have a large one or not, but let’s lookout in the garage.’ High overhead I found one I had thought was empty. But when I took it down, there was the item. Thank God, I took it back!
“Today I have the peace of God in my heart. It’s a good feeling down on the inside when you know you are right with God and right, too, with your fellowman. I have a clear record today and I praise God for it.” – Stanley Frank

Challenge: Come up with two examples of where the concept of “three-in-one” is evident in nature. (An example: the shell, yolk, and white of an egg.)

A Closer Look . . .
1. What does each person of the Godhead contribute toward the salvation of mankind?
2. What might be some indicators of true repentance?
3. How might a person’s restitution impact those to whom he/she makes the restitution?
4. Why do many in the world today reject the Bible doctrine of divine healing?

Into Africa

OUR OUTREACH EFFORTS into Africa began more than eighty years ago. A missionary named Frank Hein received Gospel tracts from the Apostolic Faith while living in the Sudan and Nigeria. After returning to America, he came to Portland to meet the people who had published those tracts. He loved what he found here, and God called him to stay and work in the church printing plant. He translated Gospel tracts into the language of northern Nigeria, and these were sent to various areas
of western Africa. A single tract fell into the hands of Peter van der Puije, a man in Gold Coast (now Ghana).
He received his deeper spiritual experiences and began establishing Apostolic Faith churches in that country. In 1948, he attended our camp meeting and presented the needs of his people, pleading for someone to come and help believers in Africa.

During that convention, George Hughes, a minister at the Portland headquarters, made a consecration to the Lord. Noted in his diary on July 3, 1948, were these words: “Volunteered for service in Africa—or anywhere in the world.” His offer was accepted, and in October, he left for a seven-month trip to Africa. Services were held in mud-walled, thatch-roofed churches, or wherever an opportunity arose.
A man in Lagos, Nigeria, Timothy Oshokoya, had received some Apostolic Faith literature. In it, he found the answer to the longings of his heart for holiness and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He began to distribute the papers and soon established a place of worship. He organized the first camp meeting in Lagos, held in 1949, and visited the Portland camp meeting in 1951 and 1956. Upon returning home in 1956, a printing plant was established and construction was begun on a tabernacle. The vision of “Africa
for Christ” grew in his heart and the work in Nigeria continued to expand. Literature received in other parts of Africa drew others to Christ and the Gospel light spread. Today, there are more than 700 Apostolic Faith churches in Africa. Their motto continues to be “Africa for Christ,” and God is abundantly blessing their efforts to publish the Gospel

Historical Context: The concept of publish was chosen as the third key in our mission statement. It reads: “We publish the Gospel through the printed word, the spoken word, and through our personal lives, daily looking for opportunities to spread the message, “Ye must be born again.” One of the most effective phases of evangelistic work carried on by our organization has been that of printing Christian literature. After a century of publication work, the Gospel message has circled the globe, and has proved
instrumental in leading thousands of people to God and establishing congregations around the world

 

Impact of a Gospel Paper

“I grew up on a farm in Virginia. My mother had been seeking the Lord, and had gone to all the churches in our area, hoping to fi nd what her heart craved. Then she received a paper from the Apostolic Faith. She found out that she could have her sins forgiven, and know when it happened. One day she went to pray in the barn, and when she came back to the house, her face was shining like an angel. She told me the Lord had saved her. Although I was only a child, I shall never forget the look on her face. We continued receiving the papers, and how God blessed us as we read them!
The Lord showed us that He had a people in Portland who were preaching the whole Word of God and were living it, and we became well versed in Bible doctrines by reading those papers.
“My father was suffering from cancer and doctors could not help him. My mother said, “Let’s send out there and have those people pray for you.” About six days later—in those days it took about six days for a letter to get to Portland from Virginia—when the people of God prayed, the Lord instantly healed my father. He said, “We’ve got to go out there to see those people.” He sold the farm and we came to Portland. In time, I gave my heart to God at these altars of prayer, and for many years I was privileged to work in the printing plant at our headquarters offi ce.” — Lloyd Ashwell

A Closer Look . . .
1. What role does the Spirit of God have in our personal attempts at publishing? In our corporate attempts?
2. Do we “publish” the gospel only to unbelievers? Explain your answer.
3. Name five instances in Scripture when God’s Word was “published.”
4. Who first published the Gospel to you? To your family

Challenge: Ask God to help you to implement all three ways of publishing at least once in the course of this week.

ABOUT 1929, a man by the name of George Joli attended a revival meeting in a little church and gave his heart to the Lord. From that time on, he and his wife went to church after church, searching for a people who believed the whole Bible. Despairing of ever finding such a group, they began to read the
Bible and pray for God’s leading to help them find the right people to worship with. One midnight while praying, the Lord spoke to George and said, “Follow the star—Jesus the Light of the World.” His wife wrote those words down, but they had no idea what they meant.
Not long after that, a friend gave one of their daughters a bundle of Sunday school papers and
other religious publications. As she looked through them, the girl called, “Mother, look! Here is just
what Daddy said in his prayer!” There in the upper corner of one of the papers was a star and right
under it were the words, “Jesus the Light of the World.”

As George’s wife scanned the front page of that Apostolic Faith paper, her eyes fell on
an article describing an ordinance service at the Portland church. George had said, “If we ever find a people who believe in foot-washing, they will be the people of God.” When he saw this account he said, “We have to go to Portland.”
How do you go about moving a family of nine children across the country? The Great Depression was at its worst about that time, and the task seemed impossible. However, God opened the way. In 1933, the family of two parents and nine children left New York, with only $120 to make the trip
across the continent. They camped along the road each night, and their meals consisted almost entirely of cornmeal or oatmeal mush with canned milk. On rare occasions, people gave them fresh vegetables from their gardens. The laundry was done in the creeks and rivers along the road. On July 15, 1933, the family pulled onto the church campground in Portland, Oregon. Their best clothes were little more than rags, and some of the children had lost their shoes, but friendly Christian people saw to it that they were able to attend that afternoon teaching service. At last they had
reached the people under the sign, “Jesus the Light of the World,” and they felt like they were in Heaven!

Historical Context: When the design of a church logo was contemplated, the decision was made to illustrate a phrase that has been with us since the early days of this work: “Jesus the Light of the World.” This phrase was first displayed in 1917 as an electric sign on our church building at Front and Burnside. When the Tabernacle was built in 1921, it featured the same words. Today, more than eighty years later, it is still there. When the headquarters church was moved to Sixth and Burnside in 1922, the same message was displayed on top of the new building, and it was proclaimed from that spot for about sixty years. Its position at the heart of downtown Portland made it a well-known landmark. Through the years, branch churches in many locations around the world have chosen to display the same heart-warming message.

“When my mother passed away, some of my friends and family traveled with me to another part
of Nigeria for her burial. On our journey back to Lagos, we had an unusual encounter, and also the
privilege to prove the Lord. About 70 kilometers before we arrived in Lagos, one of the vans
traveling with us overheated. As we stopped by the side of the road and went about putting things to
rights, two armed robbers emerged from the bush. They threatened my brother with a machete, but
the Lord made it impossible for them to strike him. They took money from one man and a wrist watch
from another. “A few seconds later, one of them dashed toward me demanding me to surrender my money. At the same time he was trying to unsheathe his dagger. The Lord gave me unusual boldness.
Looking straight at him, I shouted in his face, ‘Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!’ At the mention of that Name,
he took to his heels with his colleague. They did not come back. We went to our vehicles and drove
safely to Lagos. Surely the Name of Jesus is a strong tower! He is there when we need Him in
any situation.” — Mujiwa Olamajulo

 

A Closer Look . . .
1. What are some ways we can magnify or “lift up” Jesus in our daily lives?
2. List five names that are used in the Bible to refer to Jesus, and briefly describe how He has filled that role to you personally.
3. What benefits has the Light brought into your life?

Introduction

The legacy of some people consists of great material wealth
accumulated over a lifetime, to be divided among their heirs.
Others leave very little, perhaps not even enough to pay funeral
costs. Whether rich or poor, it is possible for us to leave behind
something of great value—the legacy of an exemplary life which
will serve as an inspiration to our survivors. Many will succeed in
building an estate that their beneficiaries will spend in time, but
how much better to strive to leave a spiritual legacy that will live
on and on.

DISCUSSIONS

1. In our introduction, the word “legacy” is used. In the natural, a
legacy is something bequeathed or handed down to a beneficiary.
Such a bequest usually consists of a sum of money or personal
property of sentimental value. What does the term “spiritual
legacy” mean? How does this differ from a natural legacy?

2. In Mark 14:3-9, as well as in the other Gospels, we are reminded
of the legacy of one woman, Mary. Jesus said that wheresoever
the Gospel was preached, she would be remembered for what she
had done. In all probability our life stories or the deeds we have
done won’t be put into print for others to read, but our actions and
attitudes will have an effect on the future of others. As you read
the account of the anointing of Jesus by Mary, what spiritual
attributes do you see in her that we can also possess?

3. When Jesus died as our atoning Sacrifice, He left something of
great value behind —the merits of His Blood shed on Calvary. But
even before He died, He had established a legacy. Read I Peter
2:21-24 and describe some of the examples Jesus left to us as His
legacy of His life here on earth. Do you believe that with God’s
help these are reasonable expectations for Christians today?
Explain your answer.

4. It would be good for each of us to stop and think of the other
people who may be observing our lives and using us as their
pattern in following Christ: a son, daughter, grandchild, brother,
sister, or new convert. It should be our desire to live an exemplary
life so that anyone could pattern after us, as we do Christ. Reading
Titus 2:7-8, in what specific areas does Paul mention that we
should show a pattern of good works? Are these the only areas in
which we should be this type of example? If not, what might some
other areas be?

5. The pages of Bible history give us many examples of people who
loved God. We remember them for a variety of reasons, and all
are patterns from which we can learn valuable lessons. Following
are some Biblical examples of those who left us a spiritual legacy.
Look up the references given and tell who left the legacy, and
briefly what that legacy was. Genesis 5:22-24; Numbers 12:3; 1
Samuel 17:32; Romans 4:3, 20-21; II Timothy 4:7-8; James 5:11.

6. So far we have been talking about good spiritual legacies. But
not all legacies are good. Many people are remembered for the
wrongs they have done and the sad results of the bad examples
they left behind. While we do not like to spend much time
considering these people, it might be good to analyze the dangers
of doing wrong from the standpoint of how this affects others.
Mention some characters in the Bible who left a harmful legacy
behind them.

7. Among other things, we remember the Apostle Peter as one of
the first Apostles chosen by Jesus. He had his time of failure, but
he overcame that and lived the balance of his life as a witness for
the Lord. After Peter was shown that his time was nearing an end,
what was his greatest concern as he wrote the words we read in 2
Peter 1:13-15?

8. As Christians, we likely have been through many storms and
trials and have had considerable experience in combating the
enemy of our souls. But as the days go by, we still face specific
situations that test our patience, kindness, love, etc. How do you
handle these? If you feel as though you have fallen a little short,
what can you do to handle it better the next time?

9. Consider the life you are now living. Then look back over the
past forty or fifty years of your life. In comparing them, do you see
growth? Have you let the Holy Spirit be a positive force in your
life? Have you done your best for Jesus? Can those who are looking
for a Christian example find it in you?

10. In reviewing this lesson, identify one spiritual trait which you
think is critical to living an exemplary Christian life as a senior
saint today. What was the reason for your choice? Will others
remember you for that trait? Is your spiritual legacy in order?
(A precious saint of God waited faithfully for thirty years before
God brought about her husband’s conversion through a series of
events that caused him to want the Lord more than anything else.
What if she had failed to wait patiently through the trying times?
What if she had not tarried in prayer or had failed to abide in
Christ? Let us be among those who “rest in the Lord, and wait
patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).)

Introduction

Extreme as this account is, it brings out a vital point: doubt will
not lead to anything good. Admittedly, we do not know exactly
what Judas was thinking, but the elements of doubt were
evidenced by his actions. How could someone be with Jesus as
much as Judas was, and then do what he did? It is possible he
doubted Jesus’ identity and the authority Jesus represented. Faith
in God has inestimable value. If we want to be true Christians, we
must choose to forsake doubt and to be men and women of faith.

DISCUSSIONS

1. Doubting God and having faith in God are curiously related. As
Christians, we have faith in God, yet doubt often tags along
nagging us to question the moves we make. When a person doubts
God, faith is shoved aside, and visible evidence becomes a
necessary prop for believing. It is vital that we resist doubt and
take to heart the command, “only believe.” Consider the account
of Peter in Matthew 14:25-31. He stepped out of the boat and
walked on the water toward Jesus until he looked at the waves.
How did Jesus’ comment to him reflect the relationship between
faith and doubt?
2. In our society, the level of trust has changed. Not locking your
house used to symbolize a trust in your neighbours. Today, the
multiple lock system on your door cries loudly, “I can’t trust. I
don’t believe in people’s integrity.” Experience has taught us that
locking our houses is the prudent thing to do. If you’ve been
robbed once, you won’t forget. In the same way, if we trust
someone, only to learn that we made a mistake, we are not as
ready to trust that person again. The reverse is also true. If we
trust someone and he proves trustworthy, we are ready to rely
upon that person in the future. Following up on this thought,
describe why we can be assured that our confidence in God is not
misplaced. Illustrate your description with specific examples from
your own knowledge or experience.

3. At some point in life, most of us have thought: Nothing will ever
change; this situation will never improve. These problems in my
life will never go away. Think about it again! What were the
circumstances surrounding you when you made your “Statement
of Doubt”? Maybe you were burdened with the cares of this life, or
were sick, financially overwhelmed, or fighting fatigue from too
much work. Perhaps you were sensing inefficiency in everything
you attempted, were disturbed about a problem on your job, or
were frustrated by your children’s never-ending needs. When you
had those discouraging thoughts, were you doubting God’s ability
to reverse the circumstances? To forestall such thoughts from
making inroads into your spirit again, list some unresolved areas
of your life. Write possible remedies God might use in each
situation, keeping in mind that God often works beyond our
imagination. How can taking situations one by one and including
God in your dealings with doubts make a difference?
4. It is possible for Christians, despite our sincere love for the Lord,
to succumb to doubt. Satan won’t necessarily tempt us to doubt
the existence of God or the truth of the Bible, but he often comes
with doubts about our own relationship with God. He might cause
us to think, Have I truly received my Christian experiences? Is God
really with me? Was that actually the healing touch of God, or am
I just feeling a little better today? If doubts like this come to mind,
what are our options?

5. Since the beginning of time, when the serpent tempted Eve,
doubt has rallied the troops of unbelief toward questionable
activity. In other words, doubt can lead to sin. Consider the story
of Achan, found in the Book of Joshua, chapters 6 and 7. Achan
doubted what he knew to be right and did what his people had
been commanded not to do. How remarkable it is that he
witnessed the walls of Jericho fall and still had doubt! What were
the results of Achan’s doubt and subsequent disobedience? How
might our doubts have repercussions on others?
6. Doubt may not be packaged in a way that makes itself obvious.
If only it came with warning tags in bright fluorescent colours
stating, BEWARE OF DOUBT: MAY CAUSE PERMANENT DAMAGE
TO FAITH! How is doubt packaged? Let’s look at one example: The
Sunday evening church service has closed, and you make your way
to the altar of prayer. While you pray, the thought once more
comes to mind of something you feel the Lord wants you to do. No
slower than the speed of light, every doubt harboured in the bay of
questions fills your personal cove. You may think you’re just being
humble or that you’re honestly assessing your own weaknesses. In
actuality, you are doubting God’s call or His ability to make you
usable. How can you recognize this unwanted package of doubt
and do away with it?
7. Doubt seems insistent on absolute facts, figures, and visible
proofs, whereas “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith depends upon
God as our only resource. As we seek God for a specific experience
or request, faith determines the course. Faith stabilizes, maintains
forward momentum, and, if uninhibited, presses on to the finish
line. Are your convictions deeply grounded in faith? Write your
own personal statement of faith. Be brief and specific.
8. Many years ago, Martin Luther discovered the amazing truth
that “the just shall live by faith.” He trumpeted this message to a
world darkened by doubt, and through his message, faith was
reborn in the hearts of men. Romans 10:17 tells us where faith
comes from: “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of
God.” Where does doubt originate? Doubt may present itself in a
similar fashion to faith—we hear, by some form of communication,
that God’s Word is not necessarily true. We should recognize that
Satan is the originator of doubt. Review Genesis 3:1-6, and note
that Satan said to Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” This statement
was not true, but as Eve considered what she heard, she doubted
what God had said. Can you recall an incident when you doubted?
What was the outcome?

Challenge Yourself

Confidence in God has been challenged since the beginning by
Satan’s subtle suggestions to doubt. Should we expect anything
less, since we are so near the end of time? Do we accept doubt with
all its defeat, or are we determined to flush it from its camouflaged
security zone of “I’m only human”? Doubting God may be human,
but trusting God holds great reward. Hebrews 11:33 begins by
mentioning those “who through faith subdued kingdoms.” By
faith, will you accept your assignment and rout out the kingdoms
of doubt?

Other Scriptures Used:
Joshua 6:18-19; Romans 8:28; 10:17; 2 Corinthians 9:8;
Philippians 4:13; James 1:6; 4:7

The Subtle Snare of Self
Suggested Verse for Memorization
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to
fulfill the lusts thereof. – Romans 13:14

Scriptures For reading: Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 16:24; Luke 8:14; 9:23;
12:22; Romans 8:28; 12:1; Philippians 2:3-4; 4:8; 1 Peter 2:11;
Revelation 3:17
Introduction

It is obvious that many people have put self in a position which
should belong to God. As Christians, we might conclude that this
is not our problem since God is in control of our lives. God
certainly remains faithful to those with hearts that are pure, and
who strive to align their wills with His. Satan, however, is eager to
entrap each of us in some snare of self. In this lesson, we will delve
into how and why a Christian deals with self, and we will take a
look at how to avoid the traps used by Satan in this area.

DISCUSSIONS

1. When we surrender our lives to God and experience salvation,
we restore our Creator to His rightful place—at the center of our
existence—acknowledging His control and Lordship of our lives.
When we fully consecrate our regenerated lives to God, we can
expect God to cleanse our hearts with the experience of
sanctification. The saved and sanctified heart has been restored to
the moral quality of holiness with which Adam was created. We
are not, however, restored to the physical, emotional, and mental
qualities that Adam enjoyed when he was created. That is why
even after we have made that initial commitment to God, we will
find that new situations, fresh tests, and difficult circumstances

regularly necessitate the submission of our will to His. Jesus said,
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up
his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). If we want to continue
with the Lord, we must daily avoid the danger of arranging our
lives around personal interests. Using the following Scriptures,
briefly outline some guidelines that will help us do this: Philippians
2:4; Luke 12:22; 1 Peter 2:11; Luke 8:14; Philippians 4:8.

2. One of the most potentially debilitating snares Satan uses is that
of self-pity. He slips it into the path of the unappreciated office
worker, the one suffering with pain, the tired housewife who
struggles to get through a personal energy crisis, the unemployed,
and the bereaved. In fact, Satan has probably tried to use the
snare of self-pity, in some form, on all of us! He urges us to look
inward instead of upward. “Poor you,” he whispers. “You’ll never
make it. No one understands.” Have you heard those destructive
words? It is sometimes easy to give in to feelings of
discouragement, of being misunderstood, or of isolation, rather
than to recognize those feelings as ploys of the enemy and resist
them as such. What principle, outlined in Romans 8:28, will help
us when Satan attempts to slip those strands of self-pity around
us? Find at least one other Scripture that bears out this same
thought.

3. We hear a lot about the necessity for healthy self-esteem.
Certainly, it is important to recognize ourselves as unique,
significant persons who are valuable to God and to others. Satan,
however, would attempt to edge that self-esteem into an attitude
of self-assertion, making us prone to contend for our ways and to
disregard the thoughts and opinions of others. We must
constantly be on guard against a preoccupation with self. This
tendency can show itself through attempts to manipulate others, a
desire to win every argument, a need to have the last word in any
confrontation, or an attitude that everything should be arranged
to fit around our plans. Paul recognized this potential danger and
warned the Philippians,“ . . . in lowliness of mind let each esteem
other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). Those words were
not for first-century saints only. The advice they contain is
pertinent for today. What are actions we can take to apply Paul’s
admonition in our lives?

4. Self-reliance is another character trait we often hear lauded in
today’s world. Our achievement-oriented society is fond of
phrases like “blazing your own trail” and “marching to your own
beat.” Yet, there is a very real danger in relying on our own
accomplishments, wisely-made investments, or well-laid plans.
Satan will pat us on the back and tell us we are eminently capable
of handling life on our own. His advice might be, “Do it your
way,” but God’s Word tells us to “trust in the Lord with all thine
heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways
acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
These are important words if we want to avoid self-sufficiency.
Name some Biblical examples of people who fell into the trap of
relying on their own ways instead of God’s, and describe the
outcome of their choices. Then identify some who succeeded
because they relied on God.

5. Hand-in-hand with self-reliance comes the temptation to selfindulgence. The enemy would encourage us to pamper ourselves
continually, both physically and materially. He emphasizes a
systematic gratification of our whims, desires, and personal
preferences. When the snare of self-indulgence settles around us,
forgotten are Christ’s words, “If any man will come after me, let
him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew
16:24). The Apostle Paul emphasized the need to keep our natural
appetites and desires under control, urging us to present our
bodies “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans
12:1). Satan’s words oppose this. “It’s your right!” he will insist.
“You owe it to yourself. What’s wrong with yearning for more in
life? Isn’t that just healthy ambition, just good common sense?”
Why do you think he uses this reasoning?

6. Satan does not wage all his battles outside the walls of the
church. He also seeks to promote an attitude of complacency and
satisfaction in spiritual endeavors. He even will encourage zealous
performance in God’s service, as long as the power of the Holy
Spirit is absent. A grievous snare of self entangled the church of
the Laodiceans, and God condemned them with the stern words,
“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” (Revelation 3:17).
Identify the trap implied in this passage, and describe what effect it
could have on Christians today if they are not watchful.

7. Satan constantly attempts to insert self into every area of our
lives: in our service to God, in our social lives; in the business
world, and in the smallest to the greatest trials that we encounter.
If we recognize that we are becoming entrapped by self, how
should we respond? What are some steps we can take to break
free and gain victory in this area?

Challenge Yourself

This lesson presented an area of our lives that Satan tries to use to
gain access to our minds. Did you find yourself reacting strongly to
this topic? If so, stop for a minute and challenge yourself as to how
you could better serve the Lord in this area.
Other Scriptures Used:
1 Samuel 16:7; Job 23:10; Psalm 37:23; Philippians 2:21; 1 Peter
2:21

When Robert Moffat left home at the age of eighteen, his godly mother, apprehensive about her son’s unconverted heart, asked him to read a chapter of God’s Word every morning and night. He recounted that one evening not many months later, as he read, a “renovation of light entered my darkened soul” and he became a child of God. Robert had his life mapped out, but God had other plans. One day about a year after his conversion, as Robert walked toward a neighboring town to make a few purchases, he contemplated his future. He thought with pleasure of a prestigious position which had recently
been offered him and pictured himself climbing to a place of wealth and renown. Suddenly, his attention was arrested by a poster advertising a missionary meeting. The date was passed, but Robert’s mind went back to his mother’s stories of missionaries who had taken the Gospel to remote areas of the world. Then, in the quietness of his soul, a Voice spoke: “Will you give up your plans for My plans? Are you willing to suffer that the heathen may be saved?” “Yes, Lord,” he said aloud, and from that day on, he had one passion—to take the Gospel to souls without God. Sometime later Robert took a position as gardener and there he met Mary, the love of his life. She, too, was a dedicated Christian with a zeal for foreign missions, and it did not take the two long to discover that they had much in common. When Robert was accepted by the London Missionary Society and his departure was imminent, he asked Mary if she would be willing to go with him.
Mary agreed with joy, but when Robert broached the matter to her parents, her father said, “My wife and I have no objection to your marriage, if you will stay in this country; but we will never agree to our only daughter going to some uncivilized land where she would suffer many hardships and, more likely than not, die an early death.” What a test of will! There were many tears as the two said goodbye; for, although their hearts were anguished, they were agreed that Robert must go to his God-given work while she remained at home.
The weeks and months that went by tested that consecration to the limit. The
young missionary rejoiced in the progress being made among the African people, but in his heart was a secret sorrow. He was lonely. Still deeply in love, he wrote to Mary and waited anxiously for a response. But when her letter came, it clearly had been written in agony of heart. It told him that further hope was useless, for her parents seemed more opposed than ever to her going to Africa. With tears rolling down his cheeks, Robert wrote, “In my suffering I am cheered with this one recollection—that it is for Jesus’ sake and the salvation of the heathen.”
Then, miraculously, God intervened. Robert received the astounding news that
Mary’s parents had suddenly relented and Mary was expecting to arrive in Cape Town the following December. On the 27th of that month, the two consecrated Christians were married.
God blessed Robert and Mary Moffat with more than fifty years together. They opened mission stations in the interior, translated the Bible into the language of the Bechuanas, wrote missionary books, and together did all in their power to win souls in their beloved Africa. Their consecration to give of themselves no matter what the personal cost was richly rewarded!

 

Lesson Key: If we truly wish to consecrate our wills to God and be fully devoted to Him, then we must trust that God’s view of life is higher than our own. Rather than using circumstances as the “lens” through which we view life and making our own judgments and decisions, we surrender our limited view and seek to be led by the One who governs and directs the events of time, and has a specific plan and purpose for our lives.

1. Our key verse, Romans 12:1, tells us that we are to present our bodies a “living sacrifice”  What does this mean, and why is it to be considered a “reasonable service”?

2. We consecrate our lives to God as we seek and receive the experiences of salvation, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Why, then, is it necessary to continue to consecrate on a daily basis? James 4:7; Revelation 22:14

3. Jesus is our Perfect Example of consecration of the will (see Matthew 26:39). What does it take to be able to say, “Thy will be done,” as Jesus did?

Word Search: In Greek, the meaning of the word Lord is “one with authority; an owner.”
In order for us to rightly call Jesus the “One with authority” in our lives, we must have submitted ourselves to Him. In order for us to call Jesus the “One who owns” our lives, we
must have placed our lives in His hands. Some people attempt to “rent” themselves to Jesus Christ. When they need help, they want to be able to look to God. They want to enjoy His blessings on their lives. However, they still want to retain control in a portion of their lives, so
they do not make a full surrender to God. We do not want to rent ourselves to Jesus; we need to let Him own us. When He owns us, we let go of our own plans, wishes, and ambitions, and we seek for the sovereign will of our Lord. – From a sermon by Duane Ross

The will is like a wise mother in a nursery; the feelings are like a set of clamoring, crying children. The mother makes up her mind to a certain course of action which she believes to be right and best. The children clamor against it and declare it shall not be. But the mother, knowing that she is the mistress and not they, pursues her course calmly in spite of all their clamors, and the result is that the children are sooner or later won over to the mother’s way, and fall in with her decisions, and all is harmonious and happy.
But if for a moment that mother were to let in the thought that the children were the masters instead of herself, confusion would reign unchecked. And in how many souls at this very moment is there nothing but confusion, simply because feelings are allowed to govern, instead of the will. Remember then, that the real thing in your experience is what your will decides, and not the verdict of your emotions. – Excerpt from “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” by Hannah Whitall Smith

Quote: “Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way! Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see, Christ only, always, living in me.“ – Last verse of the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way,“ by Adelaide Pollard

Melted and Poured Out

Consider the refining and casting of steel. The similarities to a Christian’s will under God’s control are apparent. Most steel processed for casting is recycled scrap. It has a shape, so we might say that it has a “will” of its own. But it is the wrong shape—not at all what the designer wants. It has potential, but it is quiteuseless in this form. Scrap has to be melted to be made usable. We, too, must be “melted” by God’s Spirit before the refining process begins. The major difference is that the steel has no choice, but we must come willingly to God.
Once the steel is melted, the refining process is the next step. In the molten state, impurities are driven off, and alloys and other elements are added to make the steel stronger. So it is with us. God will put the heat on our lives to remove things not needed and will add things that make us stronger. At this point, the steel is exactly what the metallurgist wants, but it is still of no use, because if it were poured out, it would just form a puddle. It must go into a mold. In the mold, the molten steel takes on the “will” of the design engineer as it becomes solid. As we allow ourselves to be poured into God’s mold, we take on the form that God has designed for us. Will we be unusable scrap or a prized “casting” in God’s kingdom? The choice is ours. Spiritual usability comes down to having a will that is shaped by God. Is yours? – From a sermon by Howard Wilson

 

Consecration: The Key to Receiving from God

Consecration demands our all. A consecration with reservation is no consecration at all. Why not go all out for God today? Tear down every reservation that might be in your life, put them all on the altar before God. Say, “God, everything, every motive, every hope, every plan, every object in my life, every bit of my will, every bit of my affection, every bit of my devotion, are all Yours.” When you have said that, and you do not know anything more to consecrate, then continue to pray and ask God how to consecrate even further. There is no limit to consecration. When you have given all you know how to give, then sometimes God will come down and, with
a little touch of His hand, show you something that is not on the altar. You thought it was there, you intended it to be there, but maybe it was not there. Thank God for His faithfulness.
We do not mean to say that when God requires a consecration, it will not hurt, or that it might not cause us suffering. But it is the willingness we want to emphasize. It is the surrender of our will that God is reaching for. – From a sermon by George Hughes

Bible Background
The Apostle Paul said “I die daily“ (1 Corinthians 15:31). Paul had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ on the Damascus road, and at that point, he died to sin. But surrendering is not just a one-time event. There is a moment of surrender, and there is the practice of surrender which takes place on a moment-by-moment basis and should be a lifelong occurrence.
In 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul’s daily surrender was dying to self and the real possibility that the
events that came his way would indeed take his life. Jesus was submitted to His Father, yet He practiced daily self-surrender. He voluntarily subjected His will to the Father, saying, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.

 

4. What are some areas of our lives where the surrender of our wills might be difficult?

5. Might the devil tempt us to consecrate something foolish or detrimental? How can we discern if it is God or the devil talking to us?

6. What are the benefits of having a life and will completely consecrated to God? See Psalm 40:8; James 1:25; Revelation 22:14

Guidelines for Sexual Purity

Sex is good. God created it, and it existed before there was any sin in the world. Sex was not created by Satan, Playboy, Hollywood, HBO, rock musicians, or the internet. Sex was created by the holy God of Heaven, where purity reigns. God made sex physically desirable by creating us with sex drives, without which sex would not exist and neither would people. When it takes place in its proper context, God is definitely pro-sex. Like all good gifts from God, sex can be misused and perverted. Water is a gift of God, without which we couldn’t survive. But floods and tidal waves are water out of control, and the effects are devastating. Likewise, God designed sex to exist within certain boundaries. When exercised in line with God’s intended purpose, it is beautiful and constructive. When out of control, violating God’s intended purpose, it becomes ugly and destructive. The boundaries of sex are the boundaries of marriage. Sexual union is intended as an expression of a lifelong commitment, a symbol of the spiritual union that exists only within the unconditional commitment of marriage. Apart from marriage, the lasting commitment is absent and the sex act becomes a false expression, a lie. Sex is a privilege inseparable from the responsibilities of the sacred marriage covenant. To exercise the privilege apart from the responsibility perverts God’s intention for sex.

Lesson Key: God’s intention for His children is that they walk in sexual purity and victory. As holy people who have dedicated ourselves completely to God, we follow the directives of Scripture to flee temptation. We ask the Spirit of God to help us establish appropriate boundaries and guidelines for behavior, knowing that in Christ and through Christ, we have all we need to maintain moral purity.

Your sexual purity is essential to your walk with God. Sexual purity is not an option for an obedient Christian, it is a requirement. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication [sexual immorality]” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). There is no sense seeking God’s will in other areas when you are choosing to live in sexual impurity in your mind or body. If you are not living in sexual purity, God will not hear your other prayers until you offer the prayer of confession and repentance and commit yourself to a life of holiness (1 John 1:9).
Your body belongs to God, not you. When you came to Christ, you surrendered your entire self, including your body, to God. The title to your life was transferred from you to God. Christ owns you and your body. “Your body” is really His body. He paid the ultimate price for it. God has every right to tell you what to do with your mind and body. Sexual purity begins in the mind, not the body. You will inevitably adopt the morality of the programs, movies, books, magazines, music, Internet sites, and conversations you participate in. Your future can be accurately predicted by what you allow your mind to dwell on. Sinful actions don’t come out of nowhere—they are the cumulative product of little moral compromises made over time, which ultimately culminate in ungodly behavior. Therefore we should take extreme care about what we feed our minds. God has your best interests in mind when he tells you not to have premarital sex. What’s right is always smart, and always for your good. Sex is linked to the welfare of your whole person. Having sex outside of marriage is self-destructive in every sense. Sexual purity is always for the best—not only for God and others, but for you. The lifelong consequences of sexual impurity are worse than we can imagine. The lifelong rewards of sexual purity are greater than we can imagine. Permission for use granted by Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055.

The question we must ask in a serious pursuit of holiness is this: ’Am I willing to develop convictions from the Scriptures, and to live by these convictions?’ This is often where the rub comes. We hesitate to face up to God’s standard of holiness in a specific area of life. We know that to do so will require obedience that we are unwilling to give. – Andrew Murray, noted missionary leader and Christian author

Word Search

In 1 Corinthians 6:18, we are told to “flee [run from, or shun] fornication [sexual union outside of marriage].” This directive is not hard to understand. It literally means to get away from it as fast as we can. Avoiding the very appearance of evil is the basic principle, but if it appears, to run from it becomes the next step. The only sure way to guarantee refraining from immorality is to immediately and decisively remove ourselves from the possibility of it.

1. In the light of contemporary society’s sexual permissiveness, what are some steps we can take to maintain moral purity? 1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 Peter 1:13-16; 2 Timothy 2:22

2. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13), indicating that temptation will come our way. Why is it important to set boundaries or establish guidelines for our behavior before we find ourselves in a tempting situation?

3. What are some specific ways we can follow the admonition in our key verse, Romans 13:14? In a society where divorce rates are climbing, what can we do to preserve and safeguard our marriages?

 

Keeping Your Marriage in Order

The first step is to clearly understand that God intended marriage to be for life. Only one thing dissolves a marriage in the sight of God, and that is death. The marriage vow is not, “I will live with this companion until we are no longer compatible, or have outgrown this relationship.“ The Bible says, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother; and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder“ (Mark 10:7-9).
Next, we must recognize that the health of our marriage is very closely tied to our personal spiritual well-being. As both parties in the marriage draw close to God, submitting to Him and striving to live holy lives, they will inevitably be drawn closer to each other. The formula for a successful marriage is found in Biblical words of instruction to both wives and husbands. We read, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it“ (Ephesians 5:25).
Christ’s example was the ultimate expression of love: He gave His life for the Church. Husbands are to love their wives with the same passion and devotion as Christ has for His Church—those who have committed their lives to Him. What woman would not appreciate being cherished in this manner?
The second part of the formula is, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord“ (Ephesians 5:22). A marriage is successful when the wife helps her husband be the leader in the home, and both of them follow the Lord together. God designed for woman to be a companion and helpmeet to man (see Genesis 2:18). This is not a demeaning position; rather, it is a position of honor and blessing. Saying “I do” does not make a successful marriage an accomplished fact, no matter how fervently we say it. Those words are merely the beginning of a new phase of life—and the start of a committed union that must be honored, safeguarded, and nurtured if it is to grow and develop through the years.

A boundary can be as simple as avoid- ing certain sections of the magazine rack or blocking certain channels on the TV. Boundaries are designed to keep us from getting near temptation. If, on a scale of one to ten, fornication or adultery is a ten, then we should determine what are the one’s, two’s, and three’s that would take us in that direction. Putting a boundary in place will be a protection.
Specific boundaries will differ from person to person, from culture to culture, and from age to age. But the principle of avoiding temptation is ageless. If we avoid stepping onto a slippery slope, we avoid an accelerating downward slide!

 

When we think of setting limits, we are establishing something called “boundaries.”
Basically, a boundary is a property line. It defines where one person’s property ends and another person’s begins. If you own the property, then you are the one who has control over it. You are the one who will be held responsible for what takes place on your side of the line.
Your neighbor cannot look over the fence and tell you that he does not like where you planted your tulips, and instruct you to replant them in a different spot. He can give an opinion, but the decision about the tulip location is yours. However, just as you have control over your own property, you also have responsibility for it. Mowing the lawn and keeping weeds out of the flowerbeds is your job, not your neighbor’s. Responsibility, ownership, and control go together. Many people say they have a right to do whatever they want with their own bodies. However, we read in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost and we are not our own. Not only did God create us, but we have been bought with a price. Christ’s death freed us from sin, but it also transfers the responsibility and control that goes with ownership to Him. Because our bodies belong to God, we must honor the boundaries He has established, and not violate His moral standards.

Two theological students were walking in a district of London where old and used clothing is sold. “What a fitting illustration all this makes!” said one of the students as he pointed to a suit hanging on a rack by a window. A sign on it read: SLIGHTLY SOILED— GREATLY REDUCED IN PRICE.
“That’s it exactly,” he continued. “We get soiled by gazing at a vulgar picture, reading a coarse book, or allowing ourselves a little indulgence in lustful thoughts; and so when the time comes for our character to be appraised, we are greatly reduced in value. Our purity, our strength is gone. We are just part and parcel of the general, shopworn stock of the world.”
In fact, these little secret indiscretions can weaken our character so that when we face a moral crisis, we cannot stand the test. As a result, we go down in spiritual defeat because we have been careless about “little” things. – Author Unknown

4. In Proverbs 6:27-28, we find the question “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” What point is made by these verses with regard to purity?

5. God told the children of Israel to put a blue ribbon in the hems of their clothes to remind them of His commandments and to help them obey those commandments (Numbers 15:37-40). What can we do today to remind us to be holy when we make decisions about boundaries in our relationships?

6. What impact will our moral boundaries have upon our Christian testimony? Philippians 2:15

 

When our children were young, one of their favorite books was, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” They were endlessly entertained by the
trials and tribulations of the irascible Alexander, who faced a barrage of bummers worthy of a country-western song: getting smushed in the middle seat of the car, a
dessert-less sack lunch, a cavity at the dentist’s office, being forced to sleep in pajamas
with railroad trains on them, and more. Actually, the poor boy’s difficulties caused him
to resolve several times to move to Australia!

While we can chuckle over Alexander’s testy commentary, it actually does illustrate an important truth: our attitude matters! How would we feel if someone gave us advice on how to have a terrible day? They might begin by telling us to not have faith that God will help us during difficult situations, to remember everything that has gone wrong in the past, and to brood over the things we have no power to change. Perhaps they would suggest that we wish for what we may never obtain, dwell on every- one else’s shortcomings, and criticize the various people we encounter. We should refuse to be cheered up, and of course, we would be told to complain about the weather, not forgetting to throw in a few grumbles about potholes, the government, our fellow workers, and other drivers. If we heeded this advice, we certainly would have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that would rival Alexander’s!

In contrast, what if we were given the opposite kind of advice? We would be reminded that God has always been faithful, and we can trust Him to guide us in every circumstance. We would recognize that nothing good comes by brooding over
wrongs in the past and choose instead to think of times others have helped or befriended us. We would count our blessings, instead of continually yearning for more.
Rather than criticizing those around us, we would look for commendable traits to
focus upon. Our thoughts would dwell on uplifting and inspirational topics, instead of
negative ones.
The Apostle Paul knew the value of this approach. He spelled out in detail the things
Christians ought to think about, when he instructed the believers at Philippi, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of
good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”
(Philippians 4:8). Paul meant they were to meditate on them with careful reflection, not just give them casual or superficial consideration. He recognized that holy thinking
produces holy living. Let us challenge ourselves to focus daily on God’s good gifts to us—His forgiveness and fellowship, the treasures found in the Bible, the beauty of this world, the love of family, the friendship of other Christians, and material goods we are privileged to have. When we keep our minds and thoughts centered on good instead of bad, and positive rather than negative, the beauty of Jesus shines out through us and uplifts others too. – From a Daybreak devotional

Lesson Key: The key endeavor of a holy Christian is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. As individuals who have been set apart and devoted to God, we want the mind of Christ to be in us (see Philippians 2:5), so we carefully guard against anything that would contaminate our thoughts or distract us from our primary purpose of glorifying and serving God.

Quote: “We cannot put dirt into a well and produce clean water.“ – Unknown

Food for Thought: “As a young child, I loved to read, and that pattern continued after I
married. For most people, reading is not a bad thing, but it kept me from cleaning my
house and taking care of my husband and children. With my nose in a book, I would
ignore my family’s needs. I would read up to two books a day. “One camp meeting at a Bible teaching, the minister spoke about reading edifying materials. My little daughter, who was sitting next to me, said in a loud voice, ’Mommy, you read all those crummy romance books!’ It was as though a knife went through my heart.
“Through much prayer, the Lord helped me give those books to Him. These days,
I am very careful about what I read, and I limit myself to just a short period of time, or
when I am on vacation.” – From a testimony by Linda Zetter

Word Search:

Romans 12:2 declares, “And be not conformed to [pressed into the mold of] this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The Greek word translated transformed is metamorphosis, and is used today to describe the amazing change that takes place when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
In the original language, the verb tenses of the words translated conformed, transformed, and prove indicate continuous action. Thus, the Christian mind should be
characterized by continuous development toward maturity.

For Personal Study

1. What principles regarding the Christian mind are outlined in the following verses?
Mark 12:30 John 8:31-32; 1 Timothy 4:15; Titus 1:15

2. Why is it so important to discipline our thoughts? Proverbs 4:23-27

3. What should you do if Satan runs a negative thought through your mind?

 

Battlefield of the Mind

The Apostle Paul defined his goal as a minister of the Gospel in terms of spiritual warfare. He saw the “fight of faith” as a contest against ideas, philosophies, and
general thought patterns that are opposed to God’s Word.
Note the military imagery in his words found in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God
to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and
every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Clearly, Paul recognized that the battle facing Christians will often take place in the territory of the mind. With vivid word pictures, he described the “pulling down of strongholds,” or entrenched fortifications, in a battle for truth. Any ideas that were not consistent with divine revelation were identified as “imaginations” that must be cast down.
Paul’s goal was not to present the Gospel as one among many valid philosophies of life. Rather, he was determined to abolish every school of thought that did not align with the truth and bring “every thought” into captivity—under the control of Jesus Christ. He recognized the grave danger of adopting the world’s values, courting the world’s approval, or pursuing the world’s symbols of status.
As Christians, we are called to battle with our “loins girt about with truth” (see
Ephesians 6:14). As we look to God, He will help us distinguish between the world’s philosophies and Christ’s truth, and to maintain pure and holy minds in an ungodly world.

 

Steps to Guarding Your Mind

Did you know that someone is trying to get control of your mind? When we turn our lives over to God, Satan is dethroned from our hearts, but that does not mean he gives upon us! He almost certainly will attack us through our minds. To counter this force, we must be extremely alert and careful to guard against the inroads he will try to make. Here are some helpful steps.
• Yield your mind to God at the start of each day. We can do much to prevent wrong thoughts from occurring by cultivating the presence of the Holy Spirit. The best way to do this is to begin the day by communicating with God.
• Let the Holy Spirit renew your mind through His Word. Daily systematic Bible reading will feed our hearts and revitalize our minds, providing us with spiritual strength to withstand the attempts of Satan to make inroads into our minds.
• “Mind your mind” throughout the day. Be purposeful and aware of what you are thinking about. If your mind begins to drift into negative channels, replace those thoughts with something pure and positive. We cannot always choose what we see or hear, but we can choose what we will dwell upon.
• Guard the entrance to your mind. The mind is the gate to the soul, and the three spiritual enemies listed in 1 John 2:16—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—must be resisted consciously in order to escape the traps of Satan.

 

4. We are admonished, “Whatsoever things are pure . . . think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Name some things that fit into that category.

5. On several occasions, the Bible instructs the saints to be of “one mind” (see Romans 15:5; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 1:27). Why is being of one mind necessary, and how can it be achieved?

6. While God is the one who purifies our hearts, we have a responsibility to guard it. What did Paul say in 2 Corinthians 10:5 regarding this? Why do you think Paul phrased this responsibility in terms of a warfare?

Bible Background

Paul challenged the believers in Philippi with the words, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus“ (Philippians 2:5). This phrase could be translated, “Think [phroneite] this in yourselves.“ The admonition referred to more than mere thought patterns, but actually pointed to disposition and attitudes of the heart.
The Apostle was exhorting the saints to allow Christ’s attitude of lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of others to dominate their lives. When this is done, there will
be an absence of self-assertion, no insistence on personal rights, no determination to promote self-interests, and no living solely for oneself.

Life Application: Behaving ourselves in a manner that reflects our
commitment to be separate from the world and
dedicated to God for His purposes.

Recently I finished reading Charles Sheldon’s book In His Steps, a book that traces the experiences
of a handful of Christians who made a promise not to do anything without first asking themselves, “What would Jesus do?” I began to wonder what would happen in my life if I tried to walk in Jesus’ steps without reservation. Would my life be any different?
Secretly, I hoped it would not. After all, I gave my life to God at a young age, and have been sanctified and baptized with the Holy Ghost. I go to church several times a week, teach Sunday
school, and play in the orchestra at church. I like to think that I’m a devout Christian.

However, I began to go mentally through my average day. First, I considered how Jesus would have me treat my family. I was quite sure that Jesus treated His family with the utmost respect. Although at times the human part of Him might have felt frustrated, He would never have taken His frustrations out on His family. What would Jesus watch, read, and listen to? I was certain He would be very careful about what He allowed to enter His mind. I remembered reading in Isaiah 33:15 how we are to shut our eyes from see- ing evil, and I was sure that verse could be applied to these areas of my life.

Next, my mind went to my neighbor, Wayne, who is eighty years old, almost deaf, and lonely. What would Jesus do for him? I believe God will ask me about him one day. But about the only thing I could say right now is, “Well, Lord, I took him a piece of pie once.” I have not shared the Lord with him . . . yet. I have to admit, I cringed a few times as these thoughts came to my mind. Every area seemed to need a little improvement. As I continued my inward examination, I began to think about the impact if I lived by the question, “What would Jesus do?” at church. “Surely,” I thought, “nothing would change there!” My strength comes from walking with the Lord and worshiping with
His people. However, as I took a closer look, I realized that changes would need to happen in this area, too, if I were to pledge to ask myself, “What would Jesus do?”
First, I considered the prayer room in our church. There we have the opportunity to gather before each service and ask for His blessing on the coming meeting. How would
Jesus regards the prayer room? Knowing His great love for you and me, I could only
imagine Him faithfully availing Himself of the chance to pray before meeting.
How would Jesus go about preparing His Sunday school lesson, or selecting a piece of music for a church service? For an instant, it seemed that I caught a glimpse of the Lord’s burden for souls, and I knew at once that He would make each effort a matter of prayer. Anything in His Father’s
service would be a privilege not to be taken lightly.

The next point on my inward checklist was the church service itself. I wondered, What would Jesus think about during church? It would probably not be where He was going to eat after church, or how sleepy He was. In fact, I’m sure He wouldn’t entertain any thought the devil might slyly
slip into His mind. Jesus would be focused. He would be intent on the message.
Finally, I contemplated the altar in the front of our church sanctuary, where we
gather to pray after our services. How would Jesus pray there, during that most important time in the meeting? When I thought of the love, perseverance, and earnestness He would demonstrate, the answer was obvious. The more I meditated about these things, the more I realized that my life would not and could not remain the same if I began to seriously ask and live by the phrase, “What
would Jesus do?” Making such a commitment, even for a short time, would require
sacrifice. It was tempting to brush all of these thoughts aside, and convince myself that there really was nothing wrong with the way I was living. However, as I thought and prayed, it became clear in my heart that I needed to do this in order to draw closer to God and truly be what He wanted me to
be. So it really is not a choice. I know the end result will help me to be more Christlike, and that is my heart’s desire. May I ask you, How much more could the Lord accomplish through you if you
made a promise to do this? What would be different in your life and in the lives of
others around you? I believe that the possibilities as well as the benefits are limitless.
By His grace, each of us can purpose in our hearts to walk closer to Him by asking
“What would Jesus do?” . . . and then doing it. – From a Higher Way article by Lori Arechy

Lesson Key: Living a holy life in terms of our conduct is not based on a list of “don’ts.” The admonition, “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” is positive. Also, note that the verb be is reflected in
specifications. (For example, we know God is holy because of His actions which reflect His nature.) However, we cannot just do holy things; holy actions must flow from our innermost
being, which has been transformed and made pure.

Bible Background

In Ephesians 5:11, Paul admonished the Early Church, “Have no fellow-ship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” The word translated fellowship means “to share in company with; to participate in.” If we are to maintain a pure and holy life, one that is set apart
and devoted to God, we must refrain from giving consent, approbation, or assistance to any who do wrong, and we must have no part in their deeds. Evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918) put it this way: “Anything that dims my vision for Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me; and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.”

Personal Study

1. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:17 that we are to “come out from among them” and be separate. Since we live in this world and must interact with unbelievers on a daily basis, how is it possible to follow this instruction?

2. How can we determine whether a specific action is appropriate for one who is trying to live a holy life? See Romans 12:9; 14:21; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 6:14; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:22.

3. How should the concept of separation (2 Corinthians 6:17) and dedication to God (Romans 12:1) impact our conduct and actions?

“It is a great deal better to live a holy life than to talk about it. Lighthouses do
not ring bells and fire cannons to call attention to their shine—they just shine.“
– Dwight L. Moody, American evangelist and founder of Moody Bible Institute

Whatever Happened to Worldliness?
Worldliness is something that Christians of a few decades back were warned to scrupulously avoid. Christian parents, pastors, and religious publications used
this term and its companion, “the world,” with great frequency. However, those terms
have become increasingly unfamiliar in our day.
Worldliness refers to following the example of unbelievers in activities, associations, attire, and thinking which do not align with the teachings of Christ. Some argue that outward appearance and behavior are not important because God looks at the heart. While it is true that God’s focus is on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7),
His Word also points out that the “fruit” of a person’s life—what others see—is
how those looking on will determine our spiritual condition (Matthew 7:17-20).
If our Christian testimonies are to have the desired effect on others, everything about our lives must back them up. When contemplating an action or activity that might be deemed worldly, it would be good to ask ourselves, “Can I do this to the glory of God? Is my whole aim to please Him?” Remember, God wants a clean line of demarcation between His children and the world. What we say, how we look, where we go, and what we do form the basis of other people’s opinions as to who we really are. If we look like the world, talk like the world, and act like the world, it should not surprise us if people assume that we are “of the world,” and not of Christ. Conversely, if we consistently live a clean, holy life before our associates, the reality of what God has done in our lives will be an unmistakable witness to others. It is time to insert “worldliness” back into our vocabulary. It’s a danger we must carefully avoid!

Standing Out from the Crowd
Many professing Christians have tried to hold the Lord with one hand and the world with the other, but that just will not work. God’s Word instructs us, “Wherefore come out from among them,
and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). You cannot act like the world, talk like the world, and do everything the world does and still be a true Christian. No, to be a follower of Jesus Christ is a revolutionary way of living totally opposed to the wickedness that surrounds you.
If you are thinking that this doesn’t sound easy, you’re right. While the Lord will give you the power to live a holy life in this world, you have to guard against the temptation to compromise. You have
to decide that your priority is to fit into Heaven’s society. When people fault you or pressure you to loosen up and do what everyone else is doing, remember the Christian way is nothing to be ashamed of. You have chosen the high road of holiness, integrity, selflessness, virtue, love, and peace. So even if it isn’t always easy, at least you know you are on the right road.
As you stand out from the crowd, there will be two positive results. You will be a light to the lost who are looking for a better way, and you will be pleasing to God! – Excerpt from “Thirty Days
on the Road to Eternity“

 

Word Search

When Paul told the younger man, Timothy, that he was to be an example of the believers “in conversation” (1 Timothy 4:12), he was not referring to verbal discourse.
The word translated conversation means “behavior.” Paul gave a similar exhortation to the believers at Philippi, when he instructed them, “Only let your conversation [behavior] be as it becometh [is worthy of] the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). The Apostle Peter sounded
the same refrain when he said, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

4. How should we respond if God reveals to us that some action of ours is not pleasing to Him? Hebrews 12:9-11

5. Christ commanded His followers to be perfect (Matthew 5:48), and at times, the phrases “Christian perfection” and “perfect love” are used in connection with sanctification or holiness. How can a person really be perfect in this world?

6. What behaviors would you expect to see in the life of a person who is truly dedicated to God? What behaviors would you expect not to see?

 

Charles Thomas (C.T.) Studd offered himself for missionary service with the China Inland Mission, leaving England for China in February of 1885 and forsaking a promising career as a cricket player. From his early days on the mission field, C.T. emphasized the life of faith, believing that God would provide for a Christian’s needs.

Shortly after arriving in China, this son of a wealthy retired planter learned that he was to inherit a large sum of money from his father’s estate. Through reading God’s Word and much prayer, C.T. realized that he was only a steward of his resources, and felt led to give back his entire fortune to Christ. “This was not a fool’s plunge on his part,” recounted his son-in-law, Norman Grubb. “It was his public testimony before God and man that he believed God’s Word to be the surest thing on earth, and that the hundred-fold interest which God has promised in this life, not to speak of the next, is an actual reality for those who believe it and act on it.”

Before he was aware of the exact amount of his inheritance, C.T. sent £5,000 to the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, another £5,000 to George Müller who was sponsoring a work of faith among the orphans of England, £5,000 to George Holland’s work with England’s poor in Whitechapel, and £5,000 to Commissioner Booth Tucker for the Salvation Army in India. In a few months, after he was able to discover the exact amount of his inheritance, he gave some additional thousands
away, leaving about £3,400 in his possession. C.T. married a young Irish missionary named Priscilla Livingstone Stewart three years after arriving in China. Just before the wedding, he presented his bride with the remaining money from his inheritance.
She, having the same heart of giving as her husband-to-be, said, “Charlie, what did the Lord tell the rich young man to do?” He responded, “Why, to sell all.” Her reply was, “Well then, we will start clear with the Lord at our wedding.” And they proceeded to give the rest of the money away for the
Lord’s work. C.T. and Priscilla served the Lord together in China through many hardships until ill health forced them to return to England.
There they turned their personal property over to the China Inland Mission. Later, they served together in India as missionaries. C.T. ended his life working for the Lord in the heart of Africa.
Norman Grubb noted, “C.T.’s life stands as some rugged Gibraltar—a sign to all succeeding generations that it is worthwhile to lose all this world can offer and stake everything on the world to come. His life will be an eternal rebuke to easygoing Christianity. He has demonstrated what it means to follow Christ without counting the cost and without looking back.”

Lesson Key: Godly financial stewardship is the use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals. It is not based on a set of rules or formulas, but rather on the principle that, as holy and set-apart believers, we count following Jesus worth more than our possessions. If we love God first, we will follow that by consecrating ourselves and our possessions to Him. In turn, He will provide for our physical needs, and will help us know how we are to honor Him through our material blessings.

“Aim after the right state of heart; begin inwardly instead of outwardly. If joy in God
leads us to any little act of self-denial, how gladly we do it then! How much does
the heart then long to be able to do more for Him who has done so much for us!“
– George Mueller, evangelist and orphanage director in England during the 1800s

 

For Personal Study

1. What would you say are the primary elements of Biblical financial stewardship?
Malachi 3:10; Romans 13:8; Luke 6:38

2. Why do you think material possessions can so easily draw our attention away from God? Psalm 52:7; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17; Mark 4:19; 10:24

3. Give two illustrations or examples of how God could be glorified by the use of your financial resources. Psalm 41:1; Matthew 28:19-20

Bible Background

The Greek word pleonexias comes from two root words meaning “eager to have more, either in quantity or quality.” It is translated into English as greed or covetousness. The Bible warns against an inner discontent that tells us we simply do not have enough. In Luke 12:15, Jesus warned His listeners to “beware of covetousness,” for the good life has nothing to do with being wealthy.
In today’s society, we are bombarded with persuasive sales pitches urging us to buy, tempting us
with the thought that we will be happier, more comfortable, and better off in every way if we will purchase the product being promoted. However, God’s Word lists greed among behaviors and attitudes that have no place in the lives of God’s holy people. We must learn to tune out expensive enticements and concentrate on the truly good life—living in a close relationship with God and doing His work.

A Joyful Priviledge

The cornerstone of God’s plan for financing His work is tithing—the returning to God of ten percent of our increase. We first read about tithing in the Book of Genesis, where we find Abram paying tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20), and Jacob vowing to give a tenth to God (Genesis 28:22). Malachi indicated that failure to pay tithes was comparable to robbing God (Malachi 3:8). In the New Testament, Matthew 23:23 shows us that the tithing principle was approved of and supported by Jesus.
But does faithfully giving ten percent of our income back to God fulfill our financial
responsibility toward Him and His work? No, for offerings given in addition to the tithe are
also commanded in both the Old and New Testaments.
The Lord told Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering:
of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering” (Exodus 25:2).
The word terumah, translated offering, actually means a “freewill offering.” Three times
a year, the men of Israel were to come before the Lord. We read, “They shall not appear before the LORD empty: every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). The writer of Proverbs says, “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase” (Proverbs 3:9), and this specifically referred to the minchah, or gratitude offering, commanded under the Law.
The theme of freewill offering is restated in the New Testament. Jesus told the people, “When thou doest thine alms . . .” Note that He said “when,” not “if.” In Luke 11:41 we read Christ’s words, “Give alms of such things as ye have.” This clearly was in addition to tithes, for He goes on to say, “Ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs . . .” Paul taught the principle of freewill giving to the
Early Church, instructing them, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let
him give” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Is it sufficient to just give what we can comfortably offer from our monthly income? The answer to this question is found in Luke 21:1-4, the familiar story of “the rich men” and the “poor widow” putting their gifts into the treasury. Jesus said though the widow gave only two mites, she put in “more than they all” because she gave from her poverty, while they gave from their abundance. Jesus commends giving that affects our lifestyles, no matter what the amount.
Acts 2:44-47 tells us that the early Christians who gave of their substance to God enjoyed gladness, singleness of heart, and favor with all the people. Is that what we are experiencing in our lives? Let’s regard our giving as a joyful privilege, not a joyless “have to”!

Keys to Godly Financial Stewardship
• Acknowledge that God owns your “stuff.” Thank Him for allowing you to “use” your car, your clothes, your computer, your coffeepot . . . and everything else! Let Him know that it is all available to be put into service for His kingdom.
• Study your checkbook. What does your check register say about your spending habits? Would a stranger looking through it see clear evidence that your life—including your finances—are all under God’s control?
• Give things away. All of us have things around that we rarely, if ever, use . . . but hang onto because we “might need them someday.” Ask yourself, “Is there someone, somewhere that could use this item? Why am I hanging on to it?”
• Buy carefully and conservatively. Ask God about your major purchases, and make sure that your expenditures reflect the fact that you have set apart yourself and all you have for His use. Is this what He wants you to spend your money on?
• Make what you have available to others as God directs. Ask God to show you how your belongings could benefit others in your community and church.
• Learn about the needs in your world and church. Get a feel for how much you have compared to
most people around the globe. Pay close attention to information about where God’s people are serving Him in much less affluent or convenient circumstances. Be alert to the places and ways God would have you help out.
• View your resources from an eternal perspective. You cannot take your assets with you. Are you making the most of the resources God has put into your hands on this earth? What can you invest in God’s Kingdom over the course of your lifetime?

4. An Old Testament guideline for the giving of offerings is found in Deuteronomy 16:17 and repeated in 2 Corinthians 8:3-4 of the New Testament. What is that guideline and how does it apply to our giving today?

5. If God is the real “owner” of your financial assets, how will that fact be evidenced in the way you manage them?

6. Why do you think the handling of money is so frequently mentioned in Scripture? Deuteronomy 8:10-14, 17-18

Secular music is the only worldly area that I had any curiosity to explore. Looking back, I recall that I always felt guilty for listening to it, but the thrill far outweighed any sensitivity. There was pride involved because the music would make me feel “lifted up” and self-satisfied. My mind would drift to worldly things like possessions or fame—things that would cause people to be impressed by me, maybe even look up to me. I am ashamed when I realize how the music I listened to grieved God’s Spirit in my life. I had decided that I was different than other Christians and that it did not affect me spiritually.
Holiness in Entertainment Choices to listen to the wrong kind of music. At times I would try for a while not to listen to anything but Christian music, but eventually my taste for worldly music would win out. There was a period in my teens when I drew especially close to the Lord and during that time, I craved Christian music. This was a very sweet time of closeness to the Lord, and once I had drifted away from it, I would think with sadness that I didn’t have it anymore. I could cry and pray by the hour, wanting to give God everything, but I was afraid to commit my music to Him or promise that I would give it up, for fear of taking it back. The devil told me I couldn’t live without my worldly music, and I believed him!
One day I got news that someone I looked up to very much had backslidden. As I tried to understand how that had happened, God spoke to my heart and told me clearly that if I did not give up my secular music, I could not stay saved. I had never wanted to sin, but He let me know that without Him in my life, I would be totally unrecognizable, the opposite of who I was with Him living in me. The person I saw shocked me. How could music do that to me? Somehow it was tied up in pride and idolatry. With a broken heart, I told God how sorry I was to have grieved Him in this. If He hated what I was doing, I wanted to hate it too. I asked Him to change my taste in music and help me to feel like He felt. I committed to never again choose to feed my spirit with the world, to never again choose to grieve His Holy Spirit living inside of me.
The Scripture, “Come out from among them, and be separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I  will receive you. And will be a Father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18) became very real to me. I noticed after a while that if a secular song I used to like would come over the speakers while I was in the grocery store, it made me feel kind of sick in my spirit. God had truly answered my prayer—He changed my
desires. Now I understand how music feeds the spirit. Secular music made me feel lifted up, whereas Christian music lifts up the Lord. Secular music caused me to look at temporal things but Christian music causes me to focus on eternal things. I thank God for the change He made in me! – Rosie Lambert

“If one’s favorite activity would be measured by what he does voluntarily by choice, and by length of time involved, watching television would be the clear winner.“ – Ronald Williams, pastor and director of a home for trouble teens

For Personal Study:

1. Jesus prayed that His followers would be kept from the evil of the world, even though
they were in the world (see John 17:15-16). How will a purpose to keep ourselves separate from the world affect our entertainment choices?
2. What guidelines should we develop and apply as we make those choices? See Psalm 101:3; Proverbs 14:16;
Isaiah 30:21 and Philippians 4:8.
3. How does the use of our time relate to media? See Ephesians 5:15-16.

 

Since its introduction into American homes in the late 1920s, television has played an increasingly signifi cant role in shaping the lives of its viewers. Usage has steadily increased; children aged 2-18 spend a daily average of 5.29 hours in media usage. Countless studies have implicated TV viewing as a factor in aggressive or violent behavior, declining academic scores, early sexual activity, a rise in obesity, and increased substance abuse.
As Christians, how should we control our TV viewing?

Focus on the Family offers the following suggestions:
• Schedule viewing rather than watching whatever is on.
• Set defi ned limits on TV viewing.
• Watch TV with your children.
• Talk back to the TV; point out wrong messages.
• Plan weekly family nights without TV.
• Use your VCR or DVR liberally; you have more control.
• Be a good example in your media usage habits.
Concepts taken from “Directing TV’s Role in Your Home” at the
Focus on the Family website, www.fotf.org

 

Word Search

Perhaps one of the most succinct statements of Christian ethical principles is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Can you think of any words more encompassing than “whatsoever” and “all”? These words should be the measure for every aspect of our lives, including our entertainment choices.

Hows your e-Life

If you are anything like me, many of your everyday activities have some connection to the internet. I read the newspaper online, pay my bills, shop, e-mail family, talk to friends, look at pictures, and send work documents to my colleagues. Clearly, the internet affects the way most of us live our lives!
So, what does the internet have to do with our spiritual walk? I am thankful for a relationship with God that is relevant to every area of my life. Philippians 1:27 says, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” The word conversation refers to our conduct or way of living. Paul said that if we have committed our lives to Christ, we should live in ways that are worthy of Him.
What does it mean to conduct ourselves worthy of the Gospel of Christ in connection with the internet? Here are some points to consider:
o Does the content of what we put on the web draw people toward Christ or push them away? Do the pictures we post and the music we link to line up with our testimonies? Is what we choose to view edifying, or does it distract us from our purpose to lead holy, committed lives?
o Does the time we spend online distract us from our responsibilities to God and others? There are certainly many ways of finding entertainment on the internet—videos, games, music downloading, instant messaging, and social networking options are unlimited. It is easy to get sucked into something online and suddenly realize that hours have disappeared!
o Are we online to satisfy selfish desires? The internet certainly offers that— we are constantly bombarded with promotional, suggestive, and pornographic materials, and the latest get-rich-quick schemes.
o Does our internet use glorify God? We can look for opportunities to build rich and meaningful relationships with friends who will encourage us to draw closer to God. We can reach out to those who are hurting or looking for God.
We can spend our time on sites that are uplifting and help us to grow in our walks with Christ. Do we?
Every day we are given new and exciting ways to reflect Christ and what He has done in our lives, and the online world is one of the great mission fields for our generation. I am confident that God will strengthen us, enabling us to conduct ourselves online in a manner worthy of Him. – Adapted from a Higher Way article by Tricia Downey

Watch Out For The Garbage Truck

If you looked out your window and saw a garbage truck about to empty its load on your front lawn, you would
be out your door in a hurry. You would make it abundantly clear to the driver that his garbage was not welcome in your yard!
Satan has acres of garbage he wants to bury you with. If he can get you to accept a load, he knows that he will
have gained a foothold in your life. Since his goal is your spiritual overthrow, you must move decisively when his truck comes around.
What are we talking about? Your eyes, ears, and thoughts are Satan’s targets. He will daily tempt you to look at or read things that are at odds with holiness. He will try to pour music or conversations into your ears that will draw you away from God and toward the world. He will attempt to direct your thoughts to any number of subjects that will grieve the Holy Spirit and please the flesh.
Determine that you are not going to be defiled by the devil’s garbage. Purpose, like the Psalmist, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes” (Psalm 101:3). If you have some doubt as to whether something is garbage or not, do not take a chance—stay away from it. Pray that you will be sensitive to what is good and what is
harmful.
Be aware that it is all too easy to get desensitized to a little fi lth, and before long you will be taking in more and more. Draw the line for holiness in your life and maintain it! – From “Thirty Days on the Road to Eternity”

Bible Background:

Our focus verses, 1 John 2:15-16, warn against having a love of the world. Worldliness is internal, for it originates in the heart. It is revealed by three attitudes: the “lust of the flesh“ (preoccupation with that which pampers the appetites), the “lust of the eyes“ (craving and inordinate acquiring of things), and the “pride of life“ (focus on one’s self or importance). These attitudes in the heart will be refl ected in choices that do not align with a standard of holiness. That may well include our choices of entertainment.
Today, what captures your attention? What do you spend your time thinking about? Do your choices refect the world’s values or God’s values?

4. Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but I will
not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). How might a form of media usage become something that is not spiritually expedient?
5. How can we maintain holiness and grow even closer to God despite the infl uences of an unholy society? See
Mark 12:30 and 1 Timothy 6:11.
6. What might be some warning signs that we are having problems with Satan’s attempt to regain control of our
hearts and minds through lawful activities?

Life Application: Maintaining our moral principles, values,
and integrity in an ungodly environment.

Lesson Key: As holy people, we have devoted ourselves to
God and have been consecrated or set apart for His use.
Because we have been separated unto Him, we are called to
be people of spiritual integrity—to hold true to godly beliefs,
moral values, and standards of ethical behavior—regardless
Holiness in Belie of the ungodly environment we live in.

The Danger of Small Deviations
Scientists now say that a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic. The opulent, nine-hundred-foot cruise ship went down in 1912 on its first voyage from England to New York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.

The most widely held theory was that the ship hit an iceberg, which opened a huge gash in the side of the liner. However, an international team of divers and scientists recently used sound waves to probe the wreckage, buried in the mud under two-and-a-half miles of water. Their discovery? The damage was surprisingly small. Instead of the huge gash, they found six relatively narrow slits across the six watertight holds.

Small damage, invisible to most, can sink a great ship. And “small” deviations from the moral principles of God’s Word are even more dangerous, for they carry eternal consequences. We live in a world where corruption, dishonesty, and im- morality are increasingly commonplace. However, God’s Word establishes certain lasting principles that are fundamental and universal. For instance, the Ten Commandments give us some moral absolutes. These principles do not change with circum- stances, cultures, or eras in history, and they are the foundation on which the Christian life must be lived.

Maintaining our integrity in an ungodly environment is closely related to the experience of sanctification. When we have devoted ourselves to God and set ourselves apart for His purpose and glory, we have a deep desire to please Him in every aspect of life. Our consciences become geared by the righteousness of God. We are not merely conforming to a set of rules, but we behave with integrity through the transforming power of God who enables us to live free from sin and be obedient to His purpose in our lives. We have a desire to receive instruction, a readiness to obey God’s Word,
and a motivation to please Him. Paul counseled the Ephesians to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1). Our values, our worldview, our ethical behavior must reflect our commitment to Christ. How do we make sure this is the case?
We begin by grounding ourselves in the Word of God. When we face an ethical question, we should search the Bible
for what it says on that particular subject. We must maintain a close walk with God, making sure nothing hinders us in receiving guidance from Him. We should listen carefully to our consciences and to the Spirit of God as He speaks to us. Finally, we must obey what we know, responding to what God asks us to do.
Remember, integrity is built and maintained as we diligently apply God’s principles to our choices in life. We must guard against the small “slits” in our integrity that would imperil our Christian testimony. As we live each day as sanctified people who are controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit, we can depend on the power of God to direct our responses to each situation that comes our way.

“No nation has ever made any progress in a downward direction. No people ever
became great by lowering their standards. No people ever became good by adopting
a looser morality. It does not progress when the moral tone is lower than it was.” – Peter
Marshall, a Scottish-born minister and Chaplain of the United States Senate

The world Needs Men
Josiah Gilbert Holland was a doctor, teacher, editor, and author. Though he lived more than a century ago, the need he saw in his time is far more evident today. In a piece titled “The World Needs Men“ he penned these memorable words which speak eloquently to the subject of integrity: “The world needs men who cannot be bought, whose word is
their bond, who put character above wealth, who possess opinions and the will, who are larger than their vocations, who do not hesitate to take chances. “The world needs men who will not lose their individuality in a crowd, who will be as honest in small things as in great things, who will make no compromise with wrong, whose ambitions are not
confined to their own selfish desires. “The world needs men who will not say they do it because everybody else does it, who are true to their friends through good report and evil report, in adversity as well as in prosperity, who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hard-headedness are the best qualities for winning, who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular. “The world needs men who say no with emphasis, though all the
rest of the world says yes.“

Word Search

The word integrity comes from the same Latin root as integer, which means “a whole number.” It appears twenty-two
times in the Old Testament. Just as we would talk about a whole number, so also we can talk about a whole person, or one who is undivided. A person of integrity is the same person in private that he or she is in public.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about the “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8), indicating an undividedness in following God’s commands. Integrity not only implies an undividedness but moral purity as well.

1. Relativists assert that it does not matter what we believe, as long as we believe something. They tell us truth is whatever we perceive it to be; we are on our own to discern
what is right or wrong for us. How does Proverbs 14:12 refute that position?

2. How would you summarize the ethical standard outlined in 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23?

Rick Husband was just four years old when the future NASA Space Shuttle Commander first determined that someday he would explore the far reaches of space. Rick pursued his dream relentlessly through years of college, grueling training as a fi ghter pilot, and three failed attempts to become a NASA pilot.
Then something changed in Rick: he put God at the center of his life. Over the months that followed, Rick realized that if God wanted him to become an astronaut, it had to be done in God’s time and way.
On his first three applications to become part of the NASA team, Rick had come to one question he knew could change his future: whether he had ever worn hard contacts. (NASA does not allow them.) Rick had done so for a brief time, but he knew that answer would disqualify him, so each time he wrote no. He reasoned that since he was not currently wearing them, his answer was acceptable. Years later, he wrote in his journal, “My selfish desire to be an astronaut overrode my integrity and I lied on my NASA application.”1
After submitting his life to God, the day came when Rick decided to make a fourth application to NASA. This time, he answered the question yes. He knew he was likely removing any possibility of being selected by NASA, but he felt as if God were saying, “Trust Me. Do it My way this time.” The enemy stepped in right away to let him know that by honoring God and telling the truth, he would amount to nothing, but Rick took that chance because he had to do what was right in the eyes of God. Dropping his application into the mailbox was one of the hardest things Rick had ever done, but he left the matter in God’s hands. God honored his step of faith and his determination to be a man of integrity. In December of 1994, the call he had longed for came at last. He had been chosen to be an astronaut!
On February 1, 2003, Rick Husband was commander of the Space Shuttle Columbia when it disintegrated in a flash of light in the Texas sky upon re-entry. But by then, Rick’s faith and testimony had impacted countless numbers of his friends and co-workers in NASA. Today, through the biography his wife wrote about his spiritual journey, his testimony lives on, transforming what would have been a heartbreaking loss into a record of courage, faith—and ultimate triumph.   1 Husband, Evelyn. ”High Calling,” 41-43. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2003.

 

Beliefs
—The truths of God’s Word which are adhered to by believers.
Daniel was a shining example of one who lived by his beliefs. When
presented with a situation that contradicted his principles, he “purposed
in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the
king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8), choosing
instead to eat food that agreed with his conscience.

Values
—The concept of what is right, worthwhile, or desirable.
The word values brings Job to mind. He said in Job 23:12, “Neither
have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of
his mouth more than my necessary food.” He was setting his affections on things
above (see Colossians 3:2).

Morality—Conformity to the rules of right conduct based on godly principles.
Morality was scarce in Noah’s day. Genesis 6:5 states: “And God saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the
thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” However, “Noah was a just man
and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

Ethics
—The set of moral principles or values by which one’s life is conducted.
Samuel asked the Israelites to point out any wrongs he had committed during his
time as Israel’s judge. The people responded, “Thou hast not defrauded us, nor
oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man’s hand” (1 Samuel 12:4).
Samuel’s actions backed up his commitment to God.

In God’s Hands Word Search “No nation has ever made any progress in a downward direction. No people ever
became great by lowering their standards. No people ever became good by adopting a looser morality. It does not progress when the moral tone is lower than it was.” – Peter
Marshall, a Scottish-born minister and Chaplain of the United States Senate

For Personal Study

3. The world around us constantly seeks to conform us to its value system. We are pressured on every hand, both
subtly and openly, to adapt to its way of thinking. What instruction do we find in Romans 12:2 regarding this?

4. What do the following verses tell us about integrity?
1 Chronicles 29:17
Proverbs 10:9
Proverbs 11:3
Proverbs 20:7

5. What are some ways we can develop Biblical convictions and values?

6. As Christians, we are called to be people of spiritual integrity. How can we be sure we are measuring up to
God’s standards in every area? Psalm 139:23-24

Life Application: Recognizing that if we are walking in purity and humility
before God, the inevitable result will be spiritual attractiveness and a
modest, discreet, and wholesome outward appearance.

A Beauty Awakening

Several years ago, in my husband’s native country in the South Pacific, I experienced a kind of “beauty awakening” which provoked some thought and a new appreciation for the subject.
When I first arrived, I wanted to make a good impression, so I reluctantly put away my Western clothing and donned the local attire. Immediately I realized that my hair-styling routine also had to change due to the intense heat and humidity and the lack of regular electricity. The hairdryer and curling iron I had brought were completely useless. I found this to be Holiness in Appearance a bit humbling and felt that what little sense of style I might have had by United States standards had suddenly taken a serious nosedive. While I was struggling to adapt to these changes, I asked my husband just what was considered beautiful in his islands. He thought for a moment, grinned, and explained that in order to be beautiful, you needed to have smooth, light brown skin, eyebrows that were dark and prominent, and hair that reached past your waist. Having some gold teeth was also helpful, and being overweight was considered healthy and attractive. Since I had reddish, shorter hair, freckles, almost non-existent eyebrows, no gold teeth, and a thinner build, I knew he definitely did not marry me for my looks!
One day we were visiting a different village and some children asked me with concern, “What happened to your skin?” I
was baffled at first, but then observed that they were looking at my freckled arms. “Oh.” I said with a smile, “These are kisses from the sun.” I could see by the expression on their faces that I had not convinced them that I was okay. One girl pityingly asked me, “Will they go away?” “No.” I replied, “It’s okay! That’s the way God made me.”
Then I went ahead and told them about Him. Hopefully, they will always remember the day a lady with strange skin told them about Jesus!
While pondering my beauty predicament, I decided to look more closely at what really constitutes attractiveness. It came to me that there are characteristics found in both cultures which any one—man or woman—can possess if we choose to. These begin on the inside and radiate outward, resulting in a sincere and ready smile, a warmth of expression, a joyful countenance, and above all, an aura of peace. These attributes create an irresistible attractiveness—
no matter where we live on the globe! This beauty can be found on the face of a brand-new child of God the moment
he joins our heavenly family. It also can be found on the face of the aged Gospel veteran who has triumphed in many a spiritual battle. If God shines brightly enough on the inside, outward imperfections are of little consequence.
When people see me, I want them to see real beauty—beauty that is apparent in any culture—the beauty of Jesus. — From a Higher Way article by Lori Arechy

For Personal Study

1. In 2 Corinthians 6:17, Paul challenged believers in the Early Church to “come out from
among them [those of the world], and be ye separate.“ How should a Christian differ in
appearance from a non-Christian?
2. Whether we are aware of it or not, our appearance conveys messages to those around us. If our ultimate goal
is to win souls, what can we do to make sure we are sending positive messages?
3. In Proverbs 11:22, what does God say about being indiscreet—whether by words, actions, or dress?

The Clothing of a Christian

The clothing of a Christian is beautifully described for us in Isaiah 61:10. “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he
hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” In the New Testament, we find this admonition: “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility” (1 Peter
5:5). The main clothing of the Christian is the clothing of the heart and the soul. And it relates strongly to the rest of the clothing of a Christian. Individuals with the right “clothing” on their hearts and souls will want to make sure that the clothing of their physical bodies is pleasing to God. If the heart is pure, teachable, and dedicated to God—clothed in humility and righteousness—that person is going to be concerned about what God thinks.
Disposition relates to dress. Attitude is key in relation to attire. Character has everything to do with clothing. Modesty relates to morality. People who are resistant to truth in the area of clothing for the body not only have a problem with outward attire, but they also have a problem with the clothing of the heart and soul. If a person has his
heart right, he wants to know what God has to say. He has a sweet attitude; he is humble, teachable, and eager to do what God wants. — Adapted from “The Clothing of a Christian“ by S.M. Davis

Lesson Key: Outward appearance reflects one’s inward condition. For that reason, as holy and devoted people of
God, we take care that our appearance, dress, and demeanor speak of Christ and are appropriate for one who
represents Him.

 

Bible Background

We read in Deuteronomy 22:5, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
This verse commands men and women not to switch sexual roles. The practice of one gender wearing clothing peculiar to the other is forbidden, as it is a blurring of the distinction between male and female. In pagan practice, this led to gross moral improprieties.
The Hebrew word kaeliy used for “that which pertaineth unto a man” specifically refers to armor, while the word similar translated as “woman’s garment” refers to any type of women’s clothing. Distinctions in dress do more than reveal gender; they also indicate our God-ordained roles. So we must take care that our clothing is a
correct portrayal of who we are—whether male or female.
Today, role reversals are common. There are men who want to become women
and women who want to become men. However, the word abomination is unequivocal. It means “disgusting” or “abhorred.” In other words, God hates it when
men and women use their mode of dress to act out a different sex role. He had a
purpose in making us uniquely male and female, and we want to be sure our dress
as Christians portray our commitment to God’s values.

“Above all, desire to please Christ; dread his disapproval above everything else.
– Rowland Croucher, Australian pastor, counselor, and author

 

There is no question about it: the decision to live your life as a pure, holy follower of God will bring critical choices into your life.
Some of those choices will revolve around your attire. You cannot separate what is on the inside from what is on the outside. The external is a reflection of the heart.
Do you want your appearance to reveal a modest, godly heart? If so, here are some guidelines that will help you.
• Recognize that your body belongs to God—you have dedicated yourself to Him. It is His right to determine what you should wear.
• Resolve that you want to be modest, discreet, and unpretentious in your attire because you know that will please God.
Ask Him to help you choose clothing that honors Him.
• Realize that maintaining purity, inwardly and outwardly, will involve ongoing and consistent care about what you wear.
• Determine never to dress in a way that will attract improper attention to your body.
• Be willing to stand out in the matter of dress, rather than to fit in. That will be necessary in the ungodly, sexually permissive society in which we live.
• Ask God to give you a humble, teachable, receptive heart when it comes to matters of appropriate clothing.
Concepts taken from “The Look” by Nancy Leigh Demoss

 

Philippians 4:5 gives the
instruction to “let your moderation be known unto all men.” The word moderation not only means “temperate,” but also “appropriate.” The same thought is expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:25, “Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” The admonition to be “temperate in all things” would include being temperate in our external appearance and attire. Based on these verses, it is clear that extreme, ostentatious, or gaudy clothing, hairstyles, accessories, and body markings are not appropriate.

 

4. In what way is beauty an attitude? 1 Peter 3:3-4
5. How does dressing modestly show concern for the spiritual well-being of our brothers and sisters in the Lord? See
Romans 14:13 and Philippians 2:4.
6. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul said that women were to “adorn themselves in modest apparel.” How would you
defi ne “modest dress”? How would you defi ne “immodest dress”?

Life Application: Understanding the nature of holiness
and why it is vital in the Christian life.

Called to be Holy

In the Book of 1 Peter, we find an awesome command: “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all
manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). We are called to be holy
as God is holy!
Often in Scripture, the words sanctified and holy are synonymous. When the Bible refers to sanctification,
it is speaking of one of two aspects. First, it can indicate being set apart—being consecrated or dedicated to God for
His use. Secondly, it can mean to be cleansed—to be made holy, to have the inherited sin nature eradicated.

The sanctuary where we worship to what is Holiness? gether has been sanctified in the first sense. It has been dedicated to God. The altar benches at the front of our sanctuary are holy. The pews where the congregation sits are holy; they have all been consecrated to God and His service. When the Tabernacle in the wilderness was to be dedicated, God commanded Moses to anoint the altar and all its vessels. We read, “And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy” (Exodus 30:29). Moses did according to God’s instructions—he sanctified them. He set them apart. God was conveying a lesson through the dedication of objects. If God can sanctify an object, God can sanctify us. And He wants to do so!

Lesson Key: While the experience of sanctification is definite and instantaneous, the sanctified believer continues to grow as a Christian. A sanctified heart has a desire to be instructed, to learn, to mature. A sanctified heart asks: What does living holy look like? How should holiness and separation unto God govern my words, my thoughts, and my actions? The answers to these questions were what Paul and the other Apostles sought to teach the early believers.

The Greek word translated common in Acts 10:14 and 28 means “unholy.” Thus,
the word holy could also be translated as uncommon. God’s Word draws a clear
difference between holy and unholy, between clean and unclean (see Leviticus 10:10). Sanctified objects are not to be
used in a common manner; they are to be used for the glory of God.
That principle extends to followers of Christ as well. The Apostle Peter said, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). As Christians, we are not to be “common” people because we have devoted ourselves to God; we have set ourselves apart for Him.

The second aspect of sanctification—that of cleansing—is an act of God that brings about a change in the inner person. After our sins have been forgiven, we come to Him with a recognition of needing more. We long to fully conform to the image and nature of Christ, so we present our lives in total submission to Him. As we look to God to accomplish the purifying work in us, He sanctifies our hearts and makes them holy in a second, definite, and instantaneous work
of grace. The carnal nature with which we were born is destroyed. God wants every individual who has been saved to be entirely sanctified. When we pray and consecrate to God, we have separated ourselves for His use. But then we must let His Blood be applied again to our hearts to make us clean and pure and holy in the sight of the Lord.
Even after we have received the experience of sanctification, we are still subject to human limitations such as flawed reasoning and imperfect judgment, which can cause us to make less than perfect decisions.

However, holiness will keep our hearts pure and motivate us to always want to do the right thing. We want to receive instruction from God. We listen, we obey when that instruction comes, and we continue to grow in Him. We mature as Christians. Holiness must permeate every aspect of our lives. Our lives should reflect that we are consecrated to God. The decisions we make should be based on the fact that we have separated ourselves to live for the Lord. Our speech should reflect our commitment to belong to Him. Our actions, the places we go, the music we listen to, the way we look—all of it should reflect the fact that we have set ourselves apart for God. Living holy lives is a tremendous privilege, and it is what God desires for each of His children! – From a sermon by Darrel Lee

“If you think you can walk in holiness without keeping up perpetual fellowship with
Christ, you have made a great mistake. If you would be holy, you must live close to
Jesus.” – Charles H. Spurgeon, English evangelist

My cousin was recuperating in the hospital after a near-fatal accident on his job. Because of the nature of his injury and to prevent the possibility of infection,
scrupulous care was taken to prevent his visitors from contaminating the surroundings.
Before we entered his room, we had to put on surgical gowns and gloves. We
were not allowed to touch him or his bed, and every nurse who entered scrubbed
thoroughly before assisting him in any way. It was clear that every effort was being made to maintain a sterile environment.
There are many ungodly influences in our world today. As God’s people, we
must be willing to separate ourselves from anything that would defile or contaminate the purity God has given us. This does not mean that we become hermits.
Rather, it means that we carefully avoid anything that would influence us toward
sinful practices. In a world filled with evil, we must resist the sin around us, instead of
partaking in it. – From a Daybreak devotional

For Personal Study
1. Why must Christians be holy? Leviticus 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:13-16
2. Read 2 Corinthians 6:17 and Ephesians 5:11. What does it mean to be separated from the world?

3. Even though the experience of sanctification is instantaneous, we need to “perfect holiness” (see 2 Corinthians
7:1). How can we keep our hearts as “good ground”?

 

He Purified My Heart!

When I was saved, I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world, and I basked in the wonder of spiritual new birth. However, before too
long, a brother in the church said to me, “You know, you cannot live on that experience alone forever. You need to pray that the Lord will sanctify you.” I found out that was absolutely the truth.
My job was with the post office, and the Christmas rush came shortly after I
was saved. For about six weeks we worked twelve or more hours a day, seven days a week. There was almost no opportunity for me to go to church, and I was in the same environment as before I was saved. Working with me were people with whom I had drunk alcohol, smoked, and partied. God gave me the strength
to stand, but because of the battles that came my way, I began to understand the importance of sanctification.
God gave me such a hunger that I could hardly sleep or keep focused on my job or my daily routine. Sanctification became the most important thing in my life.
Even though I did not really understand the experience, I was desperately hungry for God. During church services, I sat and wept.
Then one day, as I prayed and consecrated myself to God, the Lord opened
the heavens and gave me the wonderful experience of sanctification. He really did something for me. It seemed even better than salvation, which I did not think anything could top.
When God sanctified me, He purified my heart and gave me the very thing that has kept me steady through the years. I found myself of one heart and one mind with the saints of God. Being in unity with my brothers and sisters in the
faith was a tremendous and beautiful experience that nothing else could ever produce.
How I thank Him for that wonderful experience! – Gary Bertram

Avoiding Contamination
In the Book of 1 Peter, we find an awesome command: “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all
manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15- 16). We are called to be holy
as God is holy!
Often in Scripture, the words sanctified and holy are synonymous. When the Bible refers to sanctification, it is speaking of one of two aspects. First, it can indicate being set apart—being consecrated or dedicated to God for His use. Secondly, it can mean to be cleansed—to be made holy, to have the inherited sin nature eradicated.
The sanctuary where we worship to what is Holiness? gether has been sanctified in the first sense. It has been dedicated to God. The altar benches at the front of our sanctuary are holy. The pews where the congregation sits are holy; they have all been consecrated to God and His service. When the Tabernacle in the wilderness was to be dedicated, God commanded Moses to anoint the altar and all its vessels. We read, “And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy” (Exodus 30:29). Moses did according to God’s instructions—he sanctified them. He set them apart. God was conveying a lesson through the dedication of objects. If God can sanctify an object, God can sanctify us. And He wants to do so!

A farmer plows, plants, and cultivates his crop, all the while knowing that his efforts will
pay off only if the weather and other external factors are positive. For a successful harvest, he
is ultimately dependent on things only God can provide: sunshine, adequate rainfall, protection from insect infestations or natural disasters that might affect crops, etc.
Even though the farmer cannot control his environment, he continues to diligently attend to his responsibilities of plowing, planting, cultivating, weeding, fertilizing, and tending to his crop. The farmer cannot do what God must do to make the crops grow, and God will not do what the farmer should do. It is the same way in our lives as sanctified believers. Paul told the believers in Corinth, “Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
When we have been saved from our sins, God will wonderfully sanctify us and eradicate our sinful natures. However, we still have a responsibility: even though the experience of sanctification is instantaneous, we must continue to keep the ground in our hearts watered through prayer, and nourished by intake of the Word of God. Any “weeds” that might hinder our spiritual growth must be removed quickly, and we need to keep a watchful eye out for any “insects” or undesirable elements that would damage or destroy the spiritual fruit we are to produce.
In short, there is an on-going requirement to exercise diligence to keep ourselves uncontaminated from the world’s influence and to grow in our relationship with God

4. Romans 12:1-2 has three directives that will help us maintain and grow spiritually once we have been
sanctified. What are these three instructions?
5. How does a holy lifestyle impact our Christian witness? See Philippians 2:15.
6. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19, we belong to God. How might be set apart for God’s use affect our view
of ourselves?

Most people spend a good share of their time caring for themselves. How much time have you spent today thinking about how you feel physically? How much time wondering about your financial condition? Your burden for your family? Your spiritual battles? The list of potential concerns goes on and on. Now, consider how much time you spent today thinking about the physical condition of someone else. How much time did you think about the financial problems, loneliness, spiritual battles, and family burdens of others? If we could keep track of the minutes, we might be embarrassed to see the results. May God help us to be more concerned about the needs of others! 1. Unless we reach out to others, we will never enjoy the feeling of a full existence. Noticing the needs of people in our church or among our acquaintances doesn’t happen by accident. It takes conscious effort. We must ask God to help us to be aware of others’ concerns. It is not difficult to be aware of our own needs because they are before us continually, constant reminders. However, the verse suggested for memorization brings out that we should think on the things of others. How can we become more aware of the concerns of those around us?

2. Dwight L. Moody once said, “The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves.” Reaching out to someone in need is one way to exemplify the true spirit of Christ in our lives. It is important to remember that whatever God has given us is not only for our own benefit, but also for us to share with others. It is His purpose that we become His channels to minister to others. As we try to fulfill this calling faithfully, we will find that it is an effective witness tounbelievers with whom we come into contact. In addition, it will help us have closer relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, real caring cannot take place until we see and understand the other person’s needs. Unless we deliberately seek to get close enough to a person to make a real offer of help, our attempts may amount to little more than mouthing words. As Christians, with possibly a number of years of trusting God behind us, we know by experience that God meets our every need. But we want to be willing to translate this spiritual knowledge into practical reality. Look around and take mental inventory. What are some of the definite needs (besides the basics of food, clothing and shelter) that those around you face?

3. Even after we recognize a need, it might be easy to respond as James describes by saying, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled,” yet not giving those things which are needful. However, if we truly care for others, action will follow our concerns. See James 2:14-18. What does the word caring mean to you? What are some specific ways you can show you care in responding to the needs brought up in response to the second question?

4. Successfully reaching out to others starts with prayer. A caring ministry begins in prayer, is sustained by prayer, and succeeds by prayer. Any other approach is doomed to failure because it soon becomes only an exercise. When we pray for someone, how much easier it is to remember them throughout the day, and to keep their possible needs in mind. Three aspects of prayer in relation to helping meet the needs of others are: the prayer of preparation, the prayer for direction, and the prayer of intercession. Briefly describe what you think each of these means.

5. When Jesus was on earth He taught the people to love their neighbors as themselves, and gave the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate what He was teaching (Luke 10:30-37). The Apostle Paul emphasizes the care God intends for us to show toward our fellow saints. He compares this with the care we show toward different parts of our physical body. Bring out that our body is composed of many members and every member is vitally important. When an injury occurs to one part, it usually has an effect on our whole body. How should it affect us when one of the body of Christ stands in need? See 1 Corinthians 12:26.

6. Scripture lets us know that there are things for us to do while we wait for Jesus to come. Matthew 25:31-46 tells us that a final day of separation between saints and sinners is coming. The events of that day are compared to a shepherd’s dividing his sheep from the goats. As you study these verses, what is the difference between those at the King’s right hand and those at His left hand? Compare the deeds that those at His right hand did, with opportunities we have today to show care for others.

7. The principle of reciprocal blessing is always at work when we give ourselves in ministering to others. A true servant finds satisfaction in every step of obedience to God. The joy we receive in giving to others can far outweigh any sacrifices we may have to make on our part. What are some of the personal benefits that await us as we share and care for others? How does Luke 6:38 apply here?

Scriptures used in this session: Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 6:38; 10:30-37; 1 Corinthians 12:26; James 2:14-18

Supplemental Scriptures: Proverbs 18:24; Matthew 10:42; Galatians 6:2

Suggested verse for memorization: Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. – Philippians 2:4

If asked for one word expressing what is wanted most from life, many people would say, “contentment” or some synonym with much the same meaning. There is a tendency to look ahead to the next phase of life and hope that in it, contentment will be found. But unless we know the Lord, we will find that is not the answer. How sad that so often we see people seeking in every avenue except the right one to find the satisfaction for which they are looking. If we submit our lives to the will of God, He has promised to give us peace. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We can be assured that the individual who truly seeks the Kingdom of God and His righteousness will find contentment. 1. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He indicated that laying up treasures on earth would not bring contentment. In the Sermon on the Mount He told His listeners to lay up treasures in Heaven. Many people seem to think that accumulating the things of this world will bring satisfaction. But even when they gain these things, they find that contentment is as far off as ever. Others strive to find satisfaction in power, prestige, education, sports, or various amusements. They may attain a measure of fulfillment from these, but they still do not find complete contentment. Why do you think the advice given in the Sermon on the Mount is still applicable?

2. Matthew 6:31 tells us to take no thought of what we shall eat or drink or how we shall be clothed, even though these are very important necessities of daily living. Most people give a great deal of thought to them! Does this verse mean that we should sit at home and let the Lord provide us with food as He did the Children of Israel or Elijah? Explain. 3. Moses spent the first forty years of his life in the court of Pharaoh. He undoubtedly had the finest luxuries obtainable in that age. Without question he had prestige, education, and honor, and was possibly in line for the throne. He had to flee from Egypt because he slew one of the Egyptian taskmasters who was mistreating an Israelite, and so he went to the land of Midian. We are told that he was content to live with the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:21) and spent many years tending sheep. Then God called him to lead the Israelites from the land of Egypt. If God should call us to do some seemingly impossible task, it will bring real satisfaction if we trust God and do it. What do you think was the source of Moses’ contentment as he made the transition from prince to shepherd, and then from shepherd to leader of God’s people?

4. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 the Apostle Paul tells of some of the things he endured for the cause of Christ. In spite of the challenges he faced, we see no diminishing of his optimism or enthusiasm for the Gospel. We may never have to endure what Paul did, but we will face trials along our Christian pathway. In writing to Timothy, Paul says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Read 2 Corinthians 4:17 and explain what Paul had to say about the trials and persecutions that he suffered. How does this verse and other statements of Paul’s show that he was truly content in whatever state he found himself?

5. In writing to Timothy, Paul says, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” Most of us have a great many more material blessings beyond basic necessities. In view of this verse, how should we regard these extra blessings that the Lord has allowed us to have?

6. It is a real blessing to be content. We see by studying the history of the Children of Israel that God severely punished them because they became discontented. No doubt they felt justified for their complaints, because they faced many situations that were impossible from man’s viewpoint. But they seemed to forget the great things that God had done for them. See Numbers 11:1; 14:27; 16:31-35,49; 21:5,6, and note how God reacted to their complaints and discontent. What lesson can we learn from these examples?

7. Our key verse instructs us to be content with such things as we have. Whether we have little or much in the way of material things, as children of God we have peace and contentment that the world cannot provide. Why is this the case? See 2 Corinthians 5:17.

8. Often Satan will do his utmost to tempt us to murmur and complain about our challenges. At some point we may face afflictions, employment issues, financial pressure, relationship concerns, and the list could go on. At such times, if we don’t overcome Satan, we could become discontented, irritable, touchy, and grumpy— not at all evidencing the sweet and gentle disposition the Lord is looking for. Read Jude 3 and describe how following the admonition in this verse could help as a defense against Satan.

Scriptures used in this session: Exodus 2:21; Numbers 11:1; 14:27; 16:31-35,49; 21:5,6; Matthew 6:32; Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 5:17; 11:23-27; 2 Timothy 3:12; Jude 3

Supplemental Scriptures: Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Galatians 5:22,23; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 5:8; 6:6; Hebrews 11:26

Suggested verse for memorization: Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. – Hebrews 13:5

Grief is a universal reality. Whatever causes it—the
death of a loved one, terminal illness, accidents, wayward children, or other traumatic events, grief inevitably
comes to some degree to every person who lives. Have
you ever wondered what Adam said to comfort Eve
after Abel’s funeral? What did Job say to his wife as he
buried his seven sons and three daughters? How did
King David work through his grief over his wayward
son, Absalom? How did Mary cope when her beloved
Son, Jesus, was crucified? In some way, each of these individuals coped. In fact, mortals have been coping with
grief through all generations.
1. Baca means “weeping” which is generally associated
with sorrow. Psalm 84:6 refers to the valley of Baca.
This verse may or may not have referred to a geographical location, but certainly sorrow is a part of life. A time
of grief is not a pleasant experience and we would not
choose to walk this way. However, we are not exempt
simply because we serve Christ. We will have sorrows,
but God moves in the shadows as well as the bright
spots of our lives. And because He is there, we can go
through the darkest valleys.
God permits sorrow for a purpose. Even as we mourn,
we can have faith because we are one with a God who
feels our sorrow with us. The Bible indicates that if we
allow God to teach us and help us through our grief,
then a spiritual purpose can and will be found (1 Peter
5:10). Why does God permit us to go through sorrow?
Explain some of the things we might learn through the
experience of grief.
2. In the beginning, Job was unable to see a divine purpose for his suffering. Yet God was working out a plan.
Job’s tears were blinding (Job 16:20) and he seemingly
felt abandoned as he searched for God (Job 23:8-10).
Still, he was able to cope. In today’s terms, Job suffered
from the “normal grieving process.” Does a Christian
experience this, as well as an unbeliever? Job’s response
to his circumstances gives us biblical evidence that
individuals with faith in God go through the grieving
process too.
Those who have made a study of the natural reactions
to grief tell us that the process includes the emotions of
shock, bewilderment or confusion, questions, guilt, and
depression. A grieving person may not feel all of the
emotions at once, but they will certainly feel some of
them. Using the following Scriptures, identify the emotions that Job went through. Job 1:20; 7:4; 9:17; 10:15;
13:24; 23:10; 29:2-5
3. Job did not know the reason for his afflictions since
he was unaware of the conversation between God and
Satan. God told Satan that His servant Job was upright
and there was none like him in the earth. But even
though Job was not aware of God’s commendation, his
faith remained in God. He did not know what the end
would be, or that he would get back what he had lost.
He was shocked by his friends’ accusations that he had
sinned and that this was why he was suffering. Job was a
believer. There are differences between the grief of an
unbeliever and a believer. The unbeliever has no hope
of the hereafter, but Job had hope and was able to come
through as gold (Job 23:10). How did Job cope with the
sorrow and grief he felt? See Job 19:25-26; 27:5-6; 33:28.
serving contentedly
Week 6: Walking Through the Valley
4. We read in Ecclesiastes 3:4,7 that there is a time for
mourning and a time to keep silent. When the patriarch
Jacob died, his family and friends mourned for him for
seventy days. When Naomi lost her husband and two
sons, she spoke of feeling desolate and empty. A professor of English, writing about a tragedy in her life
told how after six months of grief she was still feeling
physical effects from her sorrow. Each grief is different.
Each person is different. The timing of the recovery
process depends on the individual spirit as well as various external factors. The healing process may seem slow,
but there are actions which will help hasten the healing.
What are they?
5. In much of today’s society, it seems there is a degree
of impatience with continuing grief. Some are inclined
merely to send a sympathy card and then hope that
comfort will be supplied somehow. But as Christians we
should actively minister to the grief of others. The Bible
tells us to weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15).
It also instructs us to bear one another’s burdens, and
so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). To support
means to hold up and sustain the one who is suffering.
What are some specific actions that we can take to help
bear the load and assist the one who has a terminal illness, is bereaved, or is suffering from some other cause
of grief?
6. Some people believe that any display of grief or tears
is a sign of weakness. As a result, they stifle the feelings
and bottle up unshed tears inside. This repression is not
emotionally healthy, because severe problems can arise
as a result of denying one’s true feelings. Jesus wept at
Lazarus’ death (John 11:35). His heart was touched by
the sight of the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary, when
their brother died. He didn’t keep His feelings all inside.
Some other Scriptures that indicate Jesus’ sympathy are
when He wept over Jerusalem, and His suffering in the
Garden concerning the sins of the world. Isaiah 63:9
tells us, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the
angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his
pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried
them all the days of old.” How does Christ’s experience
and compassion for our troubles help us in our suffering?
7. No matter what depth of sorrow we are feeling, nor
how long it may linger, sorrow is temporary. The worst
of the pain will pass even in this life. For the Christian,
there is always the assurance of God’s continued hand
over his life. Jesus told His disciples, “Ye shall weep and
lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John
16:20). What are some of the other promises in the
Scriptures which offer strength and hope to the one who
is experiencing a difficult place?
Scriptures used in this session:
Job 1:20; 7:4; 9:17; 10:15; 13:24; 16:20; 19:25-26; 23:10;
27:5-6; 29:2-5; 33:28; Psalm 84:6; Ecclesiastes 3:4,7;
Isaiah 63:9; John 11:35; 16:20; Romans 12:15; Galatians
6:2; 1 Peter 5:10

At some time or another, everyone faces discouragement, despondency, or depression. Then the problem arises—how to cope. For some, these are just occasional feelings; for others, these feelings come far too frequently or are of long duration. The grim facts are: depression is the nation’s number one emotional illness, and it is on the increase. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 9 per cent of adults in the United States, from all walks of life, suffer from some form of depression. Thousands who fail to cope turn to suicide, thinking that is the only way out. But those who face depression should turn to the Bible for the solution.

1. When feeling discouraged, Christians may face an additional problem. They may feel there is some stigma attached to Christians’ being despondent, thinking they aren’t where they should be spiritually. In reality, no one is free from the attacks of Satan. These attacks may be physical, spiritual, or mental, but Christians can take the problem to the Lord and receive help. What are some examples in the Bible of children of God who faced such attacks? How were they brought through?

2. Those who have suffered extreme discouragement and depression know how quickly Satan charges one with being out of the will of God. The Christian, of course, will do some heart searching. But it is helpful to remember that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He tried to accuse Job before God, but the Word says that Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Why then was Job tested so severely? What might be the reasons for suffering in the lives of those who are truly living close to God? Refer to 1 Peter 5:10.

3. One feeling common to all who go through periods of discouragement is that of being all alone—forsaken, abandoned—and that no one really cares or understands. Many of the psalms reflect David’s periods of discouragement: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me … I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people” (Psalm 22:1,6). How desperately, then, do we need the hope offered in the Scriptures, the reminder that God is there whether or not we can see Him or feel His presence. What particular Scripture has God used to bring you hope and comfort in time of testing or discouragement?

4. Satan’s business is to rob the child of God of his rest and peace in Christ. Often there is only a short step from being slightly discouraged to the deep gloom of depression, from the “blues” to being on the edge of despair. Many of life’s circumstances can lead to despondency: ill health, loneliness, unemployment, death of a loved one. These problems are common to all. How can the Christian gird himself for the battle and prepare to fight this foe when it strikes?

5. It is possible that discouragement comes as a result of our own doings. The enemy of our souls is constantly alert to ways and means of enticing us to yield to the desires of the flesh or the carnal nature. We must be careful what we do, where we go, whom we choose as associates, what we talk about, what we establish as goals. It is easy to strive for the things of this life to the neglect of the spiritual. For example, going into debt could be a trick of the devil. The Bible admonishes us to take heed to ourselves, and if we fail to do so, we may find ourselves in trouble. It is important to identify the source of our trouble and then take steps to correct the problem. How might Matthew 18:8,9 relate to the solution of such problems?

6. Some may say, “I’ve searched my heart and life for anything I need to do and the Lord has shown me nothing. Yet my prayers don’t seem to go through, and I can’t help feeling discouraged and depressed.” What encouragement can we offer such a one?

7. The battle against depression may not be won in a skirmish or two, but be persistent: victory is assured! Ephesians 6:12 spells out who the enemy is. What has God provided for our use against the enemy that assures his defeat? Ephesians 6:13

8. We have studied various aspects of depression and possible causes and cures. We have read biblical references to believers who endured periods of discouragement amounting to despair in some cases. God brought them through, and He will bring those through today who look to Him in times of discouragement. Every trial He allows to come our way is for our profit, “that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Read the eleventh verse and then summarize in a few words how God can “turn your troubles into treasure.”

Scriptures used in this session:

Psalm 22:1,6; Matthew 18:8,9; Ephesians 6:12,13; Hebrews 12:10,11; 1 Peter 5:10

Supplemental Scriptures:

Numbers 11:15; Joshua 7:7,8,10; 1 Kings 19:4; Isaiah 46:4; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 4:32; Philippians 4:8; 1Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 5:10

Suggested verse for memorization:

For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not: I will help thee.—Isaiah 41:13

Have you ever searched frantically for lost eyeglasses or a set of keys, only to find that all the time you were hunting, the missing item was right close by? As Christians, it may be that we have experienced a parallel in our spiritual lives when it comes to living a fuller and more fruitful Christian life. We may have searched earnestly in many directions for the abundant life, only to realise later that the answer was right there all the time. Many overlook the answer because it is so basic. It is simply using the prayer of faith. Prayer is the key element of the powerful Christian life, it is especially important that we be a good example in our prayer lives.

  1. The term “prayer warrior” is one we often hear used among Christians. The word warrior implies “battle,” and experience proves that prevailing in prayer is certainly a battle at times. The Bible speaks much about being persistent in prayer. God honours determination in seeking His blessing. The Lord delights to answer the prayers of people who make sure the blessing they seek is the will of God, and then present their petition with purpose, enthusiasm, and perseverance. God answers prayers prayed in this way! Look up the following Scriptures and note what type of prayer was prayed in each of these examples.

    Genesis 32:24-29

    1 Kings 18:22-39

    Mark 5:1-20

    Mark 7:25-30

    Luke 11:5-8

  2. New Christians often look to mature believers as a pattern and a support for their own growing spiritual maturity. Is your prayer life such that others look to you for prayer? Many of us can remember someone we considered to be a prayer warrior. It may have been an older minister, an elderly saint who possibly never said much in a public service, or our own parents. If you were not raised in a Christian home, it may have been a godly grandparent, or an aunt or uncle. What impression did this leave with you?
  3. Anna, the prophetess, was one who made special effort in regard to her prayer life. We read in Luke 2:37 that she “departed not from the temple [the place of prayer], but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” No doubt there were other duties with which Anna could have occupied her time, but she chose to spend much of her time in prayer. What specific steps can you take to make sure that prayer is a top priority in your life?
  4. It is natural, to a degree, to be concerned with our own family, friends, and activities. However, Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4). In turning our eyes to the needs of others, many times we can see how blessed we really are. If we importune before God for the needs and concerns of others and thank Him for our blessings, many times our spirits will be refreshed and our own concerns diminished. James admonishes us to “Pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). If we follow this admonition, what effect will it have when we feel inclined to indulge in spending an undue amount of time focused on our own concerns?
  5. When is a good time to pray? Paul wrote, “Praying always” (Ephesians 6:18); “Continue in prayer” (Colossians 4:2); “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians
    5: 17). At a very advanced age, Daniel “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed … as he did afore- time” (Daniel 6:10). Though we cannot always be on our knees, we can be in an attitude of prayer. Where is a good place to pray? Jesus said, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet and … pray to thy Father” (Matthew 6:6). But Jesus also said, “My house shall be called the house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13). Peter and John “went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer” (Acts 3:1). We can see from this that we are to pray at home, and we are to pray at church, or wherever we may be. Besides praying often, and praying wherever we are, what are some other characteristics of a well-balanced, consistent prayer life?
  6. A veteran minister once said that when he went to prayer he never asked God for anything until he first thanked Him for His wonderful plan of salvation. Certainly thanksgiving is a primary aspect of effective prayer. The psalms are the primary source of praise in the Scriptures. David prayed many times to the Lord for deliverance, but many other times he gave Him praise and thanks for His blessings. See Psalms 146 through 150. Moses, Deborah, Daniel, Mary, and Zacharias were among other Biblical examples of men and women who praised God’s character and intervention on their behalf. What are some steps we could take to be sure that true and heartfelt praise is a part of our prayer life?
  7. A true burden for lost souls cannot come until we truly realise the hatred God has for sin, and the consequences His justice demands as a penalty for sins that are not repented of. Moses had a great burden for his people who had sinned (Exodus 32:30-32). Paul had a similar burden (Romans 9:2-3). Both would have given up their salvation if this could have saved their lost loved ones, but only Jesus’ Blood can do that. Can you look into your prayer life and find this kind of burden? What is the major hindrance to this type of prayer?
  8. We live in a fast-paced society, but as Christians in today’s world, we must find times of rest in the Spirit and quietness. In these times we can turn our thoughts to contemplation of God and His mighty power. We are commanded to meditate in God’s Word day and night if we are to be prosperous, successful Christians (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2). Meditation is deep reflection, giving serious thought to things that are spiritual, and is a necessary ingredient of our prayer lives. What are some good ways we can be sure to incorporate times of meditation into our worship?

Scriptures used in this session:

Genesis 32:24-29;

Exodus 32:30-32;

Joshua 1:8;

1 Kings 18:22-39;

Psalms 1:2; 146-150;

Daniel 6:10;

Matthew 6:6; 21:13;

Mark 5:1-20; 7:25-30;

Luke 2:37; 11:5-8;

Acts 3:1;

Romans 9:2-3;

Ephesians 6:18;

Philippians 2:4;

Colossians 4:2;

1 Thessalonians 5:17;

James 5:16

Supplemental Scriptures:

1 Samuel 30:24;

Psalm 63:6;

Acts 16:25, 26, 34;

Romans 8:26;

Philippians 4:6

Suggested verse for memorisation:

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. – James 5:16