For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 NLT
Why did God need to make peace with heaven? This verse right here may help us understand just how real the war in heaven was. Even after Lucifer was cast out, those who remained may have still had their doubts. Did God really love them, or did Lucifer have some good points about God just being a tyrant? On earth Eve was convinced God did not care for her and she needed to eat the fruit and disobey, if she really wanted to be happy. While all this was going on, is it possible some of the remaining angels in heaven still had some questions? Have you ever been loyal to a boss not because you thought he was fair, but because you did not see any way out? So out of fear you remained loyal to him, still wishing you weren’t in that situation? If so, what did it take for you to reconcile the situation so you could have peace at work and not just conformity?
When the Son of God died on the cross He was not just atoning for Eve taking a piece of fruit she was told not to. Eve’s disobedience was a symptom of her doubts. The Cross of Christ did not just take care of the symptoms of sin. The Cross took care of sin itself! The Cross removed all doubt about God’s love. All questions in heaven and earth are answered at the cross! There can be conformity while rebellion is still in the heart. The cross goes way beyond bringing us into conformity and outward obedience. The cross replaces our thoughts of rebellion with peaceful thoughts towards God.
That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God.-Ellen White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889
Some have the idea that once we get to heaven, God will flip a little switch in the back of our heads that makes us stop sinning. After all, we will be in heaven and so we automatically won’t sin right? Wait. Where did sin begin? Heaven! The reason why humans and angels will not sin, is the same reason why God reconciled both heaven and earth to Himself. The cross of Jesus. The cross cures the root cause of sin which is doubting God’s love. The reason there will be no sin in heaven is not due to a mechanical correction that the flip of a switch will fix. The reason there will be no sin in heaven will be because the cross will cure humans and angels alike from ever doubting God’s love, and thinking we need anything God has not given us. There will be no reason to rebel. Rules without relationship causes rebellion. The love of Christ on the cross removes our fear of God, so we are not afraid to have an intimate relationship with Him. With our relationship cured we will have no reason to rebel. We won’t be conformists. We will be free thinking moral agents who are at peace with God because God is love.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Read in Class: 1 John 4:7-16. Discuss the main thought of this passage.
Study: What can the certainty that “God is love” tell us about the nature of His creative activities? What does this passage tell us about free will as a condition to cultivating love?
Apply: Free will, a gift from God, is sacred, but comes heavy laden with powerful consequences, not only for yourself but for others, as well. What important decisions are you, using this gift, about to make, and what will be the consequences of whatever choices you make?
Share: Your friend asks you why didn’t God only create people who would choose to serve Him? Wouldn’t that still be giving free choice to all his creation? Why would that be or not be free choice? Another friend claims that if we die for not choosing Jesus then Jesus is not really giving us free choice. He is intimidating and manipulating us. Is there a difference between free choices and consequences?
Read in Class: Ezekiel 28:12-19. Discuss the theme of this passage.
Study: What can we learn from this passage about the mysterious origin of sin?
Apply: Does pride make us not sense our need of a Savior? Does pride cause us to not be thankful for what Jesus and others have done for us?
Share: Your friend says, God didn’t create the devil, He created Lucifer. Is your friend right? How so?
Read in Class: Isaiah 14:12-15. Discuss the key thought in this passage.
Study: What far-reaching consequences did Lucifer’s pride while in heaven bring to the universe and to this world?
Apply: Why is it so easy to become proud and boastful of either our positions or achievements, or both? How does keeping the cross before us prevent us from falling into such a trap?
Share: Your friend says that competing in sports to be number one is like Lucifer wanting to be number one in heaven,. How is it the same? How is it different?
Read in Class: Revelation 12. Discuss the main point of this passage.
Study: What does this chapter teach about the spread of the rebellion in heaven to the earth?
Apply: What are ways in which we can see the reality of this battle being played out on earth? What is our only hope to overcome our enemy in this battle?
Share: For further discussion see “Why God Needed to Make Peace With Heaven?”
Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School Class on Sabbath, September 24, 2022.
Main Theme: Jesus loved us so much He was willing to say goodbye to life forever if that’s what it to save us. Our appreciate for His amazing love makes it possible for us to love the way He loves.
Read in Class: Matthew 27:45-51. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: What made Jesus ask His Father why He was forsaking Him? What made Jesus think He was forsaken? See Agape in the Crucible.
Apply: Considering how deeply Christ suffered on the cross, what exactly makes sin so offensive to you?
Share: Your friend asks you how the cross of Christ has changed your life? What do you tell your friend?
Study: What do we see in these verses that gives us an indication of the kind of life Jesus faced from the start?
Apply: In what ways can you identify with Jesus’ childhood? How does what He endured as a child give you hope? See the chapter, As a Child, in Desire of Ages.
Share: Your friend asks you why God allowed innocent babies to be destroyed by Herod? How could the birth of Jesus possibly bring peace and goodwill towards the poor grieving parents? What do you tell your friend?
Read in Class: Luke 4:21-30. What is the main idea of this passage?
Study: How does this passage help us understand the suffering and rejection Jesus faced on earth?
Apply: What can you learn from Christ that can help you better cope with the pain of rejection? What does His example show you? How can you apply it to your own life?
Share: Your friend tells you it is not practical for God to expect us to loved people who do not love us in return. What do you tell your friend?
Read in Class: Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:33-36, and Luke 22:41-44. What is the common thread of these passages?
Study: What do we learn from these passages about how Christ suffered in Gethsemane?
Apply: Dwell upon what was happening to Jesus in Gethsemane. Already the sins of the world were starting to fall upon Him. Try to imagine what that must have been like. No human being has ever been called to go through anything like this before or since. What does this tell us about God’s love for us? What hope can you draw from this for yourself?
Share: What is the most important thing you have learned while studying the Sabbath School lesson in the last 13 weeks?
Critics of Christianity will often argue that Jesus knew beforehand that, though He would die, He would be resurrected to life. Thus, they ask, what was the big deal about His death when He knew it would be only temporary? As we take a deeper look at the cross we see the agape of Christ in His crucible.
My mother knew that flying in an airplane is safer than traveling by car. She knew the sad statistics that people are killed every day on the highways, while a rare jet crash makes headlines around the world. Knowing all this, when my mother got on an airplane she sure did not feel that it was safer! There is a difference between knowing and feeling. Jesus died as a man, not as God.
As a man, this is what Jesus experienced;
“In that thick darkness God’s presence was hidden. He makes darkness His pavilion, and conceals His glory from human eyes. God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed. Had His glory flashed forth from the cloud, every human beholder would have been destroyed. And in that dreadful hour Christ was not to be comforted with the Father’s presence. He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 753, 754.
“The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 753.
Foxe’s book of Martyrs tells us John Huss was singing songs of praise as he burned at the stake for his faith. We wonder if John Huss, a mere mortal man, could be singing songs of praise as He died at the stake, why couldn’t Jesus sing songs of praise instead of crying out “My God My God why have You forsaken me?”
It is because John Huss died a totally different death than Jesus died. John knew he would be resurrected. He knew he was at peace with the Father. But on the cross Jesus was being treated the way we deserve to be treated so we can be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Think about this, Jesus always called God His Father.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
“I always do those things that please my Father.”
“I and my Father are one.”
But when Jesus was on the cross being treated the way we deserve to be treated He could not call God His Father! He did not know that He would be resurrected. Instead He cried out, “My God! Why have you forsaken me?” This fulfilled the prophecy of Psalms 22 of Jesus dying the second death.
Jesus was not crying out, “Why have you forsaken me till Sunday morning?” You don’t forsake someone when you leave them for the weekend. When I tell my Sabbath School class I will be preaching at another church next Sabbath, none of them ask me why I have forsaken them. They know I will be back the following week. When Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” He felt abandoned forever. He felt what the wicked will feel.
Obadiah 1:16 says the wicked will be as though they had never been. Jesus was not facing a mere six-hour pain endurance marathon. A lot of cancer patients would gladly trade their years of battling cancer for six hours on a cross. The physical pain is not what made it the supreme sacrifice. What Jesus was facing was going into total oblivion and being as though He had never existed! While Satan was willing to sacrifice anyone who got in his way of being number 1, Jesus was willing to go into total oblivion if He could just save even one of us.
Hebrews 2:9 tells us Jesus tasted death for everyone. Jesus and Paul both refer to the first death as sleep. Jesus did not save us from that death, as we plainly experience that death ourselves. Paul did not say Jesus tasted sleep for every man. No, He tasted death, the death of the wicked. Yes, He prophesied of His own resurrection, but that was while He still felt the presence of His Father. When Jesus felt the Father turn His back on Him, He felt, as a man, that the promise of the resurrection had left with the Father. Jesus became the God-forsaken God.
Some say, how could Jesus have tasted the second death while He never lost faith in His Father? Remember Jesus had no sense of self-preservation. The sense of self-preservation belongs to Satan. Jesus had faith, but His faith was not that He would be saved but that you and I would be saved!
Some have a hard time wrapping their minds around this awesome love. Some refuse to believe that Jesus would be willing to die forever to save us. In that case they have made Moses more loving than Jesus. In Exodus 32:32 Moses is willing to be wiped out of eternity in order to save the children of Israel. Do you think Moses loved them more than Jesus loves sinners? Of course not! Only when Moses experienced the self-sacrificing love of God could he express such love. If you don’t believe that Jesus was willing to say good-bye to life forever in order to save us, then you believe that Moses demonstrated more love than Jesus.
Since the Jews were accusing Jesus of blasphemy they could have just stoned Him to death. According to Leviticus 24:16, blasphemers were to be stoned and not crucified. Yet Jesus was crucified. Why? Because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 tells us those who are hung are cursed by God. Someone could plead for mercy and have the hope of salvation, just like John Huss had, even though they were stoned to death. However, being hung was a sign you were cursed by God. Joshua 10 tells the story of five kings who refused to accept Israel’s God and were hung from five trees, telling the world they had rejected God and so there was no salvation for them. It was good-bye to life forever.
Friend, does this help you understand how much Jesus loves you? He could have come down from the cross and returned to heaven where He could wear His kingly Crown instead of the crown of thorns. He could have left the road to Calvary and walked on streets of gold. He could have left the mocking mob and returned to hear angels sing His praise. He could have returned to His mansion. Why didn’t He do just that? Because the thought of going back to heaven without you did not appeal to Jesus. Heaven would not be paradise without you, as far as Jesus is concerned.
There is nothing I would rather be preaching than this message here. It is the everlasting gospel in the three angels’ messages. This kind of love changes everything. It changes how we look at the cross and how we look at sin. Most of all it changes our hearts. The disciples were just a bunch of self-ambitious men until they saw this love displayed on the cross. After they saw this love they were willing to give everything – even their own lives. Revelation 15 tells us there will be a multitude singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. They will be filled with this self-sacrificing love just like Moses and Jesus. They will hate sin more than they hate death and they will love God more than they will love their own lives or self preservation.
In the the crucible of Christ we see true agape. Jesus’ love for you goes deeper than the nail scars. He loves you more than He loves life itself. He was willing to go into total oblivion and be as though He had never existed if that is what it took to save you!
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NKJV
We live in a hurting world, and we all have been made aware that hurting people hurt people. It is easy to want to lash out at others when we have been hurt, but here are some things we need to keep in mind.
We are not the intended target-God is. In Acts 7:54-60 when Stephen was being stoned for his faith, he could see Jesus standing up for him in heaven. Stephen asked God not to charge this sin against them. Stephen did not take this stoning personal, as he realized it was not so much happening to him as much as it was happening in front of him. He realized Jesus was the intended target. Stephen knew it was “not I but Christ” who lived in him. He knew it was the Christ in him who was being persecuted. Stephen was not afraid to die, because as far as Stephen was concerned he had already been crucified with Christ. Dead people aren’t afraid to die. When we have been crucified with Christ we consider ourselves dead to self, and realize it is Christ who lives in us who is being persecuted. After all didn’t Jesus tell Saul who became Paul, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting?” Acts 9:5 NKJV. It was Jesus, not Stephen who was the intended target. Therefore Stephen could have considered that it was not him but Christ who was being persecuted. We are the body of Christ. Christ is the head of the body, and whenever the smallest part of the body is hurt, the head of the body is first to feel the pain.
By dying to self I can say “It is not I but Christ who is being offended.” As Isaiah 63:9 KJV says, “In all their affliction He was afflicted.” In Luke 9:23 NKJV Jesus tells us to take up our cross and die daily. In 1 Corinthians 15:31NKJV Paul says, “I die daily.” Years ago I held a “Cross of Christ” revival series in a small town in Southeast Oklahoma. I mentioned that if I die daily I cannot hold grudges anymore. After all, if I die daily and am born again every morning, I cannot hold a grudge over something that happened yesterday. How can you hold a grudge over something that happened before you were even born? You could not have hurt me yesterday if I was just born today. Dying to self and being born again on a daily basis not only frees me from my own sins from the day before, but it also frees me from the insults and slights that came flying my way from the day before. I am a new creature. You could not have hurt me yesterday if I was just born again today. After sharing that idea I came back to the same church a couple of years later. The pastor told me there was a cranky old lady in the church who was always holding grudges, but she changed after the seminar. He told me she had shared with him that it was this very illustration that turned her life around. She became a new creation indeed!
When people are being mean and nasty we are not to take it personally. It’s their issue between them and God. It’s not happening to you. It’s happening in front of you. If we are crucified with Christ, it is not us but Christ who lives in us. Therefore it is not us but Christ who is being persecuted. Like Stephen, by faith we can look into heaven and see Jesus standing up for us. We can pray for their sin to not be charged against them. And like with Stephen and Saul who became Paul, Jesus will ask those aiming darts at us, “why are you persecuting me?”
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School Class, Sabbath September 17, 2022.
Main Theme: We serve God better when we surrender our will to His will.
Read in Class: Philippians 2:5-9. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: What important message is there for us in these verses?
Apply: What rights might we be holding onto that keep us from sharing God’s love and serving others better?
Share: Your friend tells you that Jesus’ example and teaching about being a servant and going the extra mile for our enemies appears to be tone deaf to the social justice issues of today. What do you tell your friend?
Read in Class: Romans 12:1-2. Discuss the main idea of this passage.
Study: What are some practical ways we can offer our bodies as a living sacrifice in our day to day life?
Apply: What things might you have to give up in order to become a living sacrifice?
Share: Your friend asks, how do we transform and renew our minds? What do you tell your friend?
Read in Class: 1 Samuel 3:1-18. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: What is the difference between those who listen to God and those who don’t?
Apply: Preacher Charles Stanley describes how essential it is to cultivate openness to God’s voice in what he calls “shifting into neutral.” He says: “The Holy Spirit … does not speak for the sake of passing along information. He speaks to get a response. And He knows when our agenda has such a large slice of our attention that it is a waste of time to suggest anything to the contrary. When that is the case, He is often silent. He waits for us to become neutral enough to hear and eventually obey.” — The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), pp. 179, 180.
What do you think Stanley means by becoming “neutral enough”? When you think about your openness to God, what things often prevent you from being “neutral enough to hear and eventually obey”? What do you need to do in your life to cultivate openness to God’s voice and a decisiveness to be obedient to His direction?
Share: Your friend asks you why God allowed Eli to be priest while not even being able to control his own sons? After all, doesn’t the New Testament teach that a leader should control his own household? What do you tell your friend?
Read in Class: 1 Samuel 13:1-14. Define the main idea of this passage.
Study: What did Saul do that led to his downfall?
Apply: Why do you think it was so easy for Saul to follow his own judgment, even though he had God’s clear instructions still ringing in his ears? If we know that we are so fragile and have such imperfect knowledge, why do we still try to rely on ourselves? What can we do to learn to trust in the Lord’s commands more than in ourselves?
Share: How can we encourage our leaders to rely on God instead of trusting in their themselves and their own wisdom? Is there a leader in your church family who you could call this week and pray with and for them?
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24, NKJV).
I enjoyed being a Bible Worker for 30 years. As one pastor told me, a Bible Worker gets to have all the fun of being a pastor without any of the headaches. Well I had my share of headaches and heartaches too, but I loved preaching and teaching and giving personal Bible studies. I loved watching people grow in their relationship with Christ. During those 30 years I rejoiced as some came, and cried when they left, only to rejoice again when years later they would return. Early in my Bible Worker ministry many people told me I should go on to become a conference pastor. I checked into it a couple of times but it never seemed to work out. A few times I would send my resume out but never got any calls. That was okay. God was blessing my Bible Worker ministry both spiritually as well as financially. So by the time I got into my mid fifties, I had joyfully accepted the fact that this was far as I would advance in the “ranks.” It was a wonderful life just the way it was.
As 2022 began, I wrote a New Year’s devotional, called Submission Over Ambition. I wrote about how instead of having ambitions for the new year, we should just offer ourselves to Christ, and tell Him to take us and do with us whatever He wants in 2022. That could range from being taken to heaven in a chariot of fire like Elijah, or dying alone in a dungeon like John the Baptist. I told God to take me this year and just do whatever He wanted with me. I had no ambitions. After praying that prayer I went on about my Bible work planning to be a Bible Worker the rest of my life.
Around July 1, I was listening to a sermon podcast by Pastor Derek Morris. In His sermon he talked about how he came to the Hope Channel to work with the Sabbath school program but ended up becoming the president of the Hope channel. He went on about how his calling became “much more” than he expected. He talked about how God has “much more” in store for all of us. As he kept repeating “much more” throughout his sermon, I started asking God why I was hearing this? Did God have more in store for my ministry? For years I had totally forgotten about ever becoming a pastor with the conference. Was God telling me that would still happen one day?
On July 6 I was driving home to Tampa from Homosassa Florida, where I was doing Bible work for the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist church. I was in my own little world, enjoying the leisure drive down the country roads leading me back home to Tampa, when I noticed a missed call from the Florida Adventist conference office on my cell phone. I found a place to pull over and return the call. What the conference official shared with me took me totally by surprise. The conference executives had met, prayed, and wanted me to be the conference pastor of a three church district including the Homosassa church. I would not need to do anymore fundraising for my Bible Worker fund. I would be a full-fledged conference senior pastor with a salary from the conference. Since this phone call came out of nowhere I prayed about it all night. I remembered my prayer as the new year began, “Take me Christ and do whatever you want with me in 2022.” I realized God was telling me what He wanted to do with me in 2022.
In August my promotion was made official, and Pastor Javier Diaz, the conference official, took me to all three of my new churches one Sabbath, and installed me as their senior pastor. Many of my friends congratulated me, and told me I deserved this promotion after working so hard as a Bible Worker to become a pastor. I appreciated their kind encouraging words, but I did not work hard as a Bible Worker to become a pastor. I worked hard as a Bible Worker to lead people to salvation and a better life in Christ. When I get to heaven titles and positions won’t mean a thing. All that matters is having my friend’s names written in the Lamb’s book of life! Several saints who supported my Bible Worker ministry through the years told me this promotion from Bible Worker to pastor was way overdue. It was about time they said. It should have happened long ago. But again I knew it was the perfect time. First of all, like I said at the beginning, I loved being a Bible Worker. As a matter of fact, I still have my Bible and I still work with it so I am still a Bible Worker even while being a pastor. I have so many precious experiences and memories studying with so many different families and individuals. I would not trade any of those memories for anything. Even when people were telling me that I should be a pastor, I never felt like I was waiting to be a pastor. I was enjoying and loving being a Bible Worker. As a matter of fact, when I learned it was official and was given my start date as a pastor, I did not rush the days by until I was finally a pastor. I had enough life experience to realize that I will one day look back on my Bible Worker days with fond memories. So I savored each of my last days of being a Bible Worker. God blessed me with an amazing 30 years as a Bible Worker. With so many life experiences, I have learned to enjoy the present instead of looking back or trying to reach for the future. Every phase of life is a gift from God, that should be loved, appreciated and embraced.
I don’t believe my new assignment was long overdue. I think it came at the perfect time.
Sure, when I was much younger I had dreamed of being a pastor one day, but it wasn’t until I had surrendered my ambition, and embraced and loved being exactly where God had me at the time, that the call finally came. I expected the call when I was younger but it never came then. It came when I was not expecting it at all. But isn’t that how God works? Sarai has her first child after her child bearing years. Jacob is reunited with his son Joseph long after he had given him up for dead. One thing I learned in our previous lesson quarterly on Genesis is, God is not in a hurry to do anything. Regarding the second coming, Jesus warns all the date setters,
You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. Matthew 24:44 NLT
Throughout history, God’s favorite time to do anything seems to be when we least expect it.
I can hardly say I was waiting in the crucible to become a pastor. Being a Bible Worker for 30 years was no crucible. It was 30 precious years of precious and amazing experiences I would not trade for anything. However if you feel like you are waiting in a crucible here would be my words of encouragement for you. Stop waiting. Stop waiting for the storm to pass and learn how to dance in the rain. Learn to love where you are now. Surrender all your ambitions to Christ, and
At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen. Isaiah 60:22. NLT
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.