As soon as Jesus began His ministry preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand, He called certain men to follow Him and become His disciples. Andrew and Simon, James and John on the shores of the Sea of Galilee heard His holy appeal–“Follow Me”–and immediately followed Him. They left their daily work, from which they earned their livelihood, and followed the Master. Later Levi-Matthew, an employee in the tax office, was called to leave his occupation and join the disciples, which he did. Matthew became not only an apostle of the good news but also an evangelist whose writings have reached to our days!
Christian discipleship is not a question of a simple, theoretical promise without a practical commitment. To follow Jesus requires the denial of one’s personal interests and pursuits and full engagement in the Master’s service. Sadly, many Christians are unwilling to practice such self-denial; they wish to continue in their own way. Not all are prepared to dedicate everything they have and are to the Lord. It is high time for God’s people to rediscover what true discipleship is, to put their own interests in second place, and to follow the Master, as 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.
“… Jesus bade His followers take up the cross and bear it after Him. To the disciples His words, though dimly comprehended, pointed to their submission to the most bitter humiliation–submission even unto death for the sake of Christ. No more complete self-surrender could the Saviour’s words have pictured. But all this He had accepted for them. Jesus did not count heaven a place to be desired while we were lost. He left the heavenly courts for a life of reproach and insult, and a death of shame. He who was rich in heaven’s priceless treasure, became poor, that through His poverty we might be rich. We are to follow in the path He trod.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 416.
“We are Christ’s witnesses, and we are not to allow worldly interests so to absorb our time and attention that we pay no heed to the things that God has said must come first. There are higher interests at stake. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.’ Christ gave His all to the work that He came to do, and His word to us is, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ ‘So shall ye be My disciples.’” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 302.
“Following Christ … is not a pretense, a farce. Jesus expects His disciples to follow closely in His footsteps, enduring what He endured, suffering what He suffered, overcoming as He overcame. He is anxiously waiting to see His professed followers revealing the spirit of self-sacrifice.” –Counsels on Health, p. 511.
This quarter’s lessons focus on Jesus’ invitation, “Come and follow Me” (Matthew 19:21), an invitation that is full of His unending love. How many are willing and ready to respond as did the disciples? The blessings are great; the joy, immeasurable!
“‘If any man serve Me,’ said Jesus, ‘let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honor.’ All who have borne with Jesus the cross of sacrifice will be sharers with Him of His glory. It was the joy of Christ in His humiliation and pain that His disciples should be glorified with Him. They are the fruit of His self-sacrifice. The outworking in them of His own character and spirit is His reward, and will be His joy throughout eternity. This joy they share with Him as the fruit of their labor and sacrifice is seen in other hearts and lives. They are workers together with Christ, and the Father will honor them as He honors His Son.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 624.
May the Lord bless all who study these lessons to learn to follow the Master and dedicate themselves to serve Him wholeheartedly, as did the disciples.
–The brothers and sisters of the General Conference and the Ministerial Department
Lesson 1 | Sabbath, 6 October 2018
THE GIFT OF GOD
“The gifts of God are on every hand, and all His gifts come to us through the merit of Jesus, whom He gave to the world. The apostle Paul breaks forth in an exclamation of gratitude, saying, ‘Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.’ And with Christ God has given us all things. The opening bud, the blooming flowers in their variety and loveliness, delightful to the senses, are the work of the Master Artist’s expressions of His love toward us. What beautiful things His hands have made, and yet many behold the lovely things of nature, and do not associate God with these blessings. They do not realize that the beautiful things about them are tokens of God’s love to fallen humanity, His efforts to attract them to Himself. The Lord has taken great care that everything should be grateful and pleasant to us, and yet how much greater effort He has made to provide us with that gift whereby we may perfect a Christian character, after the pattern of Christ.” –Signs of the Times, June 19, 1893.
God’s greatest gift
1. What bond keeps man close to God? What is the greatest gift that He has given to humanity?
John 3:16; 4:10. 16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life…. 10Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
2 Corinthians 9:15. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
“God has not only supplied us with temporal benefits, but has provided for our eternal welfare; ‘for God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ ‘If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.’ Oh, if we did but know the gift of God, if we did but appreciate what this gift of God means to us, we would have been earnestly seeking for it with unwavering perseverance! We would have offered such supplication, such appeals to God, that the gift of grace would not have been withheld, and the living water would have come to satisfy our longing, thirsty souls. ‘If thou knewest the gift of God.’ Yes, if the gift of God had been known, there would not be prayerless homes, and hearts as unimpressible as stone.” –Signs of the Times, June 19, 1893.
2. In the midst of growing darkness, where can that true light that enlightens every conscience be found?
John 1:4, 9; 9:5. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men…. 9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world…. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
“Only the believer in Christ can receive life everlasting. Only by continually feeding on Christ’s flesh and blood can we have the assurance that we are partakers of the divine nature. No one should be indifferent on this subject, saying, If we are honest, it is no matter what we believe. You cannot with safety surrender any seed of vital truth in order to please yourself or anybody else. Do not seek to avoid the cross. If we receive no light from the Sun of Righteousness, we have no connection with the Source of all light; and if this life and light do not abide in us, we can never be saved.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 299.
Sacrifice to set man free
3. What great sacrifice did the Saviour make to come face to face with every human being and solve the painful problem of sin?
1 John 3:5; 2:2. 5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin…. 2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
“Jesus Christ, the Majesty of heaven, has been offered to the world, has been given to man as his Saviour and Redeemer. Well may the inhabitants of heaven and the unfallen worlds look with astonishment upon man’s lack of discernment, upon his ingratitude. Many have hated and spurned the gift of God, although Jesus clothed His divinity with humanity, and for our sake became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich. He left the courts of heaven, and came to the world, all seared and marred and polluted with sin; He practiced self-denial and self-sacrifice, descending lower and lower in the path of humiliation, that we might be enriched and exalted. Rich in houses and lands, in worldly honor? No, but that we might have all heaven’s imperishable treasure, an eternal weight of glory.” –Signs of the Times, June 19, 1893.
4. How may the sinful human being now appear before the throne of God? What does it mean to move from a condition of condemnation and death to that of forgiveness and justification?
Romans 5:15-17. 15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.
“Man broke God’s law, and through the Redeemer new and fresh promises were made on a different basis. All blessings must come through a Mediator. Now every member of the human family is given wholly into the hands of Christ, and whatever we possess–whether it is the gift of money, of houses, of lands, of reasoning powers, of physical strength, of intellectual talents–in this present life, and the blessings of the future life, are placed in our possession as God’s treasures to be faithfully expended for the benefit of man. Every gift is stamped with the cross and bears the image and superscription of Jesus Christ. All things come of God. From the smallest benefits up to the largest blessing, all flow through the one Channel–a superhuman mediation sprinkled with the blood that is of value beyond estimate because it was the life of God in His Son.” –Faith and Works, p. 22.
Interceding in man’s behalf
5. In addition to His great suffering and sacrifice on the cross, what ministry is Jesus continually performing for sinful man still today?
1 John 2:1. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Romans 8:34. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
“‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16. Jehovah did not deem the plan of salvation complete while invested only with His love. He has placed at His altar an Advocate clothed in our nature. As our Intercessor, Christ’s office work is to introduce us to God as His sons and daughters. He intercedes in behalf of those who receive Him. With His own blood He has paid their ransom. By virtue of His merits He gives them power to become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. And the Father demonstrates His infinite love for Christ by receiving and welcoming Christ’s friends as His friends.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 177.
6. What amazing, supreme gift does God give those who truly believe in His Son?
Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 John 5:11, 12. 11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
“‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men.’ John 1:4. It is not physical life that is here specified, but immortality, the life which is exclusively the property of God. The Word, who was with God, and who was God, had this life. Physical life is something which each individual receives. It is not eternal or immortal; for God, the Life-giver, takes it again. Man has no control over his life. But the life of Christ was unborrowed. No one can take this life from Him. ‘I lay it down of Myself’ (John 10:18), He said. In Him was life, original, unborrowed, underived. This life is not inherent in man. He can possess it only through Christ. He cannot earn it; it is given him as a free gift if he will believe in Christ as His personal Saviour. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.’ John 17:3. This is the open fountain of life for the world.” –Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 296, 297.
“Christ ‘brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.’ 2 Timothy 1:10. No man can have an independent spiritual life apart from Him.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 297.
“If through faith man becomes one with Christ, he can win life everlasting. God loves those who are redeemed through Christ, even as He loves His Son. What a thought! Can God love the sinner as He loves His own Son? Yes; Christ has said it, and He means just what He says.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 300.
7. What is the Lord’s desire for everyone who loves Him and is seeking for the light of the world? If one desires to be one of the Redeemer’s sheep, whom will he or she follow?
John 8:12; 10:27. 12Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.… 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
“The work of Christ is to draw men from the false and spurious to the true and genuine. ‘He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ There is no danger of going into error while we follow in the footsteps of ‘the Light of the world.’ We are to work the works of Christ. We must engage heart and soul in His service; we must search the word of life, and present it to others.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 128.
“This is Jesus, the life of every grace, the life of every promise, the life of every ordinance, the life of every blessing. Jesus is the substance, the glory and fragrance, the very life itself…. Let us repeat them by day and meditate upon them in the night season, and be happy.” –Selected Messages, book 2, p. 244.
• Have you always been aware of God’s great gift to man?
• How deeply do you appreciate this greatest gift?
• What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
For additional study
“Shall we open our hearts to Jesus Christ? Shall we enthrone Him in the temple of the soul? Shall we not cast away our idols, and surrender our all to God? God has had power to make the flowers fair and fragrant, and He has power to give meekness and lowliness to the heart, to impart purity and nobility to the character, to make us complete in Jesus. We may have loveliness of disposition, a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Let us consider the precious gifts of God, think upon His tender mercies, yield our all to Him, that He may give us hearts filled with gratitude, lives filled with the fragrance of deeds of love, a disposition to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, seeking to save those that are lost.” –Signs of the Times, June 19, 1893.