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Insights #12 Sept. 21, 2013
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Third Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Reformation: Healing Broken Relationships”
For the week of Sept. 21, 2013

This week's study on healing broken relationships comes close to home. It goes against our fallen, sinful nature to confess our sin to someone we have wronged. Self rises up in self-justification and just as Adam and Eve in the garden looked for someone else to blame for their sin, we do the same. Our lesson beautifully lays out the biblical truth of God's initiative in our forgiveness. Our confession of sin does not change His mind about us, but gives him permission to cleanse us from our sins with His forgiving love. The peace that follows this experience is like a cool, refreshing shower on a hot day, only better!

Our lesson probes deeper, reiterating the principle of restoration Jesus outlined in Matthew 18 when a brother sins against you. Our natural tendency when we have been wronged is to go to someone else and report the evil rather than addressing the issue at its source. The model of church discipline set forth in this passage would prove an untold safeguard and blessing to the church were it faithfully followed.

In both cases, beholding the self-emptying love of Christ softens our hearts and make us willing to do the hard thing -- confess our sins and restore our brother.

Unconfessed sin festers like an infected wound that never heals, and avoiding the principles of restoration in Matthew 18 builds walls between members of the family and the church.

Many years ago, a friend of mine underwent two abortions before starting her family. She confessed her sin to God and buried the shame, pain and guilt of her earlier choice for decades. Believing she had been forgiven, she struggled to understand why she still felt such terrible shame and remorse for her sin. In answer to prayer, the Lord directed my friend on a path of healing that included confession of her sin to her immediate family and to her church family. Understanding what Christ went through on the cross was a pivotal point in her healing process.

"Jesus died a most shameful death on the cross," she explained. "He was strung up naked before the world, but the shame that He bore was my shame. He did that for me. The cross has given me courage to share my story with others who have experienced abortion, and they, too, have found healing in Christ," she said.

One of the questions listed for discussion in Friday's lesson says, "If we look at our church--that is, the Seventh-day Adventist Church--as a whole, what is the greatest thing holding us back from the kind of revival and reformation that will be needed in order to reach the world? Is it our teachings and doctrines? Of course not . . . The problem lies solely in us, in our interpersonal relationships, our petty jealousies, our bickering, our selfishness, our desire for supremacy, and a whole host of other things . . . "

This question is very good. What is holding us back from revival and reformation? The problem is identified -- it "lies in us."

Now all we need is a solution to this problem! And that is what the Lord "in His great mercy" sent to our church more than 120 years ago: a message of the sin-pardoning love of our precious Savior. My post-abortive friend has caught a glimpse of this love of Christ for her, and it has transformed her entire being. Her new passion in life is sharing the power of the cross with others so they, too, can experience forgiveness and cleansing from sin and freedom in Christ.

Brother E.J. Waggoner, one of the heaven-sent messengers of Good News shared in 1888 and thereafter, had a profound experience with the Lord in which he, too, caught a more vivid view of the cross. He describes how he was "sitting a little apart from the body of the congregation in the large tent at a camp meeting in Healdsburg [California], one gloomy Sabbath afternoon. I have no idea what was the subject of the discourse. Not a word nor a text have I ever known. All that has remained with me was what I saw. Suddenly a light shone round me, and the tent was for me far more brilliantly lighted that if the noon-day sun had been shining, and I saw Christ hanging on the cross, crucified for me. In that moment I had my first positive knowledge, which came like an overwhelming flood, that God loved me, and that Christ died for me. God and I were the only beings I was conscious of in the universe. I knew then, by actual sight, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; I was the whole world with all
its sin. I am sure that Paul's experience on the way to Damascus was o more real than mine . . .

"I resolved at once that I would study the Bible in the light of that revelation, in order that I might help others to see the same truth. I have always believed that every part of the Bible must set forth, with more or less vividness, that glorious revelation" (Letter, May 16, 1916, written just before his sudden death; as quoted in 1888 Re-Examined, p. 16).

The application of the principles outlined in this week's lesson run wide and deep. Confession and true, heart-felt repentance, coupled with restoration of ones we have wronged, must be experienced individually, in families, in our local churches, and in our world church.

Prophecy explains it is the message of the cross which will pierce through our thick armor of pride and self-justification: "Then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" Zech. 12:10.

And for those who are willing to see their sin, individually and corporately, "a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness," and "one will say to him, 'What are these wounds between your arms [or hands]? Then he will answer, 'Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends' " Zech. 13:1, 9.
-Patti Guthrie