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Insight #5 April 29, 2017
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Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"Living for God"
April 29, 2017
 
The focus of this week's lesson on living for God encompasses more topics than what we can possibly cover in this Insights. 
 
Sunday's lesson discusses the goal of believers being of "one mind."
 
Peter's injunctions for believers run counter to our nature. Servants, submit to your masters even if they are harsh. Citizens, cooperate with the governing authorities so far as possible. Pay your taxes. Honor the king, even if he is a despot. Wives, submit to your husbands, even if they don't obey the Word. In short, "It is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil" 1 Peter 3:17.
 
In cases such as these, our natural human response to being treated unjustly is to be frustrated and angry. An outward conciliation may mask a secret desire for revenge.
 
What is it about the gospel that radically changes our hearts so much that our one desire is that we return not "evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing" 1 Peter. 3:9?
 
1888 messenger E. J. Waggoner identified an underlying core issue: forgiveness. We cannot experience unity in the faith when we harbor grudges against each other. Nor can we return good for evil or submit to injustice without getting angry unless the love of Jesus has penetrated our cold, hard hearts. 
 
"We have said that forgiveness is not natural to the human heart. Only to the extent that one is partaker of the divine nature, can he exercise true forgiveness. God's forgiveness is the standard for us. Says Paul: "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Eph. 4:32. No one can know how to forgive, unless he knows how God forgives; and nobody can fully understand how God forgives, until he has felt in his own soul the fullness of divine pardon. It will be worth our while to note a few texts which show how God forgives, so that we may know what spirit we should have. Let us read a few texts:- {May 5, 1887 EJW, SITI 262.12} 
 
" '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.' John 3:16. 'But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' Rom. 5:8. 'For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.' 1 Pet. 3:18. 'In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.' 'We love him, because he first loved us.' 1 John 4:9, 10, 19. {May 5, 1887 EJW, SITI 262.13} 
 
"We have heard it claimed that we are not required to forgive an offender unless he asks for forgiveness; that until he repents and begs for pardon, we are warranted in holding him off. But the above texts convey a different idea. We are to forgive as God forgives. Now suppose that God had made no movement towards the salvation of rebellious men until they humbled themselves before him; there never would have been any salvation for men. It is only because of his love for us while we were rebels, that we are enabled to come to him. He was under no obligation to mankind; the obligation was all on the other side; yet he took the initiative. God loved the world. He harbored no malice or enmity in his heart, because he had been insulted, and his laws trampled upon, but was filled with love and pity for poor, erring mortals. It grieved him to think that man would pursue a course that would inevitably end in his ruin, and he made the way easy for him to return to his allegiance, and begged him to come and be forgiven. The same spirit should actuate us. No matter how much we may have been misused, we are not warranted in entertaining the slightest feeling of enmity toward the offender. On the contrary, we should have such love for him that our only feeling would be that of sorrow that he should pursue a course so detrimental to himself. The thought of the personal injury we have sustained should be lost sight of in the thought of the greater injury which the offender's course will bring upon himself. It is not natural for us to do this; we can do it only when we are partakers of the divine nature. {May 5, 1887 EJW, SITI 262.14} 
 
"It may be said that God does not actually forgive men until they repent. This is true; but he desires that they shall receive his pardon, and therefore, so far as he is concerned, he has pardoned them. All that is lacking is for them to accept the pardon which he offers them; if they will not, he is clear, and the responsibility of their ruin rests upon themselves. God could not actually pardon an unrepentant sinner, for the reason that when he pardons it means far more than when we forgive. If a man has maliciously injured us, and we forgive him, it makes no difference with his guilt; but when God forgives the sinner, his guilt is by that pardon taken away; and it is evident that God cannot take away the guilt of a man who has no desire nor intention to abstain from his sins, but who is determined to retain his guilty practices. {May 5, 1887 EJW, SITI 262.15} 
 
"This brings us to another feature of forgiveness. It is very common for people to say that they can forgive but they cannot forget. That is not true forgiveness. The man who does not forget the injury, will brood over it until the bitter feelings will come up again with more than their original force; the harsh feelings are not put away, but only smothered for a time. The man who does not forget an injury done him, has never really forgiven the offender; he has not allowed love for the erring one to eclipse all thought 
of the injury done to himself, and without this there can be no forgiveness such as God exercises toward us. Divine pardon is justification; God pardons the believer in Christ, by imputing his righteousness "for the remission of sins that are past." The pardoned one is as though he had never sinned; where there was nothing but guilt before, God beholds nothing but righteousness,-righteousness put there through his own wonderful love. Then if we forgive as God forgives, we must regard the repentant offender as though he had done nothing against us. We must forget that he ever injured us. We must treat him and regard him as though he had done us nothing but good instead of nothing but evil. {May 5, 1887 EJW, SITI 262.16} 
 
"The man who forgives in this manner is a true disciple of Christ, because no one can do this unless he has experienced, and does at the time experience, the blessing of divine forgiveness. It is not enough that we have once been forgiven; we must have a vivid sense of the love of God toward us now, if we would not forgive as we ought. Under these circumstances the most difficult thing in the world to do, becomes the easiest. Because when we realize how sinful we are, and how much God has forgiven us, it seems a small matter in comparison to forgive the petty wrong done us by a fellow-man. When we contemplate the magnitude of our sin against God, all the wrongs that all men may have done to us, sink into insignificance. We think that the servant who had received a free gift of ten thousand talents from his lord was mean and ungrateful because he would not give his fellow-servant one hundred pence. If he had any sense of what had been done for him, he would have told his fellow-servant to keep the paltry sum, and would have thought no more about it. So if we have any just sense of God's love to us, we cannot fail to exhibit corresponding love to our fellows.  {May 5, 1887 EJW, SITI 263.1} 
 
Monday's lesson addresses the sufferings of Christ. 
 
E. J. Waggoner describes it this way:
 
"In the greatest trial that any being ever passed through, [Jesus] resisted unto blood. 'With His stripes we are healed.' Through His suffering, He 'obtained eternal redemption for us.' The victory over sin is to be obtained by us through our Lord Jesus Christ. So we come back to the words, 'Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.' What suffering, and what kind of suffering is here referred to?-Evidently to the suffering that Christ endured. Christ suffered for sin; we are to arm ourselves with the same mind; and having done that, His sufferings will be borne in us, and they will prove as effectual in us as they were in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. {September 14, 1893 EJW, PTUK 375.9} 
 
"It is no fancy that the sufferings of Christ are to be experienced by men who shall overcome. The Apostle Paul expressed this as his desire, 'That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." Phil. 3:10. And again, 'For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.' 2 Cor. 1:5. {September 14, 1893 EJW, PTUK 375.10} 
 
"There can be no question but that the man who resists sin as Christ did, will not sin. But the only way in which this can be done, is to have Christ Himself living in us His own life of resistance to sin. He alone of all those who have lived on earth, committed no sin. 'Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sin; and in Him is no sin.' 1 John 3:5. God was manifest in the flesh in order to demonstrate His ability to live in the flesh of man. He stands at the door of every heart and knocks, craving admittance. If He is given full permission to come in and take up His abode in any heart, He will resist sin with the same strength that He did eighteen hundred years ago, for He is 'the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.' 'Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.' " {September 14, 1893 EJW, PTUK 375.11} 
 
Beholding the cross transforms the life. Our only hope is to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face. Then the things of earth . . . whatever they may be . . . will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
 
~Patti Guthrie