Keys to Family Unity

Keys to Family Unity

Scripture: John 17:21, Genesis 33:12-14, Ruth 1:16-18
Date: 05/18/2019  Lesson: 7
"It’s one thing to quote Bible texts about oneness in Christ; it’s wholly another to actually experience it. What practical changes does Christ bring to our lives that enable us to experience the oneness and unity we have been promised?"

Teach Us to Pray - Paper or PDF Download

Teach Us to Pray - Paper or PDF Download
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Hello and welcome to another edition of the Sabbath School Study Hour. We are glad that you have chosen to be able to spend some time with us here over the next hour as we look at our favorite topic of the favorite book that you could ever study which is the Holy Bible. And so we are welcoming each and every person that is watching on the various networks. Many people are watching online even right now and in the future, as well as we have many online members that are also watching us here today. And so welcome to each and every one of you. We have many friends that are joining us, some of us for the very first time. We are thankful for each and every one. We are always thankful for our local church group here in the Granite Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church. And good to see your smiling faces. Good morning to you all. And I look forward to our study as we continue to worship here this morning. Before we do that, though, we want to make a special offer to each and every person that is watching. It's a very powerful little booklet written by Doug Batchelor. And it's entitled, "Teach Us to Pray." Many people are asking the question, as the first disciples of Jesus had asked Jesus Himself, "Lord, how can we pray or how should we pray?" You just need to dial into the number which is 1-866-788-3966. You can see it on your screen even now. And that free offer is number 717. And so when you call in, it's easier to ask for the number 717 than even the title of the book itself, but the title of the book is "Teach Us to Pray," and 1-866-788-3966. Now, we live in a digital age. And so we also have a digital copy of that, you can even download that on your phone. All you have to do is get on your phone and text, the code "SH065." And you want to text that to the number 40544. And again, you can also see that available online with the web address that is on the bottom of the screen there as well. For some of you, you might be interested in getting a copy of the digital quarterly study that we've been looking at from week to week this particular quarter of this year. We're looking at the topic of family seasons or seasons of the family. And so very important, very practical, but also very spiritual topic that we're looking at. And you can just simply go to lesson.aftv.org. Again that's lesson.aftv.org. And you can download yourself a free digital copy of that. We have a very special group of young people that are gonna be leading us in song for this, one of my favorite classics which is "Amazing Grace." And then we'll open with prayer and get in with our study. Again, thank you for joining us.

Our song would be "Amazing Grace" and we'll be singing verses one, two and five.

Thank you for singing.

Want to invite you to join me in prayer. God in heaven, I want to thank You so much for the opportunity to be able to study. Want to thank You so much for our church and the opportunity that You give to us to come together to be able to worship You, and to open Your Bible, and to look at these important topics that make a difference in our day to day lives, in our homes, in our marriages, in our families. And, God, as we look at this important topic on family unity, want to pray God that You will give us an extra measure of Your wisdom, that Your Spirit will speak to us and that You will help us to put in our pocket and take away what You know that we need to be able to take away and apply in our own marriages, in our own homes, that we might have more happiness, more joy that we might be able to glorify You and be a better witness. And so, God, we want to pray these things in Christ's name, amen. Today, we're looking at a very practical, very important topic, which is unity within the family. And unity within the family is not something that we can take for granted, is it? Some of us are saying, "No, not at all." And some of us are saying and nodding their heads "No," because we know by experience that we can't take it for granted because I know that there's more than one person here today that is watching this particular program that has experienced disunity within the family. Some of us are sitting here watching that are no longer with their former wives or former husbands. Some of us are estranged from our parents or from our children in different ways. And some of us might be together, but we find ourselves knocking heads more often than we find ourselves hugging. And so this is a very needful topic. This is a very practical and spiritual topic that is very important for us. And so let's get into it. There's lots of good counsel that the Bible gives to us on this and starting with the memory text itself. And so let's go to the opening chapter or page, I should say, on page 56, Keys to Family Unity. And so we have a quote there from Christ Himself, as He's praying and He's praying to His father. This is the context. He's talking to His Father out loud. He's within earshot of His disciples and He says this, "That they all may be one as You, Father are in Me and I knew that they also may be one in us that the world may believe that You sent Me." And so one of the great requests, by the way, this is the last prayer that Jesus prayed with His disciples before He was arrested, mocked, trialed and then crucified. And so this is no small prayer. This is the last prayer that Jesus lifts up. And one of the great themes, one of the great requests that He brings in for His Father. And that the disciples were hearing, was that, let them be one, even as we are one. And so Jesus wants us to be one big family, doesn't He? Jesus wants us to have unity. And that's important. That's a whole topic on its own. And that's another whole week's study. That's very important for us to look at. I believe that we looked at that just in recent months. But today, we're gonna apply that in the home because that same request, that same principle must start in the home because if it doesn't start in the home, it's very hard for us to transplant ourselves and bring that into the church family as well. And so as Paul himself said, concerning elder, "Do not choose an elder that cannot rule his family well. For if he cannot rule his family well, how can he rule the church?" You know and, of course, rule mean, been in lead, lead the church. How can you lead by example, if he doesn't have unity within his own home? And so that's important for us to understand. Now one of the things I always like to do with words when I'm studying a topic is really stop and park at one of those words and, of course, the key word here today is unity, unity. How many people here have ever ridden or can ride a unicycle? Raise your hand. Okay. All right, we have one. Any others? Okay, we have one unicycle rider. All right. I was curious when I was preparing this message, you know, in this study is that how many… You know, that's great. By the way, that's a great talent. I've always admired people that can ride a unicycle. Why did they call it a unicycle? Because uni means one, and cycle, of course, means bicycle, doesn't it? So it's a cycle with one wheel. So very difficult talent. A very difficult skill to be able to master and balance and such. So uni means one, doesn't it? And today we're looking at the key word, which is unity. And so uni is the very core of that word, isn't it? And, of course, uni means one. "Lord, I pray that they may be one," Jesus said to His Father even as we are one. Now, unity in the family is something that we all desire, is it not? How many here don't desire, don't care if they have unity in the family. All right, it's hard to find a hand that will go up with that, won't you? Now, all of us want it just like we want many things. We want happiness, we want joy, we want prosperity, we want all these things. But sometimes, we're not willing to deal with the obstacles that are before us. We're not willing to even acknowledge some of the obstacles that are before us. They get in the way of being able to achieve some of those different experiences in life. Now, one of the biggest obstacles that we have in the home, concerning unity within the family is called sin. Okay, where does sin come from? Where does sin come from? Well, sin comes from our sinfulness. Okay, it comes from, what some people call our fallen nature. And so there's an obstacle before us, there's an obstacle that can get in the way of family unity, unless we come to the solution. And that's why I'm glad that there's Monday's lesson because Monday's lesson is the most important lesson for the whole week study. And so we're gonna park here for just a little bit because if we don't have this down right, we'll never achieve the unity that God wants us to have in our family. And so that obstacle is there, that old man is there. Maybe it's not even an old man. For some of us that might be watching or some of us that are here today, we may be saying, "Well, I'm not even sure, I'm a new man or woman yet." But nevertheless, that old man as we call it as Christians, which is our sinful nature, our fallen nature, there's a bent within us that we're born with. That is a obstacle of life that we have to be able to make sure that we overcome and there's only way, only one way to overcome that obstacle. There's only one way to overcome that sinfulness and experience family unity and that is having the living Christ. Having the living Christ at the very center of our home, having Christ at the center of our heart, having Him as the focus not only as one family member, but in the ideal to have full unity with the family, within a family unit, within the home, it's for all of us to have our focus on Christ. Christ needs to be at the center of the home. Every time I think of this particular topic, the words of Joshua echo through the centuries back to me. And, of course, we come to Joshua 24:15. As he speaks before all of Israel, he is the replacement and the successor of Moses. He is the great leader of Israel. And, of course, he's a very deep and spiritual man. And as they were about to enter the Promised Land, as they were about to take the houses that they had not built and start to live in them, the vineyards that they had not planted and start to enjoy the fruits of them. As they start to enjoy all these gifts that God is going to bring them in the land of milk flowing with milk and honey, the Promised Land. Joshua knew that there was only one solution and the solution was not who has the best vineyard. The solution was not who could pick the nicest house. No, Joshua knew that the most important solution and the most important ingredient that each Israelite family must have was Christ at the center of their home. And Joshua was no dummy. He had been spending, while he's been spending over 40 years now with this particular people group. And he knew them very well. And he understood that not every one of them was making good choices. Not every one of them was choosing Christ in their home, in their marriage, in their families, in their lives. And so he says that, "If it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell." But he says, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," Joshua says, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Now, this particular statement is one of the most famous statements for Christians. Some of us have it on a plaque in our house. We have it in couple of places in our house that remind us and tell all our guests that we have made a decision to serve the Lord that He is number one, He is the focus of this particular household. Now, sometimes we can get confused when we read some of the statements and there's dozens of them and the Bible writings that we read that where the Bible writers will record and refer to a family as a house. And typically, while all the time when we say house, it always means a physical building. But dozens of times the Bible writers refer to house and used it synonymous with family. And this particular statement of Joshua helps unpack that and define that for us just a little bit because he says, as for me and my house, he doesn't say it will serve the Lord, but now he moves into what he really understood house to be which is the dwellers of the house, which is the family, the people, we will serve the Lord. And so house means family members. Today we will say household, everyone in the household. Now Joshua understood that we all need to make a choice. We all need to either choose to serve or to not serve the Almighty. This is the choice that Joshua clearly brought before the Israelites, before they went into the Promised Land. Now notice the choice is presented to serve God or not to serve God, not just to believe in God. Now some of us I believe make the mistake of thinking that as long as I believe in God, and I acknowledge Him every blue moon, why, I'm good with God. But that's not a saving relationship with God. A saved relationship with God is one who chooses to serve God. There's a big difference between believing in God and serving God. We need to believe in Him to be sure, but we also need to transfer our heart and our mind over to choosing to serve Him. And that's what Joshua was doing before the Israelites, wasn't he? He knew that they all believed in God, they saw the miracles, they saw the supernatural power in hand of God but that's not enough. To believe in His existence then believe that He was guiding them was not enough though. They need to make the decision to serve God, to serve God. So often, we want God to do all the serving. We want it all to come our direction. We make that mistake of believing that it's kind of a one way relationship and all the serving should come my way. But that's not really what the Bible presents. But the Bible presents in saying, "Hey, the real solution is, yes, God wants to serve you." He does want to bless you and give you things and help you in things and so on. But we need to be able to make it reciprocal, don't we? We need to be able to come to the Lord and say, "Lord, I have chosen to serve You. And, Lord, I submit to You each and every morning as my King of kings and Lord of lords. And what is it that You want me to do today? What do You want me to do this month, this year, this decade? Father, wherever You guide me that where it's where I will go." That's where God wants us to be. That's what it means to have a Christ centered life. That's what it means to be able to have Christ at the center of our house when we have a family that is full of people, a house that is full of people, a loving family that is focused on serving and worshiping the Lord. In Matthew 11:19, Jesus makes one of the most favorite imitations that I've ever read in all the Bible. It says, "Take my yoke upon me, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you shall find rest for your souls." Now in the imitation to the beginning there, Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon me and learn from me." And so Jesus here makes it very clear that to be a disciple, every disciple of Jesus, every true disciple of Jesus counts him or herself as a student. A student at the feet of Christ, one that is open to His counsels, open to His directions, open to His requests for you to serve Him in this life. I want to make a call to all husbands, all dads that are here, all that are watching, all husbands, all dads. God has called you and He's given you a first and highest responsibility within your home. For the well being of your family, and that starts with the spiritual well being of your family. God has given us as dads and husbands a very important responsibility. And I fear and I have observed and I know it breaks heart, God's heart each and every day is that this country is full of husbands and dads that are defaulting that responsibility over to the wife, defaulting and moving that position over to the mom. Now the mom has a role and it to be sure. She's not free of responsibility for it. But the father is the one that is the head of the family. He's the one that God has said, "Listen, I'm coming to you first. I'm holding you accountable first." Are you the spiritual leader of your home? Are you the one that makes sure that your daughters, your sons that are still in the home that they're having a worshipful spiritual experience with the Lord? Are you guiding them and encouraging them in a devotional life? Are you praying with them every meal and every Sabbath, and as the sun goes down and different opportunities that you have, and different struggles and needs and goals that you have as a family? That's what God calls you to do as a husband, as a dad. And that's why we have Joshua, who was the one that was speaking. He was not only the leader of Israel, but he was a husband. He was not only a husband, but he was a…? He was a dad. And so he says, Listen, as a husband and as a dad, I don't know what you're gonna choose, choose you this day. But I'm telling you here today that for me and my household, I'm gonna make sure that we choose the Lord. Now, of course, a husband and a dad can't force his faith on his wife, he can't enforce it upon their children. You know, that would be opposed to the very nature of God. God can't force us. He says, "Behold, I stand at the door and I knock and then if anyone opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with Me, and so it's up to us." But as husbands we need to use all of our influence, all of our power as much as possible, without forcing the will to be able to lead our children to the foot of the cross. To lead our children to the foot of Jesus, that's what Jesus wants. That's the key solution. The key solution to having family unity, it is the very foundation, it's the bedrock. When we come back to Joshua again, we find that Joshua was a great man of prayer. It was not unusual for his family to see him on his knees, because Joshua spent substantial time on his knees, praying for his family, praying for his nation, praying for the blessings that God wanted to bring among God's people in Israel and such. You know, there's an old saying that is repeated many time among Christian circles. "A family that prays together…

Stays together.

"Stays together." That's right. A family that prays together stays together. Now this needs to be more than a platitude. Of course, it needs to be a motto that we live by. It needs to be a living reality that that we experience as a family. Well, how do we unpack that? How do we unpack the solution in some practical ways within the home? Well, God doesn't leave us without some counsel. He doesn't leave us without some definitions of how to apply that spirit filled life. Certainly, the Holy Spirit guides us and leads our minds and our hearts in different ways and convicts us when we're going wrong and encourages us when we're going right. But God gives us the Word. He gives us hundreds of verses that help unpack that and give us some clarification as well. And so, one of my favorite passages of the lesson study brings us to is Ephesians Chapter 4. And so I'm gonna invite us all to turn there because we're gonna look at a longer passage there. Ephesians Chapter 4, and we're gonna start with verse 17. Ephesians 4:17, and we're gonna read right through to the end of the chapter. And so you just follow along in your minds as we continue on and I'll stop and make a comment here and there. Verse 17, it says, " This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles," speaking of unbelievers, "walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart, who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." And so he's pointing them to this contrast. Paul is painting this contrast between the unbelieving life and attitudes and lifestyle and that of a believer of the church, and many of them had previously been experiencing that. By the way, I was one of them. If some of you have heard my testimony. You know, I was so deep into myself. I was so entrenched in me, myself and I. And I was so full of myself, and so full of sin in my lifestyle that I was beyond feeling. I was distressed because I was so past feeling as it says in verse 19. But in verse 20, it says, "But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him." There it is, every disciple of Jesus counts themselves a student. Take my yoke upon me and learn from me. "If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus." And so to be taught, and Jesus has to be taught in the truth as it is found in Jesus. and I can't help but just stop and make it a bit of a comment in regards to that because there's too popular, there's a trend, there's a conclusion that is too popular within modern Christianity, and that is that we are moving more and more shifting in a direction that is saying that, you know, it's not really the truth as it is found in the Bible that's most important, but as long as we all accept and believe in the name of Jesus, in the person of Jesus. And, friends, it's important to believe in the person, in the name of Christ, amen? But God has called us to much more than that. Jesus says, "I am the way, the life, and the truth. No one can come to the Father except through Me." And so, friends, Jesus Himself is the truth. And we find dozens of comments, just like Paul's writing here that, that it's important as a Christian to understand that there is great depth, and importance, and vitality that comes from immersing yourself and being taught at the feet of Jesus. And if you want to be taught at the feet of Jesus, you got to come to this Bible, you got to come to this Word. God gives us that clarification. Jesus made it very clear that truth is paramount. And yet it is kind of being swept under the rug in modern Christianity today. Verse 22, "That you may put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind." Now, it's starting to describe the born again experience, the Holy Spirit either comes into your life, later in life as you make a decision from Him, for Him or as you make a decision daily, as you've been raised in the faith and continue to make that choice day by day. Either way, friends, there is a renewing of the mind that daily takes place when we worship and we serve and commit to Him. In verse 22, it says, "To be renewed in the spirit of your mind that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness, and holiness." So God calls us daily to put on the new man, to say, "Lord, help me to live in the spiritual experience that You want me to have with Your Holy Spirit, Your very presence within my heart, within my life, within my mind. That's why it says, "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." And then he starts to make some practical examples. Okay, Paul, you're telling us the before conversion experience, you're telling us the daily conversion experience that you want us to choose each and every morning as we go through our lives and through our days. But what does that look like? How does the rubber hit the road? And so, God and Paul doesn't leave us without some answers. He starts to paint that for us a bit. In verse 25, it says, "Therefore," in other words, therefore, in light of that conversion, that God offers us, "putting away line, 'Let each of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another.'" So if we were in the habit of lying before we came to Christ, God changes our hearts and now He helps us not to lie. In verse 26, it says, "Be angry, but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." And so he tells us to be very careful with our anger. Now, angry is not all… Anger is not always sinful. Jesus is on record of being angry. So having that emotion is not wrong. It's when we let it start to get out of control. When we lose our self control, then we can get in trouble and the devil can find that place in our heart. Verse 28, "Let him who stole, steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands, what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need." And so here, Paul is saying, going from a thief, to not being a thief, but even further than that. Now, instead of taking things that don't belong to you, now you're taking things that belong to you and giving it to others. And so he's saying, you want to take a complete 180, if you're a thief. "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to its hearers." Friends, too often over the years, you know, I've overheard different church members that thought that the pastor was out of earshot. And I hear some words that I've never heard them say before, words that they know a Christian shouldn't really be speaking. And it reveals to me that even church members, even church goers within the Seventh-day Adventist church, doesn't mean that you've allowed God to cleanse your heart in regards to this. When it says, let no corrupt word come out of your mouth, friends, you can go out and ask any unbeliever on the street, what is a corrupt word? And you know, what's a bad word, a foul word and they'll give you a list. Okay. They know it well and we know well, we know, maybe I hope we don't know well, but we know what those words are. And so even unbelievers can tell you what foul words are, what ones aren't. That's why they kind of, most of them, at least they should, you know, they believe they should is to watch your mouth when you're around little children. Don't say those words, don't say those corrupt words when you're around little children. But God says even when you're not around little children, you shouldn't be using those words. And so one of the things that God wants to do to with our hearts is clean up our vocabulary. And so He gives us that important counsel. Born again Christians will not use those words. In verse 30, it says, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." And so don't resist the work of the Holy Spirit as he wants to clean up your language, he wants to clean up your honesty or your dishonesty, he wants to clean up your thievery. Verse 31, "Let all bitterness," and now this is where we really need to listen carefully because this is important and concerns to home and home life and family unity. Verse 31, it says, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor," that's loud quarreling and I had to look at the margin, you know, what does clamor mean. And so the marginal reference told me that means… Scholars tell me that means loud quarreling. Shouting in the home. Have you ever experienced it? "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, loud shouting and fighting and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice." How much more blessed and how much more joy filled would our homes be if we were able to eliminate this completely and always. Now, friends, we have a merciful Christ. There's a Christ that is in heaven that tells us that this is a standard that He gives to us, and He knows that we're growing and understanding that standard and sometimes our spiritual life, our devotional life will get a little bit slack, and the old man kind of comes in and we find ourselves shouting in our house, speaking evil things, quarreling, fighting against those in whom we have vowed to love and are called to love closer than anybody else. It's hard to have a family, it's hard to find a family, hard to find a couple that isn't guilty of these different things at different ways in different times. But God has called us to put these things away when we find ourselves falling short, we need to get on our knees. We need to pray that God will forgive us and help us to be better people. To beat the verse 32, because in contrast, verse 32, God says that, "Instead we should be kind to one another. We should be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Now part of that forgiveness is when we find our husband or wife shouting at us. And we need and they regret it. They resent that they had said it. They're sorry for it, they're repentful for it. And we need to be able to be quick to forgive our spouses, quick to forgive our children as well. And not hold that against them and continue to give each other opportunity to be more kind, to have more opportunities, to be more tenderhearted. And so this is the great passage that we find in Ephesians that gives us some real practical changes that God wants to bring into the home, into the family life. And what He wants in the family life and what He tells us that we need to resist in the family life as well. I'd like to bring us to page 57. In page 57, we find here a quote, and it comes from one of my favorite books. It's entitled the "Adventist Home" page 179. And so the quote is near the bottom there in the second last paragraph of the page. And it says, "The closer we come to Christ, the nearer we shall be to one another." The closer that we come to Christ, the nearer that we will be to one another. And so, I just want to invite us to be able to kind of picture that a little bit, you know, it's like, you know, if Jesus is up here, and dad is here and mom is here and Sal is here and John is here. And we're all focusing and coming closer to Christ and the line is connected between us and Christ, and the closer we come to Him, the closer those lines like a spoke in a wheel come together, don't they? That is the number one solution. The number one solutions for couples and families that are presently threatened with separation, it is the number one solutions for those who already experienced separation of their hearts, some of them in their physical being. Many times a family or a couple needs revival and reformation more than anything else. More than anything else. You know, all the marriage and counseling books that you can find in all the shelves, all the therapists and all the hours that you can spend them with them, all will come up largely empty, if Christ is not the number one part of your solution. So often we're looking at everything in anything but the real thing. And we need to be able to remember that it's Christ first. Does marriage therapy help? Yes, it can, it help. Good Christian marriage therapist is sometimes part of that needful solution that God is leading you into. You know, and some, there are some good Christian marriage books. Some of us as pastors might have a word or two that we might be able to share with you to be able to help you through some of those troublesome waters and bring harmony back. But, friends, notice how I said it always should be Christian ideally, because all of it then is pointing us to the ultimate solution, which is the ultimate teacher, Jesus Christ. Every true disciple is a student of Jesus Christ, and this is no exception. Well, another key ingredient that this week's quarterly points us to is, for unity, of course, is defined most comprehensively in 1 Corinthians, and 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. Many Christians refer to as the love chapter, and rightly so because it is the most comprehensive, extensive definition of love that we can find in all the Bible. And so I have a volunteer that has kindly agreed to read 4-8 for us here this morning.

"Love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil. Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail, whether there are tongues, they will cease, whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away."

Okay, thank you. Thank you for that, Michael. So here we have one of the most beautiful inspiring passages that we can ever find it in all scripture. And how much more unity and love and joy would we have in the home, if we were able to live by this as the standard within our marriages, within our families. This is the great standard that God brings to us and calls us to live by. You know, I really appreciate the exercise that this particular week's study had guided us into, and it challenged us and it said, I want you to try just going through that passage, and every time you come to the word love, you replace it with your own personal name. And what a great practice, you know. And so instead in verse 4, it says, "Love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy." You can say, Shawn suffers long and is kind and Shawn does not envy and Shawn does not parade itself and is not puffed up and does not behave rudely and so on and so forth. And so, friends, what a great way to personalize this. And wow! Talk about challenging the heart. You know, can you read that and honestly say that reflects your experience. You know this is a great test to help us how much of a loving person am I. And if you can honestly put your name in all that and say, you know, for the most part or for the whole part, you know, this reflects the person that I am. This is how I make my way through the day. What a great way to test how loving of a person we really are. How close are we to the standard that God has set before us. You know, one of my favorite passages or statements in the Bible, it's one of the most important theological statements by far in all the Bible is three words, God is love many of your are saying with me, and I'm sure that you agree that is one of the most important statements in all the Bible. But the second test and the second statement that we can say is, am I love because if God is love and God has called us to be like God, we should also be able to say that I am love. Can you say that about yourself? In the standard of the definition that God has given to you, can you say that I am love, just like God is love? That's where God wants to bring us. That's where God wants us to be. That's where we find unity and harmony and joy within the home and within our marriages, and so we should be able to say. If we can't say it at this point, we should be on our knees after this lesson and saying, "God, help me to be able to put my name in there. And to be able to be loved just like you were love that I may be a godly person." Well, let's go to the top of page 58 because I find one of my favorite encouragements there in counsels on that subject. And certainly it points us in the direction that we need to go. And that's on page 58. On tip-top of page 58, we find 1 Thessalonians 3:12, and it says, "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other, and for everyone else." Kind of reminds me of a statement Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself." And somebody in the crowd say, "Well, who's our neighbor? And Jesus says, "Everyone," look next to you. What's the person that behind you, beside you, in front of you, behind you, they're all your neighbors. Every time you see a human being, that's your neighbor, Jesus said. And so here we find Paul saying the same thing, overflow for each other as believers but for everyone, for everyone else. God has given us a love in our hearts that should apply to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 3:12. You know, love is my favorite word in all the Bible. And I think it's God's favorite word as well. If you go to the Conflict series, which is, you know, a number of series of commentation written by Ellen White. You go to the very first book and it traces human history, all the way from the creation to the second coming and beyond. And when you come to the very first three words, it says, "God is love." That's how it opens up that greatest of all commentaries, I believe. And then you come to the very last three words at the end of the Great Controversy, and the same three words are there. "God is love." The word love appears 504 times in the Bible. Does that make it important?

Yes.

Sure, it does. It makes it vital. Now some of us think, "Well, almost all of those must be in the New Testament." And I have to confess before I looked at the research to look at the stats, I thought probably the bulk of them is in the New Testament. That's not true. If you're looking at round numbers, half are in the Old Testament, and half are in the new. Okay. The Old Testament covenant was based on love just as much as the new covenant is based on love. And sometimes as Christians we've been deceived in believing otherwise. Another all fine time favorite that I have in concerning to encouraging us in this subject in love is 1 Peter, and so Paul not only spoke about it, but Peter also speaks to the church. 1 Peter Chapter 1, and we're gonna look at verse 22. 1 Peter 1:22. And again we have a volunteer that is going to read that for us, thank you.

"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently."

Okay, thank you. So there it is. See that you love one another. And how much should we love one another? I love that adjective, with a pure heart and fervently. I love that. That's a good strong adjective, isn't it? You know, and so God doesn't say just love each other, you know, like assiduously, you know, kind of, you know, no, he says, I want you to love each other fervently. The world should be able to see a love among My believers. My Children that is different and higher in standard than the love that we find in any other people group around the world. And it starts with the Christian home and then expands into the Christian family of the church as well. And so I love these particular verses. Now, can God's love be fully expressed from our natural hearts? We're kind of coming back to the beginning of our lesson. Can God's love be expressed through our natural hearts? No! No, it can't. No, not at all. That's why it says in Proverbs 28:26, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool." Okay, so the Bible makes it very clear that we don't want to be fooled into trusted into our own natural hearts. Jeremiah put it this way, he says, "Our hearts are desperately wicked, and who can know it?" And so we have to be careful not to trust our own hearts. You know, Disney World is not right. Okay. They have all kinds of movies that are trying to convince us that we should trust in our own heart. Follow your heart. No! No, we need to be able to ask God to fill our hearts with His love, that God's mind might be ours, you know. Let this mind be in you which is also in Christ Jesus. This is the important solution that God is pointing us to. You know, too often as couples and I'm talking about married couples, or those who are coming together and considering marriage and they're exclusive one to another, too many couples fall in love, but they fall in love apart from Christ in their hearts. Christ hasn't come into their hearts yet. They haven't chosen to serve the Lord. And then they believe that all those wonderful feelings that they're experiencing will carry them through the years that are ahead. That will hold them together in that same wonderful experience. But what's really happening is this, is that all those wonderful hormones that God has created us with are being released within our system, you know, and the novelty of this fresh romance that has kind of embedded in our lives and that we're experiencing and making all those extra efforts that you naturally make to be as attractive as possible to the other person. You believe in, are tricked into believing that that's just going to carry on for years to come afterwards. But does it carry on for years to come afterwards? No, the novelty disappears, the hormones go back to normal. And we don't try quite as hard as we did in the first weeks or months that we're together, do we? Okay. And that's where the love of God comes into play. The deep abiding love of Christ is the only way that we can really allow that love to be able to last through the years and the decades that God wants us to be able to come together and stay together. A love that lasts and draws you closer and closer together can only come from the love of God in the heart. And that is so important for us to understand. Well, we're gonna turn to Romans 5:5. And so I invite you if you have your Bibles or phones and tablets to go to Romans. We're gonna go 5:5. And we have another volunteer that is going to read that for us this morning.

"And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

Okay, so there's that key word again, the key word is love. Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by who? By the Holy Spirit. And again, it's pointing us to the fact that it's not a love that we can find in our natural hearts. It's not a love that we can muster in of ourselves. It's not something that we can find from the ages of past and kind of, you know, discover the God within us. No, there's so many different ways that the world tells us that we can find love, but there's only one true abiding love that is deep and lasting and will bring it through the decades ahead, and that's the love of Christ. Responding to the great invitation of Joshua, the great spiritual leader of ages of old that says, "Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Well, Tuesday's lesson has a quote at the top of the page. And I just want to share that, we're close to wrapping up our lesson here. And so I don't want to miss that. At the top of the page on Tuesday's lesson and, of course, it's talking about selfishness as a family destroyer. It says, "Pride and selfishness, if pride and selfishness were laid aside five minutes would remove most difficulties." Wow! How many difficulties do we find that carry on week after week, month after month within the church at times, within our marriage, within our families? And here we have this great statement, it says, "Pride and selfishness were laid aside five minutes would remove most of those difficulties." And so the details of the difficulty is not really the difficulty. The difficulty is the two enemies that he is pointed out here, which is pride and selfishness, pride and selfishness. And so, God is telling us to recognize that these are our enemies, and it comes from birth. It's something that is innate within our own natural hearts. That's why the King David himself cried out in Psalm 51:5, he says, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceived me." And so David here is confessing and crying out this great truth and obstacle that we deal with for the rest of our lives. And that is that we are born with a bent to sin, a love for iniquity in our natural hearts. And that's why it's so important to ask God to fill our hearts every day that He might help us to be a new person each day, that He might help us to overcome that, that He might be help us to push our selfishness and pride aside and recognize them as enemies, and pride and selfishness is the opposite of God's love. So God tells us to push things aside. That's where God found me. You know, you go to a funeral. And sadly as pastors, of course, we're exposed to more funerals than you are. And one of the things that breaks our heart, it doesn't happen in every funeral, but too many, you know, funerals can be nasty occasions. And the reason why is because, you know, funerals are one of the classic places where the selfishness of the heart really reveals itself. You know, the mask is kind of pulled away. The facade is harder to carry because when you find a family that is arguing and fighting over who's gonna get mom special silverware, more than they are stopping and reminiscing and sharing the sweet memories that they've had with her. You know, that there's a problem. You know, that they're being operating their MO is their natural hearts. Selfishness is a real part of their existence, but God doesn't want it that way in our lives, does He? No, He wants us to lead a life of selflessness as the quarterly points out for us. Christ, of course, is the ultimate example. You know, Jesus led a perfect life of selflessness. And God calls us to be able to do the same. This is also, of course, found under the umbrella of love. And so we're gonna close with our volunteer here reading in Philippians 2:3-5, and Dan, if you could kindly read that.

Philippians 2:3-5. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in the loneliness of mind, let each esteem the others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."

How much time do you spend at the feet of Jesus fighting against whatever selfishness that you have in your life? When you recognize and God is convicting you and saying, you know, the reason that you're thinking and acting this way is because you know, you're selfish. Friends, that should be a flag, that should be a cue, I need to spend time on my knees and I need to get on my knees as soon as possible. And submit myself first to God. And then as we just read in the counsel, we can count each other, others outside of us more important than ourselves. And that doesn't matter what position you are. It doesn't matter if you're the President of United States or whether you're a janitor at the local school here. Friends, it is the same thing. All of us count each other more important than ourselves. That's the place that Christ wants us to be. That's the opposite of selflessness. That's the epitome of selflessness. And so as we close, we quote with… I want to quote Paul himself at the end of his life, he says, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race." And so Paul here reflecting upon his life, understood that the Christian life involves fighting. Now, it's not the fighting that we too often experience in our homes between husband and wives. No, he's talking about the fighting against the devil, fighting against selfishness, fighting against pride, fighting against sinfulness. This is the fight that he's talking about. So I want to encourage you to fight the good fight. Well, thank you so much for everyone that has been watching this particular program. We are so glad that you have come to join us. We trust that it has been something that has been helpful for your family life, either as a married couple today or a future married couple. And those who have children and such, don't forget to take advantage of the free offer that we have, which is a little booklet entitled "Teach Us to Pray," by Pastor Doug Batchelor. And it's free offer number 717. And you can see the number that you can dial on the screen. Simply dial that number and we'll be happy to send that to you, if you're in the United States or one of the territories. And again, there's also a digital copy available for your phone and you can see that information as well on the screen here today. God bless you. We love you and we look forward to seeing you in next week lesson.

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Amazing Facts changed lives.

I was born into a family of criminals. When I got older and I started breaking the rules, no one ever taught me about, Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not lie. Thou shalt not commit adultery, anything like that. When I became a runaway at 14, I was just a wild and lost child. I had somebody tell me, "Hey, you wanna earn some money cleaning this guy's kitchen." So I went to this house on a different side of town than I was used to. Someone kept giving me alcoholic drinks and being 115 pounds and 14 years old, it really didn't take much time before I was so inebriated that I had no control over what was going on around me. He took me to another location, another town. And I was put in isolation. I would come out to be abused between three and eight times a day. I was degraded. I was humiliated, that had no value as a human being. And I learned very quickly that what I felt and what I thought, and how this made me feel did not matter to him at all. If I even thought about not doing what he wanted me to do, I would have a gun to my head and knife to my throat. There was one time in particular where he had been tormenting me psychologically. And one day he said, "Oh, you'll never kill yourself. You'll never do it." And almost defiantly, I was like, "Yes, I will." And he handed me a handful of pills and I took them. While I was overdosing, and I had been overdosing all night, I cried out to a God that I didn't even believe in. And at that very moment in the most powerful way, God shown His light on me. And He gave me peace of mind, like I never had. And He let me know right then and there while I was on that bathroom floor, that He was real and then He was love. And that I did not know how at that time, but He was going to help me. A little less than a year later, I became pregnant at 15. I loved my son with my whole heart. He also became something that my abuser could use against me in order to pump more fear and coercion. I had finally got away from my abuser. And I'd finally built up a support system to help me stay on the move and stay on the run. And I was at my grandmother's house and on my son's third birthday, he took my son and when I called the police and said, "My son's just been kidnapped." They said, "He's the father. We can't do anything about it." After my son was gone, I lost my mind. I started doing drugs. And within a month and a half, I robbed a convenience store. So I was sentenced to 70 months, 5 years, 10 months in prison. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I started attending the church services in prison, seven days a week, it blew my mind. I was hooked. And then we went through, it was Millennium of Prophecy and NET '99 that just solidified my faith in such a powerful way. And I knew God, that God was leading me. Even the guards there commented on how much I had changed since I started doing the studies on Amazing Facts. I was so excited about what I was learning that I was coming back from there and trying to convert my heart into criminal friends with the Storacles of Prophecy. Every question I ever had, every worry, everything that I ever wondered about, the Bible answered everything, and it was so clear and so easy to understand. It's been 11 years since I've been out of prison. I am married to an amazing wonderful man, my first non-abusive relationship in my whole entire life. Before we got married, we watched the Millennium of Prophecy series together. And it was just such a blessing to be able to see him learn and see him grow. And I felt like my life now is just a gift that every single thing that happened to me bad in the past is nothing compared to the joy, and the happiness, and the stability that I have now. My name is Christine VanOrder, and my life has been changed by Jesus Christ and Amazing Facts.

Let's face it, it's not always easy to understand everything you read in the Bible. With over 700,000 words contained in 66 books, the Bible can generate a lot of questions. To get biblical straightforward answers, call into Bible Answers Live, a live nationwide call-in radio program where you can talk to Pastor Doug Batchelor and ask him your most difficult Bible questions. For times and stations in your area or to listen to answers online, visit bal.amazingfacts.org.

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