Author Archive

Christ and Religious Tradition – Lesson 3

Escape (282x300)So He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
 Luke 4:16-19

In the parables which Christ had spoken, it was His purpose both to warn the rulers and to instruct the people who were willing to be taught. But there was need to speak yet more plainly. Through their reverence for tradition and their blind faith in a corrupt priesthood, the people were enslaved. These chains Christ must break. Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p 611, 612

How tragically ironic that a people who religiously observed the Passover representing God’s deliverance of an enslaved people from Egypt could not comprehend they were just as enslaved to false teachings and needless traditions of men. Christ came to set them free from traditions that under a guise of righteousness were nothing more than cunningly devised methods of control that led away from the truth.

The religious rulers who longed to be free from the dominance of the Roman power were meanwhile unscrupulously dominating those that revered them as godly leaders. While they were looking for a Messiah to deliver them from bondage they would plot to kill the Messiah who came to deliver them from sin.

This week as we look at Christ and Religious Tradition we come face to face with one of the greatest helps or hindrances to spiritual growth. As recorded in Matthew 23 Christ pulls back the curtain on the Pharisees who sat in Moses’ seat. He revealed the hypocrisy that ran rampant through the leadership. He exposed the pride of the natural heart that found its way of expression through so-called prayers and public exhortations.

Christ’s full assault against the debilitating traditions of the Pharisees was more than a discussion over preferences to worship styles and practices that governed society. This was not a matter of finding more modern relevant ways of serving and worshiping God. This indictment of their traditions was deeper than that. Eternal life weighed in the balance.

“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.” Matthew 23:13 The Message

It’s really quite stunning when you think about it. Instead of being seduced by heathen gods and practices, the people were being seduced by their own. The enemy was within the camp. But thanks be to God who provides salvation to all, including those who thought they didn’t need it, Christ came to set captives free.

What about today? What about our religious traditions and maxims of man? Are they roadblocks to God’s kingdom or helps? Are we fostering godliness or creating incubators for spiritual pride? Will we debate style over substance? Sabbath school should be very interesting this week!

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does “tradition” mean to you?
  • What is the difference between a good tradition and a bad tradition?
  • Some say Jesus left us an example of compliance to religious laws and norms and traditions. Is that true? Why or why not?
  • Isn’t it true that unless a religious tradition clearly violates principle we should comply? Why or why not?
  • Isn’t it true that we should discard traditions that are not relevant to today’s society, i.e. young people and unchurched? Why or why not?
  • Isn’t it true that the best way to attract new members is to make our church traditions and practices more modern? Why or why not?

We close this week with an insightful exchange over the role of highly-regarded traditions alarmingly disregarded by Christ and His disciples:

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. Mark 7:5-9

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

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Christ and the Law of Moses – Lesson 2

Law (218x300)Straining to reach through the crowd, a nameless woman refuses to lose her opportunity for healing. Just beyond the crowd was her miracle. Just beyond the crowd was the start of a new life. It would not be an easy task, but it was worth any discomfort to achieve the desire of her life. The woman with the issue of blood as recorded in the Gospels is our role model for this week’s lesson.

The subject of Christ and the Law of Moses is rich in historical facts and understanding of the life and times of Jesus when He walked this earth as a man. We gain insights into those days, revealing the influences that shaped the recorded history of the chosen nation.

I Don’t Know

ThinkingWhen He walked this earth as a man I don’t know what color His eyes were but I know they were filled with compassion.

I don’t know what color His hands were but I know they were filled with healing.

I don’t know how His voice sounded but I know it was filled with love.

I don’t know how tall He was but I know His name is above all names.

I don’t know how far He walked but I know His grace encircles everyone.

I don’t know what Jesus looked like but I know He saved my soul.

The Cost of Discipleship – Lesson 13

The Cost of DiscipleshipFrom that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. John 6:66

To outward appearances this was a crushing rejection – the defection of a multitude of disciples. Only a day prior these same defectors were intent on making Him the king of the nation. Their enthusiasm had never been higher as they saw in Him the potential to fulfil all their dreams and desires. Now they turned their backs on Jesus and walked away.

What happened? The answer is found in John 6.

Discipling Spiritual Leaders – Lesson 11

Mentoring LeadersWax on… wax off. Wax on… wax off

You might recognize that phrase from the 1984 hit movie, “The Karate Kid.” A young student is expecting to learn karate but his teacher, Mr. Miyagi, gives him seemingly mundane jobs that are unrelated to karate. Daniel, the young star of the movie, is given the task of washing a car. As Mr. Miyagi walks away he repeats the simple instruction while making circular motions with his hands, “Wax on… wax off. Wax on… wax off.” Little did young Daniel know that the careful execution of the mundane was preparing him for the biggest stage of his life. Wax on… wax off. Wax on… wax off

Discipling the Nations – Lesson 10

MuseumToday we visit the Museum of Discipleship. We’ll take a fascinating stroll through the displays showcasing the legends of the gospel proclamation. Each room houses priceless treasures belonging to the heirs of salvation. Of particular interest today will be our visit to the Discipling the Nations gallery.

You’ll notice as we make our way to our destination the various hallways of honor. The Wall of Courage contains many of our Bible heroes. Joshua, David, Gideon, Moses, Joseph, Paul and Noah are just a few of those who served and witnessed for God with courage and honor during difficult times.

Discipling the Powerful – Lesson 9

ThroneI saw it the minute I pulled into the parking lot of a large, modern, attractive church building. There in bold letters was a clear indication of the spirit of this church. You’re probably thinking I am referring to the church marque. It’s usually there where a church makes an attempt to share a little of the personality of the greater body. Witty sayings or service times along with the head pastor’s name are typical. But that’s not what caught my eye.

As I pulled into the church I noticed a row of reserved, prime parking spaces. Along with the typical handicapped spaces these were marked clearly to show the preference of the body. Each of these prime spaces were marked “Visitor.”

There were no reserved spaces for pastors or department leaders – none.

Jesus and the Social Outcasts – Lesson 7

OutcastWe interrupt this week’s lesson discussion to bring you breaking news out of Jerusalem. Jesus has just concluded a major speech dealing with the volatile topic of race relations between the Jews and the Samaritans. What started out as a discourse on the process of salvation turned into what can only be described as a watershed moment dealing with the makeup of our society.

As many of you know there has been a lot of debate in the country recently over the propriety of interacting with the lower classes of society. The esteemed lawyer Tobiah asked Jesus his view on the hot-button issue of our generation, namely “Who is my neighbor?”

With what can only be described as a masterful response, Jesus has upended the social norms and revolutionized forever the concept of dealing with those that need help, regardless of their race or standing in life. His speech is being called “The Good Samaritan.”

Discipling the “Ordinary” – Lesson 6

Private ClubThe word of the day is Potential. Everyone has potential. No one can decide what its limits are. Only God knows. And we must try to develop potential; not just in ourselves but also in those we serve. Potential.

“In the common walks of life there is many a man patiently treading the round of daily toil, unconscious that he possesses powers which, if called into action, would raise him to an equality with the world’s most honored men. The touch of a skillful hand is needed to arouse those dormant faculties.” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p 250)

Discipling the Sick – Lesson 5

SicknessHe had only one hope. No other options. No other solutions. He had used every resource at his disposal and everything that concerned family members and friends could do had been done. Now dangling in a bed let down through the roof of Peter’s house, he was at his moment of truth.

The familiar story of the paralytic shared in Luke 5 contains many of the shared experiences of those facing sickness personally or dealing with loved ones who are sick. The sense of fear, sorrow and pain is common. And for some there is the added guilt and remorse for lifestyle choices that led to their state of being.