He was an innocent man condemned to die. To ensure his execution, on his last night of life he was locked deep within prison walls, chained between two guards. His crime? He was an ardent disciple of Christ. His name? Peter. His reaction to his impending death the next morning? He was sleeping like a baby.
Acts 12 records the story of Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. Although guarded by 12 guards, two chained to either side of him, Peter was about to be set free and there was nothing anyone could do to prevent it.
And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. Acts 12:7
Peter, in silent amazement, followed his heavenly deliverer past each set of guards and through each locked door. He focused ahead on his help and before he realized what had happened, he was a free man.
Peter’s deliverance from prison is a fitting story for this week’s lesson on Living by the Spirit. As Paul continues in his letter to the church at Galatia, he is admonishing them to walk in the Spirit and avoid the works of the flesh.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21
Paul is calling the church to a life of purity. A life of purity is not just an avoidance of the obvious outward sins such as adultery, fornication, murder, etc. Paul also includes in his list those inward sins of the mind: hatred, jealousy, envy, and strife. It is often these internal attitudes and emotions that we excuse as not as deadly to our spiritual growth. Paul argues differently.
I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:21
Like Peter in prison, many of us need to be set free. We are often chained by the sins of our past and present. A triumph today is met with defeat tomorrow and we resolve that there is little hope for complete victory.
From all appearances, Peter was in a hopeless situation. But he had trusted his case to the God he served. When the angel appeared, Peter’s job was simply to follow. By following the heavenly aid, Peter was freed. We are to do the same. We are to closely follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and our freedom from sin is just as assured.
Paul knew that the only hope for the church was that they would grow in love. The errors that had crept in had created tension and dissension. They would never be able to fulfill the purpose of their existence unless they were on one accord. It would take the guidance of the Holy Spirit to free them and set them on a course of love and unity. Paul explains how they were to avoid and move past those pitfalls of fleshly (ungodly) living.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
“Walk in the light.” To walk in the light means to resolve, to exercise thought, to exert will power, in an earnest endeavor to represent Christ in sweetness of character. It means to put away all gloom. You are not to rest satisfied simply in saying, “I am a child of God.” Are you beholding Jesus, and, by beholding, becoming changed into His likeness? To walk in the light means advancement and progress in spiritual attainments. Paul declared, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but … forgetting those things which are behind,” constantly beholding the Pattern, I reach “forth unto those things which are before.” To walk in the light means to “walk uprightly,” to walk “in the way of the Lord,” to “walk by faith,” to “walk in the Spirit,” to “walk in the truth,” to “walk in love,” to “walk in newness of life.” It is “perfecting holiness in the fear of God”…. Ellen White 4 Manuscript Release, pg 273
Movement in the right direction is our recipe for success.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
What does spiritual growth mean to you?
How can one tell, if at all, that they are growing spiritually?
What does it mean to Walk in the Spirit?
Is it possible to be spiritual but not religious? Explain your answer.
What does it mean in practical terms to keep your eyes on Jesus?
In Jesus’s condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:23), He told them that they neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. What did He mean by that?
Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: We should not expect complete victory over sin until Jesus comes. Explain your answer.
We close this week’s lesson with another admonition from Paul that includes advancement and freedom from sin. We are either advancing or retreating. There’s no acceptable middle ground:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!