December 25, 2016 – December 31, 2016
“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).
Study Help: Testimonies, vol. 3, 445, 446.
The true prosperity of the church depends upon separation from the world and a true connection with God.
1 FIRST THINGS FIRST
- What should be our first interest? Ephesians 2:21.
Note: “Every believer should be wholehearted in his attachment to the church. Its prosperity should be his first interest, and unless he feels under sacred obligations to make his connection with the church a benefit to it in preference to himself, it can do far better without him.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 18.
- What will promote the prosperity of the church? Ephesians 4:16.
Note: a. A living connection with Christ. (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1144.) b. Unity and mutual confidence. (Testimonies, vol. 3 445, 446.) c. Religious education of the young people. (Fundamentals of Christian Education, 388, 389.) d. The proper food given her. (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 942.) e. Personal effort. (Evangelism, 338.) f. Financial contributions. (Testimonies, vol. 3, 405.) g. Order, rules and discipline. (Ibid., 294, 445, 446.) h. Cherishing the precious plant of love. (Ibid., vol. 5, 123.)
2 RIGHT AND WRONG CONCEPTS OF PROSPERITY
- By what must the prosperity of the church and her institutions be measured? John 15:4.
Note: “If you lower the standard in order to secure popularity and an increase of numbers, and then make this increase a cause of rejoicing, you show great blindness. If numbers were evidence of success, Satan might claim the preeminence; for in this world his followers are largely in the majority. It is the degree of moral power pervading the college that is a test of its prosperity. It is the virtue, intelligence, and piety of the people composing our churches, not their numbers, that should be a source of joy and thankfulness.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 31, 32.
“Our professions are worthless unless we abide in Christ; for we cannot be living branches unless the vital qualities of the Vine abound in us. In the genuine Christian the characteristics of his Master will appear, and when we reflect the graces of Christ in our lives and characters, the Father loves us as He loves His Son. When this condition is fulfilled in those who profess to believe the present truth, we shall see a prosperous church; for its members will not live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and they will be flourishing branches of the living Vine.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1144.
- Give the distinction between essential and apparent prosperity. Acts 7:48; Isaiah 57:15.
Note: “It is when the vital principles of the kingdom of God are lost sight of, that ceremonies become multitudinous and extravagant. It is when the character building is neglected, when the adornment of the soul is lacking, when the simplicity of godliness is despised, that pride and love of display demand magnificent church edifices, splendid adornings, and imposing ceremonials. But in all this God is not honored. He values His church, not for its external advantages, but for the sincere piety which distinguishes it from the world. He estimates it according to the growth of its members in the knowledge of Christ, according to their progress in spiritual experience. He looks for the principles of love and goodness. Not all the beauty of art can bear comparison with the beauty of temper and character to be revealed in those who are Christ’s representatives.” Prophets and Kings, 565, 566.
3 SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD
- What may be learned from the mistake made by the founding Fathers of America? What has always resulted from attempting to build up the church by the help of the state? James 4:4.
Note: “A profession of religion being the condition of suffrage and office holding, many, actuated solely by motives of worldly policy, united with the church without a change of heart. Thus the churches came to consist, to a considerable extent, of unconverted persons; and even in the ministry were those who not only held errors of doctrine, but who were ignorant of the renewing power of the Holy Spirit. Thus again was demonstrated the evil results, so often witnessed in the history of the church from the days of Constantine to the present, of attempting to build up the church by the aid of the state, of appealing to the secular power in support of the gospel of Him who declared: ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18:36). The union of the church with the state, be the degree never so slight, while it may appear to bring the world nearer to the church, does in reality but bring the church nearer to the world.” The Great Controversy, 297.
- Where should be the real citizenship of true Christians? From what will they abstain? Hebrews 11:10, 13; John 18:36.
Note: “In regard to the world, Christians will say, We will not dabble in politics. They will say decidedly, We are pilgrims and strangers; our citizenship is above. They will not be seen choosing company for amusement. They will say, We have ceased to be infatuated by childish things. We are strangers and pilgrims, looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 131.
4 MUTUAL HELP
- How can church members strengthen the hand of the leaders? Quote an example from the days of Moses. Exodus 17:10–13. What will give members power to support the church?
Note: “Let each church member feel that he himself must be right with God, that he must be sanctified through the truth. Then he can represent Christian character to others and can set an example of unselfishness. If each will do this, the church will increase in spirituality and in favor with God.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 481.
“The churches would realize one hundredfold more of the workings of the Holy Spirit if ministers would educate all to bear in mind that they have a God nigh at hand, and not afar off, and that they can honor God by seeking Him for help and wisdom just where they are. They will then have ability which will strengthen the General Conference.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 326.
- How can the leaders strengthen the local churches? Quote an example from the days of the apostles. Acts 6:1–3.
Note: “The disciples of Jesus had reached a crisis in their experience. Under the wise leadership of the apostles, who labored unitedly in the power of the Holy Spirit, the work committed to the gospel messengers was developing rapidly. The church was continually enlarging, and this growth in membership brought increasingly heavy burdens upon those in charge. No one man, or even one set of men, could continue to bear these burdens alone, without imperiling the future prosperity of the church. There was necessity for a further distribution of the responsibilities which had been borne so faithfully by a few during the earlier days of the church. The apostles must now take an important step in the perfecting of gospel order in the church by laying upon others some of the burdens thus far borne by themselves.” The Acts of the Apostles, 88, 89.
5 THE HOME AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
- Where is the foundation for the prosperity of the church to be laid? I Timothy 3:4, 5.
Note: “In the home the foundation is laid for the prosperity of the church. The influences that rule in the home life are carried into the church life; therefore church duties should first begin in the home.” The Adventist Home, 318.
- On what power is the prosperity of the church always dependent? John 14:12–18.
Note: “The promise of the Spirit is a matter little thought of; and the result is only what might be expected—spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death. Minor matters occupy the attention, and the divine power which is necessary for the growth and prosperity of the church, and which would bring all other blessings in its train, is lacking, though offered in its infinite plenitude.
“It is the absence of the Spirit that makes the gospel ministry so powerless. Learning, talent, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowment, may be possessed; but, without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will have a power that will tell upon hearts.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 21, 22.
REVIEW AND THOUGHT QUESTIONS
1 What should have a high priority in our lives?
2 What constitutes real prosperity?
3 What dangers are in seeking material help and support?
4 What examples do we have for cooperation with the ministers in their work?
5 What is necessary for prosperity in the home and the church?
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