ABN Sunday school commentaries - March 3 & March 10

    February 28, 2019

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    March 3, 2019

    Explore the Bible

    Calls

    Mark 1:9-20 (HCSB)

    Often, new ministries are launched with much fanfare and production. However, Jesus began His ministry in the Judean wilderness in solitude.

    John was preparing people for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus obediently submitted to John’s baptism, not because He was a sinner but because He identified with sinful humanity (Mark 1:9). This was a fulfillment of prophecy (Mark 1:15). When Jesus was coming out of the water, the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and His Father spoke His affirmation from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You!” (Mark 1:11). This was the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry.

    After Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit led Jesus to the rugged wasteland of the wilderness for 40 days of solitude and fasting. It was there that Satan showed up and tempted Jesus. The battle for the souls of humanity experienced during that interaction continued all the way to the cross. Jesus had victory over the temptations and the tempter because He truly is the Son of God.

    Jesus began preaching His message in Galilee. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1:15). John had already been preaching repentance, but Jesus added, “Believe.” It was only by repenting from sin and believing in the good news that they would enter the kingdom. The good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    In Mark 1:16-20, Jesus called His first disciples. Down by the sea, Jesus called Simon and Andrew to follow Him. They would “fish for people” (Mark 1:17). He then called James and his brother John while they were tending nets (Mark 1:19). As soon as He called them, they left their nets and followed Him (Mark 1:20).

    Jesus calls all of us to believe the gospel, to leave our nets and to follow Him without compromise. His demands are great, but His blessings are much greater.

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    Bible Studies for Life

    When life feels empty

    Ecclesiastes 1:1-14 (HCSB)

    In a Peanuts comic strip I once read, Linus was working diligently to build an elaborate sand castle on the beach. A few frames later, it began to rain, with the rain eventually becoming so heavy that the sand castle was completely washed out. Linus remarked, “There is a lesson to be learned here, but I don’t know what it is.” I believe the lesson is: “the futility of human toil.”

    Solomon said, “Absolute futility. Everything is futile” (Eccl. 1:2). The New King James Version says, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Solomon used this word 38 times. The Hebrew word for “vanity” is translated as “vapor.” So “vanity of vanities” is translated “vapor of vapors.” Charles Swindoll translated it in more modern terms as “a puff of wind.” Solomon described his journey in the world as “a pursuit of the wind” (Eccl. 1:14, 17).

    Solomon’s grim outlook needed perspective. He asked, “What does a man gain for all his efforts he labors at under the sun?” (Eccl. 1:3). Solomon had an “under-the-sun” or a strictly human perspective. On his journey through life, he left God out of the picture.

    Because he left God out of the picture, all his efforts were pointless, wearisome and non-satisfying, and he found there was nothing new. Solomon boiled life down to a miserable task of chasing the wind.

    Solomon chased after things in the world and came up empty; so will we. Although Christ is not mentioned in the Book of Ecclesiastes, as believers we need to have a New Testament perspective as we apply each lesson from Ecclesiastes to our lives. We need to understand there is an “above-the-sun” or a heavenly perspective. Jesus came that we might have an abundant life (John 10:10). Life is not in vain if it is lived according to the will of God rather than the way of the world. Rather than chasing after the things of the world, we should seek God first and then all the things we need will be provided (Matt. 6:33).

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    March 10, 2019

    Explore the Bible

    Forgiven

    Mark 2:1-12 (HCSB)

    I once witnessed to a couple who shared their story with me. They spoke of lives lived for self, lives of every imaginable sin. They thought they were beyond forgiveness and bound for hell. I told them that God could, and would, forgive them if only they would ask.

    Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “At some point in our lives, we will be forced to consider two critical questions: 1) Can I be forgiven of my sins? and 2) Who can forgive me of my sins?” We are all sinners in need of forgiveness. Our sin separates us from God and leaves us spiritually dead. Jesus has the authority to forgive sins and to give us spiritual life.

    Many had gathered in a small house to listen to Jesus’ teaching. There was standing room only. There were some men who brought their paralytic friend in hopes of having him healed. However, there was no way into the house, so they lowered their friend on a stretcher down through the roof. Jesus was impressed with their faith and said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). We should note that the man probably did not come to Jesus to have his sins forgiven but, rather, for healing. Ultimately he received both.

    The scribes thought Jesus was blasphemous because only God could forgive sins (Mark 2:7). Jesus knew what they were thinking. He asked them which was easier: to forgive the man’s sins or heal his body. Jesus told the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home” (Mark 2:11). The man got up, picked up the stretcher, and left. Everyone gave glory to God.

    The scribes were correct; only God can forgive sin. Jesus is the Son of God Who takes away the sins of the world. This is man’s greatest need. Why did He heal the man? He told us, “So you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). This is the message we need to share with others. Jesus can and will forgive people of their sins.

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    Bible Studies for Life

    Forgiven

    Mark 2:1-12 (HCSB)

    I once witnessed to a couple who shared their story with me. They spoke of lives lived for self, lives of every imaginable sin. They thought they were beyond forgiveness and bound for hell. I told them that God could, and would, forgive them if only they would ask.

    Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “At some point in our lives, we will be forced to consider two critical questions: 1) Can I be forgiven of my sins? and 2) Who can forgive me of my sins?” We are all sinners in need of forgiveness. Our sin separates us from God and leaves us spiritually dead. Jesus has the authority to forgive sins and to give us spiritual life.

    Many had gathered in a small house to listen to Jesus’ teaching. There was standing room only. There were some men who brought their paralytic friend in hopes of having him healed. However, there was no way into the house, so they lowered their friend on a stretcher down through the roof. Jesus was impressed with their faith and said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). We should note that the man probably did not come to Jesus to have his sins forgiven but, rather, for healing. Ultimately he received both.

    The scribes thought Jesus was blasphemous because only God could forgive sins (Mark 2:7). Jesus knew what they were thinking. He asked them which was easier: to forgive the man’s sins or heal his body. Jesus told the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home” (Mark 2:11). The man got up, picked up the stretcher, and left. Everyone gave glory to God.

    The scribes were correct; only God can forgive sin. Jesus is the Son of God Who takes away the sins of the world. This is man’s greatest need. Why did He heal the man? He told us, “So you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). This is the message we need to share with others. Jesus can and will forgive people of their sins.

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    Bible Studies for Life

    The problem with pleasure

    Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (HCSB)

    In a class I took with Harvard University’s famed professor Michael J. Sandel, he asked, “In the pursuit of the good life, how do we know what to do?” One young man said, “If it feels good, do it.” This seems to be the mantra of our culture. Much has been written about the pursuit of the good life. With 7.3 billion people on the planet, one can imagine how many definitions of “good” exist. Our perception of the good life will dictate how we pursue it.

    Solomon pursued the good life. He said to himself, “I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good” (Eccl. 2:1). In Solomon’s pursuit of the good life, he experimented with laughter and wine. Perhaps he had a great banquet with many entertainers, lots of folly and lots of wine. When the party was over, he examined his heart, only to find that he was dissatisfied and empty. His conclusion: “But it turned out to be futile” (Eccl. 2:1).

    Solomon turned his attention to the pursuit of all kinds of projects (Eccl. 2:4-10). The Old Testament record that Solomon started many projects, including houses, cities, gardens, vineyards, forests, water systems and that he supervised the construction of the temple. He acquired workers, including slaves he purchased and those born to his household. He accumulated great wealth in the form of flocks, herds, gold and silver. The richest man in the world looked over all he had done and all he had acquired, and he said, “I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind” (Eccl. 2:11).

    Solomon wasn’t condemning work and wealth. Life lived “under the sun” without principles “above the sun” is non-satisfying and empty. Solomon, like the young man from Harvard, lived with the philosophy, “If it feels good, do it.” The problem is that, without godly principles, good feelings can lead to wrong actions. Worldly pursuits without godly principles will blind us to what is really good and what is really important.

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    Sunday School Commentaries