Lesson 1: The Greater Light

Memory Text:

…and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).


Fun Facts of the Day:

  • The Bible was written by an estimated 40 men
  • …who wrote it over the course of approximately 1600 years
  • In matters of theology, the Bible never contradicts itself
  • And it is historically accurate (supported by sources such as Tacitus, Josephus, and archaeology)
  • Over 100 million copies are sold or given away every year, making the Bible one of the longest-standing best sellers of all time
  • It has been translated in part or in whole into 2,426 languages, enough to reach roughly 95% of the world population (2007)

Lesson:

Lesson 1 – The Greater Light (PowerPoint)

What is the Bible?

At the core of every religion is the question of “What do I believe?” and “Why do I believe it?”

For a true follower of God, these questions center around the Bible. But what is the Bible? What sets this collection of 66 ancient books apart from any other book you can pick up off a bookstore shelf? Without understanding what the Bible is, it is hard to understand why we should care about what is inside it.

In 2 Timothy 3:14-17 we read,

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So what is the Bible? The Bible has more than one function and purpose in our lives, so much so that it merits a closer look. Let’s take a look at what the Scriptures have to say about themselves.


Saturday: The Bible is the Word of God

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

What sets the Bible apart from any other book? From whom does it get its authority? Why should any person care about the words written inside? Understanding why we believe in something is vital to our ability to defend what we believe when (not if) we are ever challenged.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The word we translate as “inspiration” is the Greek word theopneustos, which literally means “God-breathed.”

There are only two major instances in the Bible in which God specifically “breaths”: first when He breathed life into the clay form of the first human, and second when He “breathed” (inspired) the Bible. The fact that God specifically breathed the Scriptures into existence through the inspiration of biblical writers is significant. Like that clay form lying on the ground at the beginning of creation, the Bible, as a book, a collection of inked images on degradable paper, is lifeless. What makes the Bible special is where those words, translated into ink, came from: God. It is because the words of the Bible were inspired (breathed) by God that we can have faith in what we read there.

The Bible is a living text message from God to us. The words that were relevant to the people in the time of King David or Paul are just as relevant to us in this day and age.

Yes, the core of Christianity is following Christ, but our knowledge of Christ, His mission, and His message are all contained in the Bible. In it is every love message, instruction, promise, encouragement, and warning God has ever given to humanity. And if “all Scripture” is “God-breathed,” then really, we only have one of two choices: to accept it completely or reject it completely. That is the choice we must make.

Think about it:

  • Why is it important for us to believe that the Bible is inspired by God?
  • In what ways can you use the Bible to help you in your everyday life?
  • What does the term “God-breathed” mean to you?

Sunday: The Bible is Prophecy

…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).

From the prophecies in Isaiah to the book of Revelation, from Jeremiah to Daniel to John, the Bible is full of prophecies and predictions, some limited to the prophet’s given place and time, some pointing far into the distant future.

On the website Grace Thru Faith, the question was posed, “How much of the Bible is prophecy?” The answer was as follows:

According to “The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy” by J. Barton Payne, there are 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 prophecies in the New Testament for a total of 1,817. These prophecies are contained in 8,352 of the Bible’s verses. Since there are 31,124 verses in the Bible, the 8,352 verses that contain prophecy constitute 26.8 percent of the Bible’s volume.

In short, an estimated 27% of the Bible is specifically prophecy. But then, there are a lot of people out there who claim to be prophets. What makes the Bible different?

The key in all of this is that, in all things, the prophets of the Bible focused on God rather than themselves, allowing God to speak through them. Many of them (John, for instance) suffered horrible abuse at the hands of non-believers. Yet still they bravely proclaimed the word of God, foretelling through the power of God alone what would and/or could come to pass.

Like the rest of Scripture, the prophecies contained in the Bible came not from the prophets themselves but, rather, from God. Some of the prophecies contained in the Bible are things that have already occurred. Some have yet to be fulfilled. But all of them were meant to give mankind, both past and present, a glimpse into the future, giving them the opportunity to prepare or repent accordingly for the results that were sure to follow.

Think about it:

  • Why is Bible prophecy important?
  • Is prophecy always a foretelling of things that cannot be avoided?
  • What kinds of prophecies can you find in the Bible?

Monday: The Bible is a Guiding Light

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

Anyone who has paid attention in church at one point or another has probably heard this verse read, if not sung, at least once. The concept of the Holy Scriptures being a guiding light is one of the key illustrations that the biblical writers used to help us understand what the Bible really is.

In literary terms, darkness most often represents ignorance, distraction, or evil. Light cuts through that darkness, showing us a way out of our lives of sin and meaninglessness. It acts as a guiding light to help us make choices in a world of darkness, to keep us from wandering away from the God we love.

There’s a second part to this illustration, though, one that comes from a more practical and historical understanding of the times in which this psalm was written.

In ancient times, there was no such thing as street lights or light pollution. If you think night time in most of the modern world is dark, you don’t know what dark is. People of that era would have had very few options for moving around safely at night. According to an archaeologist I spoke with, the phrase “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” actually harkens back to the ancient practice of tying small oil-fueled lamps to the sandals on a person’s feet. These little lamps would have been used in the darkness of a pre-electricity world to prevent the wearer from tripping over stones, falling in potholes, stepping in animal manure or, worse yet, accidentally encountering one of the region’s many poisonous snakes.

Like those small, oil-filled lamps, the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit (often represented by oil in the Bible), shines in the darkness to guide us away from temptations, theological and philosophical traps, misunderstandings, and the venomous poison of Satan’s lies.

Think about it:

  • Are there any instances in which the Bible has helped you avoid making a choice you would later regret?
  • In what ways can the Bible be a light to your path?
  • How important is it to have a guiding light in our own lives?

Tuesday: The Bible is a Shield

Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him (Proverbs 30:5).

You’re walking down a dark street, a few patches of light serving as the only thing to break through the looming shadows. You feel like you’re being followed, but you can’t tell for sure. Then, all of a sudden, a stranger jumps out of the darkness, a knife blade aimed right at you. What happens next?!

The concept of a sword and shield may seem a bit old-fashioned. Maybe you think about a viking standing at the bow of an old, wooden sailing ship; or maybe it calls to mind images of a medieval knight covered in plated armor and chainmail. Cool, right? But hardly the sort of thing you could expect to see nowadays. (Unless you go to Comicon or a renaissance festival, of course). So the Bible is our sword and shield. What does that mean to us?

The Bible is, at once, a shield to defend against the attacks of Satan and this world and a sword to strike back, cutting away the sins in our lives and defeating the temptations that try to lead us away from God. Though we may not see it, there is a very real war between the forces of God and the forces of Satan that is being waged around us (Ephesians 6:12). At every point, both sides fight to win our allegiance, and when we choose to serve God, every weapon in Satan’s arsenal becomes directed at us.

The Bible says that the Word of God is, “…pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.”

The fact that it is pure is significant. Because the Word of God is pure, it is flawless, a mithril (impenetrable) shield against those who would seek to do us spiritual harm. There are no cracks or dents in this invisible shield. It is perfect, able to put up a flawless wall of protection around us, but there is a condition that goes along with it: we must be willing to put our trust in God, the one who is the source for this incredible shield.

Think about it:

  • In what way is the Bible a shield?
  • How can you make it your shield?
  • What do you think the Bible means when it says that the Word of God is “pure”?

Wednesday: The Bible is a Sword

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

What is the first thing you think about when you think about a sword? Is it something to defend yourself with? Is it something to hack, slash, and destroy things with? Too often people look at the Bible as a weapon to be used to beat people down without truly understanding what Scripture is really all about.

The Bible was meant not to destroy people but, rather, to destroy the evil that threatens to destroy those people. It is “living and powerful,” a means of cutting out the sinful heart inside each of us so that God can replace it with a clean heart capable of loving both Him and others.

The Bible changes lives.

In his book Your Bible and You, author Arthur Maxwell relates this story:

In 1852 a missionary named Snow landed on the island of Kusaie, between Tarawa and Saipan in the Carolines. At that time it was a place of unspeakable horrors, but Snow patiently reduced the native language to writing and began to translate the Bible into it. Ultimately, after many years had passed, the whole Bible was printed in that language by the American Bible Society. Dr. Stifler reports an interview with the king of Kusaie, John Sigrah.

“How many murders a year now?” the king was asked.

“There has not been a native murder in my lifetime,” said the king, and he was 60 years old when he said it.

“Well, then, how many minor offenses? How many cases of detention in your jail this year?”

“Jail!” exclaimed the king. “There is no jail.”

The Bible is meant not to cut down people, but to cut down the Lord of Sins, Satan. Jesus Himself used the Scriptures to counter every temptation the Devil threw at Him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).

Think about it:

  • How do you know the difference between using the Bible as a sword against sin and misusing it as a sword against people?
  • What do you think the verse means when it says that the Bible is “living and powerful”?
  • How does the Bible change lives?

Thursday: The Bible is a Ruler

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20).

It all started in Manhattan in the early 1990’s. He was a smooth talker, if a bit eccentric, with a wide network of “friends in high places” and all the airs of an aristocrat. He called himself Clark Rockefeller, and to everyone around him he seemed to be the poster child of what an heir to that name might be like. Only, he had never been listed on a tax return, his cell phone was in a friend’s name, and his credit cards were all on his ex-wife’s accounts. If not for his kidnapping of his daughter after a particularly nasty divorce, the world might never have known that Clark Rockefeller, a.k.a. Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, was an imposter.

The world around us is full of deception, throwing opinions, feelings, and beliefs at us from all different angles. Sometimes the tricks are so obvious we want to laugh at how ridiculous they sound; sometimes, though, the lies are more subtle, so drenched in truth that we can’t even see the poison underneath. In a world like this, how do we tell the truth from the lies?

The Bible says that “if they [the words of the people around you] do not speak according to this word [the Word of God], it is because there is no light in them.” Despite the confusion of the world around us, we have one constant way to measure truth: the Bible. It acts as a ruler, telling us whether the “truth” of the world measures up to the standard of living God has set before us.

Think about it:

  • How do you use the Bible as a ruler?
  • Can truth be relative according to the Bible?
  • When the world tells you something is right or wrong, how would you go about answering it?

Friday: The Bible is Truth and Purity

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).

We have already established that the Bible is a ruler by which to measure truth, and this works because, as it states in John 17:17, the Word of God is the ultimate truth. But does truth have any effect on us?

“Sanctify them by Your truth.”

What does it mean to be “sanctified”? This is one of those archaic (extremely old, seemingly-outdated) words that we come across again and again in Scripture. To have a firm grasp on what this verse means, we have to understand the words being used.

The word “sanctify” means:

  1. to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate
  2. to purify or free from sin
  3. to impart religious sanction to; render legitimate or binding
  4. to entitle to reverence or respect
  5. to make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing

Through careful study of the Bible and acceptance of God’s truth, the Scriptures then become one final, powerful thing: a purifier. God’s word leads us to faith in God, and through that we find ourselves free from the prison of sin we were born into. We become set apart, legitimate children in the family of God. And in turn, we desire to bring glory to the God who loved us so much that He was willing to die a horrific death in order to save us.

Think about it:

  • How does God’s truth purify us?
  • What does it mean for us to be “productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing”?
  • Why is sanctification important?

Conclusion:

The Bible is a special, living book, inspired by God Himself and given to humanity as a means of drawing us closer to Him. It is filled with prophecy so that we may be prepared for what lies ahead, it is a guiding light to help us avoid the dangers of misunderstanding and temptation, it is a shield to defend us from Satan’s attacks, it is a sword to help us defeat the sins that threaten to destroy us, it is a ruler to help us discern truth from lies, and it is a truth that purifies us, setting us apart from the world as children of the Heavenly Father.

This is the first and founding principle of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Of the 28 fundamental beliefs of our church, the first one is about the Holy Scriptures:

The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history.

The Bible is real and relevant, powerful enough to change the lives of anyone who is willing to read it.


Game/Activity:

Title: Guiding Voice

How to Play:

  • In a relatively large room, separate everyone out into teams of 3.
  • Select one person to be the “Pilgrim” and put a blindfold over his or her eyes.
  • Once all “Pilgrim” have been blindfolded, set up the room with a serious of obstacles.
  • Have the remaining 2 team members decide who will be the “Voice of Truth” and who will be the “Voice of Deception.”
  • For the first round, the team member who is the “Voice of Truth” is not allowed to say anything to the “Pilgrim” or touch them in any way. They can, however, make noises to try and guide the “Pilgrim” in the proper direction. The “Voice of Deception,” meanwhile, is allowed to say whatever he or she pleases. However, they should be encouraged to tell the truth occasionally, so that the “Pilgrim” will trust them. Neither one are allowed to move the obstacles, and the “Pilgrim” should not be told in advance who is who.
  • Give the teams about 5 minutes to cross through the obstacle field, then have the “Pilgrim” remove the blindfold.
  • Switch up the team members so that no groups are exactly the same.
  • Pick new “Pilgrims” and blindfold them, then change up the obstacle field.
  • This time, the “Voice of Truth” is allowed to speak in order to guide the “Pilgrim” around the obstacles. He or she can also touch the “Pilgrim” to help them through, but only if the “Pilgrim” specifically asks for help.
  • Once all teams have made it across the obstacle field, have the “Pilgrims” remove their blindfolds.

Summing it Up:

We, as sinful human beings, will never have a perfect understanding of God here in this world. Thus, no matter how close we are to God, we will still go through life feeling like something is missing. There are two ways we can travel down this path, though.

The first “Pilgrims” represent “Closed-Book Pilgrims,” people who do not read their Bibles and/or seek to hear God’s voice. Even though He is there with us, we may not notice Him trying to help because we don’t read the life instructions He has given us or listen for His voice.

The second set of “Pilgrims” represent “Open-Book Pilgrims.” These are the people who open the Word of God, who study it and seek to know Him and His will as much as possible. The most successful “Open-Book Pilgrims,” however, will be those who ask for help from the “Voice of Truth” as well. In other words, they don’t just let Him speak to them; they talk back to Him. Because these “Open-Book Pilgrims” are constantly engaging in open conversation with the “Voice of Truth,” they are able to learn what obstacles and dangers lie ahead of them, and by asking for help, they also find a companion to help them through in their time of need.

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