John T. Willis

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I know the plans I have for you--Lesson 11

According to the Bible, sometimes God works independently to deal with human beings directly. The technical term for this is theophany. A great example is God's appearance directly to Moses on Mount Sinai to reveal his nature and give the Ten Commandments for God's People. At the same time, God also works THROUGH several entities. These are: the Law, Kings, Priests, Prophets, Sages or Wise People. In the following blogs, we will briefly sketch what the Bible teaches about God functioning through these entities. First and foremost, God works THROUGH the Law. Everything else flows out of the Law. 1. God did not give his Law in order to save people. He FIRST saved or delivered his people from Egyptian bondage as a guide or standard for daily living. God chose Israel [and later the church] because he loved her, not because she kept his Law perfectly. Exodus 20:1-3; Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 9:4-6 make this point exceedingly clear. 2. God did not give his Law or commandments to be a burden to people, as Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 John 5:1-3. Legalists and many so-called Christian leaders had made the Law a burden, but this was not intention at all. Jesus taught this point clearly in Matthew 23:1-6. God gave his Law to show people that they could obey the Law, and thus drive them to God's grace. God is always a God of grace, steadfast love, mercy, forgiveness, patience, and longsuffering. And out of his own nature, he gave the Law lovingly. Genesis 19:15-23; Exodus 34:6-7; Psalms 103:8-14; 130:3-4; 119:41, 64, 76, 77, 88, 124, 132, 149, 156. 3. The Bible teaches that God's Law is: a. Gold--Psalms 19:10; 119:72, 127. b. Honey--Psalms 19:7-10; 119:103. See 1 Samuel 14:24-30 c. Stream of water--Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:5-8. d. Light--Psalm 119:105, 130. e. A source of spiritual life--Psalm 119:93, 107. f. Joy to the heart--Psalm 119:111. How could anyone think the Law is bad or a burden in light of all these biblical metaphors? 4. Psalm 119 teaches that people must: a. Treasure God's law in their hearts--Psalm 119:11 b. Mediate on God's law continually--Psalm 119:15, 23, 27, 78, 97, 99, 148; compare Joshua 1:7-8. c. Delight in God's law--Psalm 119:14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174. d. Cling to God's law--Psalm 119:31. e. Long for God's law--Psalm 119:40, 131. f. Seek God's law--Psalm 119:45, 94. g. Revere God's law--Psalm 119:48. h. Make God's law one's songs--Psalm 119:54. i. Love God's law--Psalm 119:47, 48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 159, 163, 165, 167. j. Put their hope in God's law--Psalm 119:43, 74, 81, 147. 5. God's law is dynamic, not static. It is constantly in state of flux as new circumstances of life arise. a. The law, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth appears in several different circumstances. Exodus 21:22-25; Leviticus 24:19-22; Deuteronomy 19:15-21. Jesus made this point very clear in the Sermon on the Mount--Matthew 5:38-42, demonstrating that this "law" may apply to numerous types of situations. b. Keeping the Sabbath arises from different origins. Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15. c. The Cities of Refuge fits in different situations over time. Exodus 21:12-14; Numbers 35:9-28; Deuteronomy 19:1-13; Joshua 20. 6. According to the Bible, God's law is the STANDARD for: a. Kings--Deuteronomy 17:14-20. b. Prophets--Hosea 4:1-3; Jeremiah 7:8-11; 11:1-17 (see Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-23). c. Psalmists--Psalms 1:1-3; 19:7-11; 37:31; 40:8; 78:5, 7, 10; 89:30-31; 94:12; 105:45. d. Wisdom Literature--The Sages or Wise People. Job 31; Proverbs 11:1; 16:11; 20:23 (see Leviticus 19:35-37). e. The New Testament--Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-37; Romans 13:8-10; James 2:8-12 (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18). God's Law is the foundation of all of life. This has always been the case in spite of the fact that Judaizers in New Testament times and well-meaning people throughout history have abused the true meaning of the Law from God's perspective as taught clearly in the Bible. We all need to return to God's law and abide by this in daily living. Share YOUR insights and dreams and reversals and failures with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Fundamental Prayer for Jesus' Followers--Luke 11:1-4

After relating the story of Jesus' encounter with Mary and Martha at Bethany as Jesus was traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem, Luke now relates an incident in which one of Jesus' disciples ask him how to pray, and Jesus gave his reply. This prayer appears also in Matthew 6:9-15. Many people call this "The Lord's Prayer." But more specifically, this is the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Let us briefly work through this text in Luke 11:1-4. 1. Luke repeatedly reminds his hearers and readers that Jesus constantly spent much time in prayer, as when he was baptized by John the Baptist (Luke 3:21), going into the wilderness after healing the leper (Luke 5;16), before choosing his twelve apostles (Luke 6:12), instructing his hearers to pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:28), right after Jesus fed the 5,000 (Luke 9:18), just before Jesus went on the mountain to be transfigured (Luke 9:28-29). After teaching his disciples how to pray in Luke 11:1-4, Jesus often prays throughout the Gospel of Luke. 2. After Jesus had prayed, one of his disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, as John taught his disciples. When one prays, this causes others to learn from him how to pray. Jesus had recently prayed to his heavenly Father (Luke 10:21-22). The account of the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples in Luke 11:2-4 naturally falls into four points. 3. Point 1: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. The term "Father" is a very intimate, endearing term. The Old Testament often emphasizes the importance of this powerful metaphor. Four examples are Exodus 4:21-23; Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 1:2-3; Psalm 103:13. The last text says: "As a FATHER has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him." In Aramaic, "Father" is "Abba." To emphasize the intimate relationship between God and his people, this term "Abba" occurs several times in the New Testament: Mark 14:36; Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15. The term "hallowed" means "sanctified, holy." God's "name" is a well-known Hebrew circumlocution for "God himself." God's "name" is not some myterious entity separated from God himself. God's "kingdom" is his "rule" in the hearts of individuals and communities of faith. 4. Point 2: Give us each day our daily bread. Some people try to make something different from what this text clearly says. All human beings are dependent on God. This means our food. God miraculously supplies food for all of us every day. Just because we get customed of experiencing this does not mean this is "natural." Food is a daily gift of God. The only appropriate response to this is thanksgiving. When Jesus initiated the Lord's Supper, the first thing Jesus did was to thank God for this gift. 5. Point 3: Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. All of us are great sinners. We have to seek God's forgiveness daily. The only appropriate response is for us to forgive others just as God has forgiven us. Often, other people forgive us; so we must forgive others as well. 6. Point 4: And do not bring us to the time of trial. We are constantly confronted with the temptation of apostasy, of falling away from God. Hence, Jesus teaches all of us to pray that God will not allow us to come to the time of trial. See the same thought in Luke 8:14-15; Acts 20:19. As well all know, Matthew 6:9-15 contains some additional points in the teaching that Jesus gave about how we should pray. The famous conclusion: "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever" appears nowhere in the New Testament, but comes from 1 Chronicles 29:11. Ponder this prayer deeply and often. This changes our hearts and our lives. Share YOUR insights and dreams and fears and reverses with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis