John T. Willis

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jesus came to bring Division to the Earth--Luke 12:49-59

Many "Hard Sayings" appear in the story of Jesus. One of these is Jesus' announcement that he came to the earth not to bring peace, but to bring division. This appears in Luke 12:49-59. This falls into three parts. I. Jesus declares to the crowds that he came to the earth to bring division. Luke 12:49-53. a. Many people ignore or reject this teaching. We have already made up our minds about the message of Jesus. We assume that since the Bible teaches that God sent Jesus to forgive and save all people, Jesus would never bring punishment and division among human beings. But the message of the Bible still stands. b. Jesus begins by declaring: "I came to bring fire to the earth." The background of the Hebrew Bible shows clearly that a fire is a figure for purification (Leviticus 13:52; Numbers 31:23), for discernment of discrimination (Jeremiah 23:29; Isaiah 33:14), and for judgment (Genesis 19:24; Exodus 9:24; Psalm 66:12; Isaiah 43:2). Luke 3:16 sheds light on the meaning of this figure. Jesus came to punish the wicked and thus purify the hearts of sinful people. 12:49. c. Then Jesus declares that he himself must undergo a baptism, a baptism of testing and his redemptive suffering. The same thought appears in Mark 10:38-39. 12:50. d. Then Jesus declares that he did not come to the earth to bring peace, but division. He will divide households, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. This same division derives from Micah 7:5-6. Matthew 10:34-36 is very close to this text. True followers of God must not be surprised that their closest relatives may turn against them because of one's commitment to God through Jesus Christ. 12:51-53. II. Jesus exposes the spiritual insensitiveness of would-be religious people. Luke 12:54-56. a. People know the "signs" of the weather. If a cloud rises in the west, one assumes it is going to rain. Almost all the storms in Israel came from the Mediterranean Sea. 1 Kings 18:46; Psalm 29. If the south wind blows, one assumes there will be scorching heat. In Israel, the wind from the Arabian steppes are in the southeast. Jeremiah 4:11. Thus, everyone knows these "signs." 12:54-55. b. In contrast, religious people frequently do not know the spiritual "signs" of life. Hence, Jesus calls them "Hypocrites." Jesus came on the earth, and many religious people ignored or rejected him (see John 1:11-13). They did not accept his appearance and his message concerning God and the kingdom [rule] of God. Their problem was being unwilling to accept Jesus, not being unable to receive Jesus. "The present time" is the time for repentance and conversion (see Acts 3:19-20; 17:30-31). 12:56. III. Finally, Jesus instructs his true followers to reconcile with their opponents. Luke 12:57-59. a. First, Jesus tells his audience to judge what is right. In this context, this means to work out compromises in life to avoid conflicts. Paul teaches the same truth in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. 12:57. b. Jesus advises one to make every effort to settle a difference before going into court. Otherwise, that person may go to prison. The same message appears in Matthew 5:25-26. 12:58-59. Share YOUR research, problems, insights, pleas, corrections with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Gluttony, Drunkenness, Anorexia, Boulemia: This is a Heart Issue

Food and drink are gifts of God. God sheds these gifts on all people so that human beings may be healthy both physically and spiritually. God expects all people to thoroughly ENJOY what we eat and drink. 1. The author of Ecclesiastes says: "There is nothing better for mortals than to EAT and DRINK, and FIND ENJOYMENT IN THEIR TOIL. This also is from THE HAND OF GOD; for apart from him who can EAT or who can HAVE ENJOYMENT?" (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25). Again: "I know that there is nothing better for them [human beings] than to BE HAPPY and ENJOY themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is GOD'S GIFT that ALL should EAT and DRINK and TAKE PLEASURE IN ALL THEIR TOIL." (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). God desires that all people enjoy the food and drinks which God daily provides which he showers on the entire planet earth. 2. Food and drink have always played a major role in religious celebrations. Here are only a few examples. a. Most sacrifices consisted of a designated priest burning a portion of the animal and cooking the rest of the animal so that the worshippers might share in the common spiritual fellowship of consuming the food. Elkanah and his family went to Shiloh once a year to celebrate the designated sacrifices. Elkanah gave each person in his family to consume a portion of the sacrifice. 1 Samuel 1:2-18. However, in all such activities, it was possible that the worshippers might desecrate the sacrifice by abusing the proper use of the meat. Yahweh condemned Hophni and Phinehas, the priests at Shiloh and sons of Eli, because they demanded that the sacrifices being prepared as they desired instead of follow the instructions in the Law of Moses. 1 Samuel 2:12-17, 23-25. Some of the worshippers got drunk from the wine that was consumed. Eli wrongly accused Hannah of being drunk on this occasion (1 Samuel 1:14-16). b. The first century church commonly shared meals to communicate fellowship with God and one another (Acts 2:46). The church at Corinth had love feasts so that every member would share in a common meal. But Christians can corrupt this important practice. Paul chastised a certain group of wealthy people in the church who arranged to eat together before the poor arrived and deprived the poor of the food and drink which they needed. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. c. Tbe Passover and the Lord's Supper are inseparably connected. Both used the practice of sharing a common meal. Food and drink were always essential. Exodus 12; Matthew 26:17-30; 1 Corinthians 10:14-22; 11:23-26. However, some people abuse the purpose of the Passover and the Lord's Supper by ungodly practices and living. 3. The only appropriate response to God's gift of food and drink is gratitude or thanksgiving. The powerful prayer for God's disciples includes the injunction: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). This simple request assumes that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Members of the early church abused this by dividing the people of God over whether one should eat meat or eat only vegetables. Paul spent a whole chapter on this problem, and concluded: "The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17; study the entire chapter). Paul denounced certain Christians in the Ephesian church because they "abstained from food, which God created to be received with THANKSGIVING by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with THANKSGIVING" (1 Timothy 4:3-4). 4. The use of food and drink is a matter of the heart. When a person eats too much food and thus is a glutton or drinks too much drink and thus is a drunkard, his or her heart is the source of making this wrong choice. a. Proverbs 23:20-21 says: "Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will cloth them with rags." b. Paul tells Christians at Galatia: "The works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, DRUNKENNESS, carousing, and things like this. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21). c. Gluttony and Drunkenness are essentially equivalent. These and similar activities originate in the heart. When a person overeats or overdrinks, he or she is abusing the gifts of God. This is a matter of the heart. Share YOUR insights and problems and reversals and losses and aspirations with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Friday, December 21, 2012

Be Alert! Be Faithful!--Luke 12:35-48

After encouraging his disciples not to worry, Jesus continues by admonishing them always to be alert and to be faithful. This appears in Luke 12:35-48, and naturally falls into four small paragraphs. I. Be Alert! 12:35-38. [See Mark 13:35-37]. a. Watchfulness and faithfulness are closely related to the treasure in heaven and the true meaning of life. In this setting, the master [Jesus Christ] is absent--on a journey. The expression "Be dressed for action," literally "let your loins be girded" is based on the common daily practice of letting the long-ankle length robe be adjusted by a waist-belt to ensure readiness for action or departure. This calls to mind the exodus from Egypt in the days of Moses (Exodus 12:11, 22-23). This practice appears often in scripture (see 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29; 9:1; Job 38:3; 40:7; Ephesians 6:14; 1 Peter 1:13). The expression "have your lamps lit" is a common term for watchfulness (see Luke 8:16; 11:33; Exodus 27:20; Leviticus 24:2). 12:35. b. Jesus Christ may return at any moment. God's faithful servants must always be ready to receive Jesus Christ into his house at the wedding banquet when he knocks. The idea of knocking at the door appears in Revelation 3:20. 12:36. c. All of God's people are "slaves." But when the master [Jesus Christ] comes, the master will fasten his belt and have his slaves sit down, and he will come and serve them. Hence, God's people are extremely blessed. This text alludes to the practice in the first century CE that the night was divided into three watches: 6-10, 10-2, 2-6. 12:37-38. II. Jesus' Arrival is Unexpected. Luke 12:39-40. a. Continuing his message to his disciples about watchfulness, Jesus emphasizes that the coming [advent, arrival] of Jesus is unknown and unexpected. Jesus is like a burglar prowling around who breaks into a house [this figure is based on the common practice that in Palestine in the first century CE, people used mud-brick walls]. The figure of the unexpected burglar appears in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; 16:15. 12:39. b. Since no one knows when the burglar [Jesus Christ] arrives, one must always be ready. 12:40. III. Peter asks Jesus whether this message is for the Twelve or for everyone. Luke 12:41-46. a. Peter wants to know whether Jesus' charge to be alert is for the Twelve or for all the community of faith. 12:41. b. Jesus responds in two ways. First, the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves is responsible. This manager must give his master's slaves their allowance of food at the proper time. The master will bless this manager, his slave, when the master arrives. This manger, this slave, is any person in position who is responsible for managing and taking care of a group of people. This fits well with the function of shepherds of a local church. 12:42-43. c. Anyone who seriously accepts the responsibility of being a co-ordinator and helper of other people demonstrates that person is trustworthy to be in charge of all of God's possessions. 12:44. d. Unfortunately, many people who get into responsible positions change into a different personality. A person who originally was very good is now IN CONTROL [he or she assumes] and [thinks he or she] can do anything he or she wishes. Jesus says, if that kind of person beats the other slaves, men and women, and eats and drinks and gets drunk, the master will arrive unexpectedly, cut that person into pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. The expression "cut in pieces" is a figurative term for severe punishment. 12:45-46. IV. Jesus' Punishment for the Unfaithful. Luke 12:47-48. a. Jesus concludes his message about the importance of watchfulness and faithfulness by declaring the punishment for his earthly slaves. On the one hand, if a slave knew what his master wanted but did not prepare himself or did not want to do this, he will receive several punishment. This slave acted deliberately or intentionally. 12:47. b. On the other hand, if a slave did not know what his master wanted will receive a light beating. If the master gives much, the slave requires much. When the master entrusts something to his slave, he will demand even more of the slave. 12:48. God heaps numerous gifts and blessings on his people. In response, God requires much of his people, his slaves. God desires that his faithful people are always alert and faithful. Share YOUR disappointments and aspirations and blessings and accolades with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Murder: This is a Heart Issue

All of us are deeply disturbed by the 28 murders recently committed at a grade school in Newtown, Connecticut. The murderer was identified as Adam Lanza, age 20. He murdered his mother, six teachers, and 20 small students. In all cases, people want to know, WHY did this happen? And out of this come numerous questions which face all of us. Why didn't God intervene and prevent this from happening? Why didn't Adam's mother raise him as a good citizen? Why didn't counselors detech Adam's problems? People pounce on this kind of issue, and declare that Adam had psychological problems or suffered from paternal abuse or was wired as an evil person at birth, and the theories go on an on. Let's be honest. The REAL issue is the HEART. Banning the use of guns will not stop murders. Police persons standing on every corner will not stop murders. Good counselors will not stop murders. What stops murder is changing the heart, which God created from the very beginning. Proverbs 4:23 says: "Keep your HEART with all vigilance, for from IT flow the springs of life." The second example of sin recorded in the Bible is about murder. Abel became very angry because Yahweh had regard for Abel and his sacrifice but did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Yahweh said to Cain, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, SIN IS LURKING AT THE DOOR; its desire is for you, but you must MASTER IT" (Genesis 4:5-7). Here the DOOR is not a material door, but THE HEART. Sin is always lurking at the human heart to lead the individual into sin. It is up to each person to MASTER the temptations and trials of the heart. God always gives us a way to endure all the problems and issues of human life (1 Corinthians 10:13). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed the problem of MURDER. He said: "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder' [quoting the sixth of the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:13]; and "whoever murders shall be liable to judgment' [quoting Exodus 21:12]. But I say to you that if you are ANGRY with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22). ANGER is a heart problem. Anger motivates a person to murder another person. When the Pharisees rebuked Jesus because Jesus' disciples eat with defiled hands, i. e., without washing their hands, Jesus responded, "It is from WITHIN, from THE HUMAN HEART, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, MURDER, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these things come FROM WITHIN, and they defile a person." (Mark 7:21-23). Instead of facing the reality of life that all we do comes from THE HEART, we typically seek for explanations based on philosophical, psychological, neurological, scientific research. The only abiding approach is to constantly come to God and let God search our hearts. Share YOUR experiences and failures and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis