John T. Willis

Friday, January 04, 2013

Fear: This is a Heart Issue (Part I)

Fear is a character of the heart which is necessary for human life. Therefore, fear is a gift of God. Fear is absolutely essential for all human beings to be who God created us to be. BUT, all human beings can abuse God's gifts. In this and the next blog or blogs, we will discuss briefly what the Bible teaches about FEAR. I. The Fear of God is a positive attitude. God charges all of his people to FEAR God. a. Joshua instructed God's people in his farewell speech: "Now therefore FEAR the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:14-15). The NRSV translates "fear" here as "revere." b. Yahweh through Moses gave God's people FIVE requirements enumerated in Deuteronomy 10:12-13: "So now, O Israel, what doesthe Lord your God REQUIRE of you? ONLY to (1) FEAR the Lord your God, (2) to WALK IN ALL HIS WAYS; (3) to LOVE him; (4) to SERVE the Lord your God with all your HEART and with all your soul; and (5) to KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being." In this context, to "fear" God is equivalent to "love" God. c. The composer of Ecclesiastes concluded his work with these words: "The end of the matter: all has been heard. FEAR God, and keep his commandments; for tat is the whole duty of everyone" (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Fearing God means honoring God, holding God in the highest regard, revering God, respecting God. II. Jesus taught his followers that one type of fear is helpful, but another type of fear is against God's will. a. Jesus taught his disciples: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). b. Similarly, Jesus said: "I tell you, my friends, do no fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him" (Luke 12:4-5). Jesus tells us not to fear people who can kill us physically, because God will raise up again from the dead. At the same time, he instructs us to fear one who has authority to cast us into hell after this life is over. In other words, FEAR God, our creator and Lord. [To be continued in following blogs] Share YOUR insights and beliefs and failures and shortcomings with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Monday, December 31, 2012

God's Surprising Reversals--Luke 13:18-35.

Moving from the unnamed synagogue mentioned in Luke 13:10 and then on from one town and village after another going south toward Jerusalem as he traveled through Galilee (Luke 13:22), Jesus makes several very strong, powerful, important truths about the nature of God and of human beings. His topics move from point to point in Luke 13:18-35. This section falls into FOUR paragraphs. I. Two Parables about the Power of Growth. Luke 13:18-21. a. First Parable: The Mustard Seed. Very simply, Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which some unnamed person sowed in the garden, and it grew and became a tree and the birds of the air made nests in its branches. There are rough parallels to this parable in Mark 4:30-32 and Matthew 13:31-32. Like one cell develops into a grown human being, one small mustard seed develops into a large tree. This development, this growth, is a divine, powerful mystery. No human being can make this happen. God's people always begin minute, but in time God empowers his people to grow into the whole world. The birds in this text represent all types of human beings who turn to God the creator. What a mighty God we serve!!! 13:18-19. b. Second Parable: Yeast. Very simply, Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman mixed in three measures of flour until the whole was leavened. Flour is absolutely essential for bread, but bread will NEVER occur without yeast or leaven. Yeast is a hidden divine power which empowers flour to become bread which human beings may consume. No one sees the power of yeast, but everyone knows it exists when the flour rises and produces bread. What a mighty God we serve!!! II. Receiving or Rejecting God's Opportunities. Luke 13:22-30. a. Moving from one town and village after another as Jesus was moving closer to Jerusalem, someone asked Jesus, will only a few be saved? 13:22-23. b. Jesus responded by admonishing everyone: "Strive to enter through the narrow door," because many will TRY to enter and will not be able. See Matthew 7:13-14. Jesus explained: Only those who come to and serve God our Father through Jesus Christ can enter into the kingdom of God. Many people know MANY THINGS about God, but God demands that his people must KNOW GOD HIMSELF in an intimate, daily, personal relationship. Superficial acquaintance of God is not acceptable. The master of the house wants to know intimately those who live in the house. Those who do not REALLY KNOW GOD are actually EVILDOERS. See Matthew 25:10-12; 7:23; Psalm 6:9. In the final judgment, God will reject them and they will experience "weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13:24-28. c. Then surprisingly, Jesus declares that people coming from the east, west, north, and south will come to enter the kingdom of God, and the master will gladly receive them, because they actually KNOW God intimately. What we consider to be outsiders may be God's insiders, and what we consider to insiders may be God's outsiders. Thus Jesus says: "some are last who will be first, and some are fist who will be last." What a powerful, surprising reversal by God's great power and wisdom. All of this has to do with the human heart. See 1 Samuel 16:6-7. 13:29-30. III. Jesus exposes Herod's desire to kill Jesus. Luke 13:31-33. a. As Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees came to him and warned him to leave where he was because Herod [tetrarch of Galilee, who had already beheaded John the Baptist: Luke 3:1, 19-20; 9:7-9; 23:7] wants to kill Jesus. Evidently these Pharisees FAVORED Jesus and wanted to protect him from death. 13:31. b. Jesus told the Pharisees to go to Herod tetrach of Galilee, "that fox," and tell him that Jesus intended to continue his ministry to cast out demons and performing cures until he finishes his work to die when he arrives in Jerusalem and the Jewish leaders crucify him. True prophets of God had died in Jerusalem because of their commitment to God [including Uriah: Jeremiah 26:20-23; Jeremiah: Jeremiah 38:4-6; Zechariah: 2 Chronicles 24:20-22; the prophets whom King Manasseh of Judah killed: 2 Kings 21:16; 24:4], and Jesus is a true prophet, so he knows the people of Jerusalem will kill him as well. Jesus here unmasks the true intention of Herod. Herod makes no attempt to save Jesus from the chief priests and scribes in Jerusalem (Luke 23:10), treats Jesus with contempt, and sends Jesus back to Pontius Pilate so Jesus may be crucified (Luke 23:11). Human beings, like Herod the tetrach of Galilee, have ways of hiding their true nature and intentions. But in time, God has ways of exposing evil hearts. 13:32-33. IV. Jesus yearns to redeem Jerusalem, but only in vain. Luke 13:34-35. a. After declaring that Jesus must go to Jerusalem to die on a cross, Jesus yearns for Jerusalem. Jesus had killed God's true prophets and had stoned those whom God sent to Jerusalem. Often God through Jesus Christ had wanted to gather God's children as a HEN gathers her brood under her wings, but Jerusalem was not willing. Here, Jesus compares God through Jesus Christ with a HEN, NOT a ROOSTER!!! The same metaphor appears in Psalms 17:8; 36:8; Ruth 2:12. The Bible repeatedly makes clear that God does NOT HAVE A GENDER. God is neither male nor female. Metaphorically, and ONLY metaphorically, biblical speakers and writers compare God with a FATHER [Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 103:13; Luke 15:11-32] and with a MOTHER [Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 49:15-16; 66:12-13; Luke 13:34]. 13:34. b. Jesus leaves the temple=house until the time comes when Jerusalem says: "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." This may be an allusion to Jeremiah 22:5. See also Jeremiah 12:7; Psalm 69:26; 1 Kings 9:7-8. "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" is a quotation from Psalm 118:26. This prepares the hearer or reader to understand the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Luke 19:38). Share YOUR insights and reversals and options and changes with others. Let me hear from YOU. And Have a Wonderful New Year 2013!!! John Willis