John T. Willis

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Real Discipleship--Luke 14:25-35

After Jesus finished the meal in the house of the leader of the Pharisees, Jesus continued to travel south toward Jerusalem. Many crowds followed Jesus, and Jesus told them what is required to be his followers, his disciples. This paragraph appears in Luke 14:25-35. This falls into three parts. I. Abandon family and self-centeredness to follow Jesus. Luke 14:25-27. a. As Jesus traveled, the crowds followed Jesus because of the blessings and marvelous things he associated with the kingdom of God. Jesus specifically enumerates THREE conditions of true discipleship. 14:25. b. The FIRST condition is that one must HATE his father, mother, children, brothers, and sisters to be Jesus' disciple. Hate is the opposite of love--see Luke 16:13; 6:22, 27. The whole issue which Jesus declares is about long-term allegiance. Will an individual hold on to the concepts and background and traditions of his or her family or hold on to Jesus in his life and teaching? Genesis 29:31-33; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; Psalm 139:21-22 describe the strong contrast between love and hate. Abraham struggled with whether he would leave his father Terah and obey God by going to the land of Canaan. Unfortunately, Abraham stayed with his father until he died. They lived in Haran many years, and God had to call Abraham a second time to persuade Abraham to go to the land of Canaan. Genesis 11:27-12:7. 14:26a. c. The SECOND condition is that one must hate himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus. To take up one's cross is a bold risk to deny oneself's desires, dreams, aspirations, motivations to follow the call and charge of Jesus. 14:26b-27. II. Building a tower and waging war. Luke 14:28-33. a. Jesus uses two parables about the importance of long- term commitment and perseverance to God through Jesus Christ. b. The first parable is about building a tower. Before building a tower, one must sit down, estimate the cost, and see whether there is enough to complete the project. It is one thing to begin a project, and quite another thing to complete it. 14:28-30. c. The second parable is about waging a war. A good king will first sit down and consider whether he is able with 10,000 soldiers to oppose an army of 20,000 soldiers. If he realizes he cannot win, he will send a delegation and ask for peace. 14:31-32. d. These two parables lead to the THIRD condition for being a true disciple. One must give up all his possessions if he wishes to be a true disciple of Jesus. Wealth is one of the great enemies of godly living and commitment. See 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19. 14:33. III. Salt is a metaphor for true allegiance. Luke 14:34-35. [For the same figure, see Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50]. a. Jesus concludes his discussion about true discipleship by teaches a brief, simple lesson about salt. Salt is good as long as it does not lose its saltiness. If salt loses its seasoning power, it is useless. 14:34. b. In a similar way, if one commits himself or herself to God, and later attaches oneself to someone or something else, that person ceases to be a true follower of God through Jesus Christ. Life is long. It is very difficult for an indivudal to be committed to God through Jesus Christ throughout his or her whole lifetime. This text is a great reminder. 14:35. Share YOUR experiences and failures and shortcomings and dreams and successes with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fear: This is a Heart Issue [Part 2]

Fear is a powerful motivation in personal, church, and national life. Sometimes this is positive, sometimes this is negative. Here are some motivations which affect our lives. 1. Enemies. Throughtout human history, enemies have brought fear into our lives. In our own lifetimes, we have experienced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the German gestapo who killed millions of people, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and this type of threats continue, and will continue as along as life exists on earth. In these types of situations, God has always encouraged us "DO NOT FEAR." God is "WITH" us, and in one way or another God will sustain us. a. The Philistines threatened the Israelites when Saul was the first king of Israel. For forty days, Goliath challenged one Israelite to fight him in battle. Saul and the Israelite soldiers "were dismayed and greatly afraid" (1 Samuel 17:11, 24). But David trusted in God. He cried out: "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of THE LIVING GOD?" (1 Samuel 17:26, 36). He completely believed that what God has done God can do. God had delivered David from lions and bears as David protected his sheep. So, he reasoned that the same God can deliver David from the Philistines. (1 Samuel 17:34-37). And God did just that. b. One of the psalmist declared: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; WHOM SHALL I FEAR? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; OF WHOM SHALL I BE AFRAID? When EVILDOERS assail me to devour my flesh-- my ADVERSARIES and FOES-- they shall stumble and fall. Though an ARMY encamp against me, MY HEART SHALL NOT FEAR; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident" (Psalm 27:1-3). 2. Superiors, Leaders, Executives, Presidents, etc. Many people gain a "position" and then oppress their employees and workers. This often leads the employees feel fear. Superiors regularly threaten the jobs and families and lives of their employees. a. While the Israelites were in Egyptian bondage, they were afraid of Pharaoh and the taskmaster, who constantly threatened and even killed Israelite workers. The only reason that the Israelites escaped from Egyptian bondage is that Moses and others encouraged them not to be afraid, but to trust in Yahweh. Hebrews 11:23, 27 emphasize this point. "By faith Moses left Egypt, UNAFRAID of the king's anger." b. Throughout Jesus' public ministry, Jewish leaders regularly tried to find ways to kill Jesus. The crowds knew this, and thus "no one would speak openly about Jesus for FEAR of the Jews [meaning, the Jewish leaders]" (John 7:13). Even Jesus' own parents were afraid of the Jews (John 9:22). Joseph of Arimathea was a follower of Jesus, but he tried to hide his true commitment "because of his fear of the Jews" (John 19:38). Many people constantly refrain from expressing their true ideas and beliefs and commitment because they fear their bosses, their superiors, their leaders. 3. Failure. A great motivation in the life of individuals, families, churches, and nations is the fear of failure. The feeling is this: If I attempt to do this, I will not succeed, or I will not do as well as other people, or I will start and not complete my dream. a. One great example of this is the parable of the talents. Jesus says that a man entrusted his property to three of his slaves. He gave one servant five talents, one servant two talents, and one servant one talent. The first servant traded his talents and made five more. The second servant traded his talents and two more. The third servant dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money. When the master returned, he evaluated each servant. He praised the first two because they made a risk and doubled their talents. When the third servant appeared, he said to his master: "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping what you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I WAS AFRAID, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours." (Matthew 25:24-25). The master rebuked this servant for being a "wicked and lazy slave." He should have taken a risk to increase his talent. (Matthew 25:14-30). b. The theme of the entire story of Gideon was fear. Six events in this story emphasize Gideon's fear. On one occasion, the angel of the Lord said to Gideon, "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior." Gideon replied, "But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? The angel responded: "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian." Gideon replied: "But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family" (Judges 6:12-16). Gideon was afraid that if he tried to co-ordinate his people to fight against Midiah, he would fail. c. All of us suffer from the feeling that if we attempt to do this or that, we will fail. We are all afraid of failure. God encourages us to take a risk, and see what God might do in spite of us. [To be continued] Share YOUR insights and fears and holdbacks and resolutions and relationships with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Monday, January 07, 2013

God's Meals are Indispensable--Luke 14:1-24

As Jesus traveled from Galilee Jerusalem, he came to an unnamed house of an unnamed LEADER of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath. This led to three incidents, each dealing with the importance of a meal. This is recorded in Luke 14:1-24. Throughout scripture, meals are extremely important. One can immediately think of: Abraham's meal with the three unidentified men who declared that Abraham and Sarah will have a son in their old age (Genesis 18:1-15), the Passover meal when the Israelites abandoned Egypt to escape from heavy bondage for 450 years (Exodus 12:1-28, 41-51), manna and quail for 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 11), the sacrificial meals at Shiloh once each year (1 Samuel 1), Elijah staying for three years with the poor widow at Zarephath in the land of Phoenicia (1 Kings 17:8-16), the Lord's Supper instituted shortly before the crucifixion (Luke 22:14-23), and the Christian love feasts (1 Corinthians 11:16-34; Jude 12). Meals, banquets, feasts lie at the heart of spiritual fellowship between God and human beings and beings and between individuals in various situations. Luke 14:1-24 falls into three paragraphs. I. Jesus heals a man with dropsy on the Sabbath. Luke 14:1-6. a. The Bible reports several events in which someone invites Jesus into that person's house to have a meal. Some who invited Jesus into their house were Pharisees. See Luke 5:29; 7:36; 10:38-42; 11:37. As Jesus was eating at this Pharisee's house, the Pharisees "were watching Jesus closely" to see whether he would keep the Sabbath or not. [See Luke 11:53-54]. 14:1. b. In the Pharisee's house, suddenly a man who had dropsy appeared before Jesus. Dropsy is edema, an abnormal accumulation of serous fluids in connective tissues or cavities of the body accompanied by swelling, distention, or defective circulation. 14:2. c. Knowing the thoughts of the lawyers and Pharisees [see John 2:24-25], Jesus asked them to state whether it is lawful to cure people on the Sabbath or not. This question amounts to asking: Should one help or harm another person on the Sabbath? 14:3. d. The lawyers and Pharisees refused to respond, indicating that they knew that God wants all people to help people every day of the week, including the Sabbath. So, Jesus actively helped a person by healing the man with dropsy. 14:4. e. Jesus confronts the lawyers and Pharisees with the question: Would you help a child or an ox that had fallen into a well on the Sabbath? It is obvious that anyone would help this child or this animal. The Pharisees and lawyers could not reply, because they knew very well that healing a person on the Sabbath was a good thing. [NOTE: This is just another example in the Bible that God looks with disfavor on one assuming the position of a LEADER. God wants all his people to be disciples, followers, learners. God our Father through Jesus Christ is our ONLY LEADER, our ONLY HEAD, our ONLY KING]. 14:5-6. II. Humility is the First Letter in the Christian Alphabet. Luke 14:7-14. a. Still sitting at the table of the unnamed Pharisee in Luke 14:1, Jesus addressed the guests at this table who chose the places of honor by declaring a parable. Luke emphasizes the danger when people seek to be treated with honor rather than attempting to help the poor and needy. See Luke 11:43; 20:46. 14:7. b. Jesus teaches his true followers [disciples, servants] to voluntarily and gladly take "the lowest place," and to resist the strong temptation to "sit down at the place of honor." God our Father through Jesus Christ is the only one who can and should and must make the choice of who may sit at HIS table. His message lies at the heart of godly living: "All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." In The Gospel according to Luke X-XXIV, The Anchor Bible 28A [1985], page 1045, writes: "Real honor will come not from one's self-seeking choices, but from what is bestowed on one by another. Honor before one's peers comes not from what one does on one's own behalf, but depends on the estimate others have of one. . . . The attitude of Christian disciples should be humility, not status-seeking." 14:8-11. c. Jesus then turned to the unnamed Pharisee who invited Jesus into his house for this meal, and said: When you give a luncheon [a midday meal], a dinner, or a banquet, do not invite your friends or relatives or rich neighbors in order that they may be invited that you will come into their homes. Rather, invite to your meals the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, because they are not able to repay you; but you will receive a much greater reward from God "at the resurrection of the righteous." God loves all people and in particular in concerned about the welfare of the neglected, the needy, the widow, the orphan, the alien. See Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 16:11-14; 26:11-13. 14:12-14. III. Jesus' Parable of the Great Dinner. Luke 14:15-24. a. When Jesus has finished his teaching in Luke 14:7-14, one of the dinner guests at the house of the unnamed Pharisee who invited Jesus to the meal, one of the dinner guests said: "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God." Luke 13:29 already alluded to the kingdom banquet. 14:15. b. Jesus responded to proclaiming a parable. Someone gave a dinner and invited many people. When the meal was prepared, this individual sent one of his servants to tell all those invited that it was time for them to arrive. This calls to mind Esther's invitation to ask people to come to her banquet in Esther 5:8; 6:14. 14:16-17. c. When the slave appeared to invite the guests, many made excuses because they did not want to come. (1) The first excuse was that this person had just bought a piece of land and was going to try it out. (2) The second excuse was that this person had just bought five yoke of oxen and was going to them them out. (3) The third excuse was that he could not come to the banquet because he had just gotten married. [On the third excuse, see Deuteronomy 20:7; 24:5]. 14:18-20. d. The slave returned to his master and gave this report. The master became very angry, and immediately told the servant to go into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. The slave did this, and told the master that there was still room for the banquet. The master immediately told his servant to go to the roads and lanes and compel anyone to come until his house is filled. Then he declared that those who refused this invitation will never taste his dinner. 14:21-24. e. The host in this parable is God our Father through Jesus Christ. The banquet is the gospel which God our Father has given throughout history and especially in Jesus Christ our Lord. The poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, and anyone else who will gladly come to this banquet are the true followers of God in contrast to those who assume they are the righteous, those who assume they are above all other people. What an important message all of us need every day. PLEASE contemplate on this great text in Luke 14. Share YOUR misgivings and understandings and failures and wishes and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis