John T. Willis

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Slander: This is a Heart Issue

A major tactic is for individuals and groups of people to slander other people with whom they differ, whom they fear, who threaten their precious turf, who wish to destroy their reputation or character, who seek to belittle them and build themselves above them. Slander is a self-centered tactic, not a God-motivated feeling or activity. Webster's Dictionary defines "slander" as "Defamation, oral or written; specifically Law, a false report maliciously offered and, tending to injure the reputation of another." Slander is very closely connected to gossip. 1. In the public media, it is very common to use slander against another person. It is extremely difficult to believe much of what the media says orally or in written form. Many people are very gullible to accept anything and everything the media says. Who knows what is true or what is false? There is little real integrity in the media. 2. Unfortunately, Churches of Christ have a long history of slander, which is a blight on this denomination. This can be documented easily. But this is true of all denominations. Each new generation quickly picks up on the hypocrisy of every church. This is a human heart problem. Slander is not limited to any person or agency or nation or church. The devil is alive and well. 3. This is not surprising because Jesus' own people slandered him often and finally put him on the cross. They made many accusations against Jesus because they disapproved of his teachings and his nature. Text after text after text in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John remind the audience that this group or that group was seeking to find a way to arrest and crucify Jesus. Just a handful of texts are Matthew 12:14; 13:57; 21:45-46; Mark 14:1-2, 43-65; Luke 11:53-54; 19:47; 22:1-6, 47-53; John 9:22, 24, 34; 11:45-57. 4. Jesus taught: "Out of the HEART come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, SLANDER. These are what defile a person." (Matthew 15:18-19). 5. Paul specifically lists gossip and slander among the sins of human life. Romans 1:28-32, specifically Romans 1:29-30. 6. In God's Law at Mount Sinai, Leviticus 19:16 says: "You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people." Proverbs 6:16-19 enumerates seven sins which Yahweh HATES or ABHORS. One of these is: "a lying witness who testifies falsely." (Proverbs 6:19). 7. Proverbs 26:20-22 says: "For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no WHISPERER, quarreling ceases. As charcoal is to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling fire. The words of a WHISPERER are like delicious morsels, they go down into the inner parts of the body." 8. When other people slander an individual or a church, the ONLY proper response is (1) to refuse to respond in any way, because the slanderer will twist any response to make things worse; and (2) give God time, because God has powerful ways to expose and punish slanderers. Numbers 32:23 is a great reminder: "BE SURE YOUR SIN WILL FIND YOU OUT." 9. Jesus' great assurance in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:11-12 is: "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Let us all pray for slanderers and groups of slanderers. They are a lowly spiritual tribe. God always rebukes and punishes these people in amazing ways. Share YOUR experiences and insights and aspirations and shortcomings and guilt with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Rich Man and Lazarus--Luke 16:19-31

Jesus addresses his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 to the Pharisees, as Luke 16:14 demonstrates. In this parable, there is a striking contrast between a "rich man" and a "poor man named Lazarus" (16:19-20). This parable falls into two parts: (1) the reversal of fortunes of the present life in the life to come (16:19-26); (2) the return of a messenger from heaven to earth will not cause repentance or reform from the hardened rich (16:27-31). I. The Reversal of Fortunes. Luke 16:19-26. a. First Jesus briefly describes a rich man dressed in purple and fine linen [the language here recalls the diligent wife in Proverbs 31:22] feasting sumptuously every day. This rich man fits the description of a wealthy king. The "purple" in this passage was probably fine wool dyed with imported Phoenician purple made from the murex. This "rich man" calls to mind the rich young ruler in Luke 12:19 and the denunciation of the rich in James 5:1-5 [especially James 5:5]. 16:19. b. In contrast to the rich man, Jesus briefly describes a poor man named Lazarus covered with sores who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table, and the dogs would lick the poor man's sores. This man Lazarus is not the brother of Mary and Martha in John 11. 16:20-21. c. Jesus said that the poor man died and the angels carried him to Abraham, and the rich man died. Angels play a very important role in the lives of all people, whether we recognize this or not. Recall Luke 2:10-15; 15:10. Abraham's bosom is a place of honor, rest, and bliss in the afterlife. 16:22. d. The rich man was in Hades where he was being tormented. He looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by Abraham's side. The rich man cried out to Abraham: Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finer in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in these flames. We cannot begin to imagine how terrible God's torment in Hell after life will be. This picture derives from Isaiah 66:24. Many deny this reality, but Jesus openly describes this as very real. This is a stern warning of the nature of our hearts and lives in the ways in which we treat other people. 16:23-24. e. Abraham responded by pointing out the realities of life. In this life, the rich received good things from their perspective while the poor received evil things. But in the afterlife, God blesses the poor by comforting them and bringing severe agony on the insensitive rich. Now that life on earth is over, one cannot pass over to the other way of life. God powerfully and eternally reverses lives on planet earth. What a sobering reminder for us all. 16:25-26. II. The Futility of bringing a messenger from the afterlife in an attempt to bring the hardened rich to repentance. Luke 16:27-31. a. In desperation, the rich man beseeches Abraham to send someone on earth to warn the rich man's family to repent and not experience the agony of the rich man. The rich man says he has five brothers, and he does not want them to go into this place of torment after they die. 16:27-28. b. Abraham reminds the rich man that they already know the message of Moses and the prophets, and thus is it unnecessary to send someone else to planet earth to receive this warning. Even though the rich man attempts to urge Abraham to send a messenger, Abraham insists that this is unnecessary. We already have God's message. An heavenly angel with not convince the hardened any more than the message of God in the Bible. This is a bold reality for everyone. 16:29-31. Share YOUR insights and shortcomings and desires and aspirations and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis