John T. Willis

Friday, March 15, 2013

Topsy-Turvy Values: This is a Heart Issue

Throughout history, human beings have reversed values in life. It is easy for all of us to major in minors and to minor in majors, to put the cart before the horse, to make mountains out of mole hills. Here are only a few obvious examples. 1. God's people regularly slip into the mistaken concept that external acts of religion are more important than the heart and honest godly daily living. This was a major concern for the prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6;4-6; Isaiah 1:10-17; Micah 6:1-8. Just one good example is Jeremiah 7:9-10: "Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me [God] in this house [the temple=for us, the church building], which is called by my name, and say, 'We are safe'--only to go on doing all these abominations?" 2. Many have focused on the "correct" acts of worship instead of the attitude and feelings of the heart. One great example of this is the demand that one must worship God ONLY in vocal singing and not use instrumental music. No one really knows where this idea came from. But for many people, this has become "gospel" and necessary for salvation. But when one actually reads the Bible, this is not an issue at all. Here are ONLY two biblical examples. *The prophet Amos assumes that everyone who serves God in worship uses vocal songs and melody of the harp. Amos 5:23. Amos denounces these people not for singing vocally or orally or for using harps in worship, but for oppressing the poor and needy in daily living. *In Ephesians 5:19, Paul assumes that Christians gather to worship to "sing and make melody to the Lord in their hearts." Singing is vocal singing, and making melody is using instruments of music. Many texts in the Hebrew Bible clearly connect vocal singing with instrumental music. Just one example is Psalm 33:2-3, which connects "making melody to Yahweh with the harp of ten strings" and "singing." The very "make melody" means instrumental music. 3. We human beings are constantly attracted to "new gadgets." We think that by doing this we improve our lives. Many people are now putting the cart before the horse by using iPads, iPhones, computers of all kind and spending so much time with these new gadgets that they neglect PEOPLE. God is concerned deeply with PEOPLE, NOT with NEW GADGETS. Yes, it is very helpful to find a better car or a better airplane or a better computer, but none of these comes close to spending time with another person. Amos emphasized this point in Amos 2:6 and 8:6 by condemning wealthy people for buying and selling the poor and the needy for a pair of sandals. Which is more important: a pair of sandals or a person? Which is more important: To spend time with another person or to play games on a new gadget? Share YOUR concepts and reversions and desires and feelings and aspirations with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Monday, March 11, 2013

Jesus' Teachings about Misleading Others, Forgiveness, Trust, and Humility--Luke 17:1-10

As Jesus continues to travel toward Jerusalem for the crucifixion, in Luke 17:1-10 Jesus gives four specific instructions to his disciples, his true followers. Accordingly, this paragraph falls into four parts. I. Misleading Other People. Luke 17:1-3a. a. Jesus now addresses his disciples. He openly declares that occasions for stumbling [that is, occasions when people deliberately attempt to cause others to do the wrong thing, when people mislead other people]. Jesus is very concerned about anyone who attempts to mislead other people. These are "stumbling blocks." 17:1. b. Jesus says it would be better if a millstone were hung around a person's neck and thrown into the sea than for that person to mislead one of "these little ones." The "little ones" are the innocent, the inexperienced, those who trust all people, etc. People with evil hearts wish to change the commitment of godly people from God to Satan and his wiles. Jesus strongly condemns such people. 17:2. c. Thus, Jesus admonishes his true disciples: "Be on your guard." Do not allow evil people to change your heart and commitment to God, and do not mislead other people. 17:3a. II. Forgiveness. Luke 17:3b-4. a. Jesus says that true love leads a follower of God to do two things: (1) rebuke a person when he or she sins; (2) if that person repents, forgive that person. Such a rebuke must be frank, firm, and gentle in the spirit of Christ. When an individual harms one's brother or sister, one must rebuke that individual instead of harboring a grudge or going to a third person with gossip or slander. If that individual repents, one must fogive him or her. 17:3b. b. This is not a one time event. If a person sins against another person seven times and repents, that person must forgive the offender. 17:4. This message is very similar to Matthew 18:15-22. III. Trust. Luke 17:5-6. a. Jesus' apostles respond: "Increase our faith!" That is, add more faith or trust to what we already have, or add faith or trust to the other gifts which you have given us. 17:5. b. Jesus replied: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could said to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and transplanted in the sea," and it would obey you. The faith of godly people could grow and have a power that would be limitless because of the power of God. This message appears in Mark 11:22-23 and Matthew 17:20, and calls to mind Paul's statement that faith can move mountains in 1 Corinthians 13:2, and his confidence: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). IV. Humility. Luke 17:7-10. a. Now Jesus paints a simple picture. A slave works hard all day long. He comes in and his master tells him to prepare his supper and serve his master. The master does not thank the slave for what he has done. Here, Jesus is making a very important point about the true function of all of God's followers. We are all God's slaves. We deserve nothing. We should be very grateful because God is our master and we have the opportunity of serving him daily and uncessantly. 17:7-9. b. Accordingly, Jesus concludes: "When you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.'" No matter how much we have done, what we have done for God is woefully inadequate. It is very easy for us to assume that God owes something to us because we are so faithful or so diligent or so intelligent or so superior to others. All of us should rejoice because we are GOD's slaves, and not the slaves of the devil or sin or corruption. 17:10. Share YOUR experiences and restraints and visions and holdbacks and inadequacies with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis