Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bible Study John 13:18-38 Foreknowledge of Betrayals

If there is something bad that is going to happen in the near future, such as having a terminal illness, would you want to know about it earlier? Some may want to know earlier to prepare for it. Some would rather not know about it so that he can enjoy the present time and not to worry about it. What about Jesus?

Q1 Did Jesus know about the betrayals? What was the purpose?
Yes, Jesus knew.
  • v18 I am not speaking of all of you (as clean)... He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me....
  • v21 ... one of you will betray me ....
  • v26 ... Jesus even indicated the person ... Judas... 
  • v38 ... about Peter ... before the rooster crow he would denied Him 3 times.
The foreknowledge about Judas' betrayal was to show forth His identity as the Messiah. Jesus was trying, in all possible ways to prepare the disciples for his cruel death on the cross & departure from them, when they would be at a big lost of direction, filled with fear and depression. They will be like sheep without a shepherd. Hopefully, this could be an incidence that they recalled. All the happenings was to fulfill the scriptures and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

Q2 Did the disciples believe about the betrayals? Why or Why not?
The disciples could not believe that there would be a betrayer among them. The did not understand what Jesus was telling them. They formed their own mind v29.

Q3 Without Jesus leading them, how could people tell they are Jesus' disciples?
Jesus told them that He would be leaving them very soon to a place(back to His Father' s throne) where they could not come (they have mission on earth to accomplish). The way they could be identified by others and one another is by one key behavior pattern -"Love one another". Their loving one another will identify them as Jesus' disciples, or in modern term, Christians, by the public.

The Ultimate Love
Jesus practiced what he preached by loving the all including the one who would betrayed Him. He was facing death and his disciples were hard of understanding and would be running away from him instead of giving him support. In spite of all these, he was preparing them for time when he would not be there to lead and protect them. Giving up His life for people who betrayed him is ultimate love.

Q4 Must we be Jesus' 1st generation disciples to be saved?
Some people are concern about 2nd or 3rd or nth generation news. Knowing Jesus through His 100th generation disciple, does it still work? Jesus assured us, in 13:20 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”  Jesus himself is the sent one from God. We are the sent ones from Jesus to bring them to Jesus and to God the Father.

Q5 How did Jesus describe His forth coming death on the Cross? Explain.
Jesus called it "Glorification"! He is glorified and God is glorified in him v 31-32.
The Cross is the realization of the death of power of sins and Satan on man. In the physical order, it appeared to be a shameful death. Yes it was. It was for the sins of mankind. Spiritually, it was a victory. The penalty was paid. Man could be declared free. The bondage is broken and men are set free. The subsequent resurrection show forth the power of God in the elimination of death - the last enemy of men.
Please also note that God's glory is revealed through us. God is glorified when we are glorified! The is the love of the Father - he share his glory with his children. He want His children to be shining lights for Him. It is God's very purpose that you do well in life.

Q6 Compare the betrayals of Judas and Peter. What can we learn from them?
We will come back to this in future Bible Study. We make a note hear to think about the betrayals of Judas and Peter.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bible Study 1 Peter Discussion

We cover the content as presented in Bible Study 1 Peter Overview and
The following addition points were discussed: 

  1. Walk through of the Visual Map in Ephesians - Conclusions: Visualize Your Learning since 1 Peter is similar to Ephesians. 
    • The chart can be read forward starting with knowing the Love of Christ to Victory in Christ. Or it could be read backward as reflection or diagnosis for failing to be victorious in Christ. e.g. no accomplishment comes from lack of action, may comes from lack of planning, may come from lack of wisdom, lack of knowledge of calling, lack of hope, lack of faith, lack of love of Christ. Someone suggested that the PDCA should be changed to PECI - Plan Experiment Check Implement. 
  2. Salvation is a process. 
    • We have some now, rebirthed by and with Holy Spirit in us( Eph 1:13) , and we will have much more at Christ's coming (1Pet 1:5-6). 
  3. Testing. 
    • Our testing is but temporary and is for our growth and into the glory of God to be received at the revelation of Jesus of Christ. We may walk through the Valley of the shadow of death (Ps 23) but we must be aware that shadow is cast by light. Did we see the light besides the shadow. Do we know Thy rod (for attacking) and Thy staff (for rescuing) that is with us in this journey through the dark valley? 
  4. The true meaning of "Be ye holy; for I am holy" Pet 1:16. 
    • We are to live out the holiness/righteousness of God that is in us (Pet 1:15).Most translation of the Bible say that we must be holy because God is holy. This verse is from Lev 11:44 in the OT. Man must be holy because their God is holy. The energy to be holy must come from man. In OT times, there was no Holy Spirit in man, no Christ in man, such interpretation is correct.  
    • However with new born believers, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit ( Eph 1:13) and we have the Christ in Us (Col 1:27), the way to live is not about man's willing and doing, but about man's yielding to the Holy Spirit and abiding in Christ (like the branch connected the vine of Jesus John 15). It is working out our  salvation with fear and trembling from the God which worketh in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure ( Php 2:12-13 ). 
    • Work out means we let what we have inside us, in our spirit, the Christ in us, to work through our mind and our body (exterior) so that we will, think and behave like Christ within. It is a growing up process. A good example is the planting of seed. The seed is complete. But it must be planted in the right environment, with water and sun light. It will grow and later bear fruit.
    • A better translation is "We are to show forth the holy nature of the Holy God in us"
    • Some people don't steal because they are afraid of the punishment. Remove the laws and the punishment, then they will steal. However, a true born again believer will not and never steal, because it is in his nature of holiness that such stealing thought never exist in mind. He new nature thinking is about giving and blessing others. Stealing is not in his nature. This is how we should live. It should be natural and easy for us because it is in our nature. We are created and built to do good. We will feel very uncomfortable when we see sins and to sin is a very painful thing (we may be deceived for a short while). Our new pure nature makes us extremely sensitive to sins and find them repulsive. Little things that don't bother us before become a big issue after we are saved. 
    • Why then do believers sin? Because of the existence of old man - the unchanged mind and the body and temptations from the world and the devils. 
    • The way to overcome sins is not to focus on sins but to focus on the new nature of holiness and righteousness.
      To yield to the leading the Holy Spirit in our spirit. To stay in the clean state. Knowing that we are pure and clean will keep us from the dirt of sin. This is a bit defensive. A more positive mindset to to continue to focus on do the things that the Holy Spirit reveals to us. The Christ and Holy Spirit consciousness will keep us on the path of victory. The grace of God inside should enable us to overcome the old mindset and temptations and forces outside. 
  5. Fear 
    • Fear is not about fearing God's punishment because Christ had already been punished for our sins. The fear is about not letting the light shine through us and bringing shame to God.
  6. Thy Kingdom Come & Thy Will be done on Earth 
    • The past thinking and emphasis on Holiness as defined as 'separated from' causes the Church to withdraw from world and become irrelevant to the world and therefore loosing its influence on the world! But Jesus Christ told us to pray that God's Kingdom and God's will be done on earth. This is only possible if believers get back to engage and lead the world with God's Will. Believers are to be overcomers, not by fighting the world with worldly methods, beat them into submission with greater force, but by transforming the world with God's love, the true meaning of overcoming. See  The Meaning of "More than Conquerors". We discuss the conquering the seven mountains or gates for taking back the influence: Arts & entertainment, Business, Church & Religions, Distribution Media, Education, Family and Government. Christ will not come for spotty Bride but will prepare for Himself a spotless Bride.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Bible Study John 13:1-17 Servant Leadership - Real Meaning of Feet-Washing

    Chapter 13 to 16 recorded the events and discussion of Jesus with His disciples in the upper room. It began with the supper.

    Q1 How much did Jesus love His disciples? How can you tell?
    He loved them completely, to the uttermost, or to the very end. 13:1
    Jesus knew His time for the cross is near and yet it did not consume His whole attention. His attention was on His disciples. He was leaving them and yet they were not mature.

    Some weeks earlier, in Mat 20:21-23 they were asking to seat on Jesus' right and left hands in His new kingdom. In this supper time, when there were no servants, none of the disciples bothered to wash their feet. "During the meal" v4, Jesus got up to wash their feet.

    Q2 What is the teaching of this washing of feet by Jesus? How could we apply it today?

    Let's observe the following facts:
    1. Feet need to be washed before entering the room.
    2. Washing of feet was the job of the lowest rank servant.
    3. None of the disciples offered to wash feet. Everyone considered himself at least equal with others if not higher in rank.
    4. Much time was given for them to realize this and no one did. So Jesus, in the midst of the meal, got up and washed their feet.
    5. The washing of feet physically at this time was not necessary as they already started their meal.
    6. Jesus got up and washed their feet.
    7. Peter objected first (we will come back to Peter's response in next question)
    8. Jesus explained to them that:
      1. Jesus, as teacher and Lord, did the act as a teaching.
      2. The teaching is about doing the lowly but needful task of washing feet of one another.
    The Meaning of Washing Feet in Today Context:
    1. No needful task is beyond the dignity of anyone, even the Leader, Boss or CEO.
    2. Task has no ranking (high honor or low esteem) only useful(needful) or not.
    3. Anyone who sees the need should just do it without considering one's rank or waiting for another to do it. 
    4. The Lord Jesus had sat the example to serve His disciples, and hence Leaders must serve their staff. He would is greatest must be the servant of all. (Matt 20:26) It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.
    5. The teaching of modern management is about serving the employees to serve the customers better. Happily served customers will be loyal and will reward the owners of the company.
    6. Such modern discovery of right management confirms Jesus teaching of 'If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them [John 13:17]'
    Secondary Teachings that are not according to context:
    1. There are many commentators who see washing of dirt as cleaning away of sins and hence interpreted this as confessing of sins. 
    2. Washing of feet is interpreted as daily confessing of sins. We daily encounter the dirt of the earth and committed sins that we need to confess and wash.
    3. The whole body need not be washed because the body had been saved and cleaned by Christ already.
    4. Personally, I don't agree with such interpretation. Such over-spiritualisation of things will cause one to miss the main teaching and frequently creates misunderstanding and distortion. We need to stick to the context. Even though in v11 Jesus said 'not all of you are clean' to refer to the sin of betrayal of Judas Iscariot.   The main teaching is about 'no one want to wash feet' and Jesus as Lord and teacher show them the example of serving by washing their feet.
    5. There are people who practice washing of feet as ceremonies. They say it encourages humility. Personally, such for show things defeat the purpose and distort the teaching of humility. Humility is about doing things quietly and not about showing-off. Doing something unnecessary to show that one is humble is ridiculous.  A bit like the some of the rich giving to charity to show that they are loving but actually they are doing it for their popularity.
    Jesus was able to be humble because of who he is and what he already know. He is secured. 13:3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God.

    Q3 Explain Peter's discourse with Jesus
    1. Peter first refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet because it was against his belief of "the junior must serve the senior" and so how could Jesus, his teacher, wash his, his student's feet. This wrong mental attitude was what Jesus wanted to change.
    2. Jesus explained to Peter that if he does not accept the washing, i.e. the right way of Jesus' disciples behavior, then Peter cannot be His team of disciples. Disciples must do what their Teachers do.
    3. If washing feet means relationship with Jesus, then Peter wanted more of that relationship and hence wanted the whole body to be washed.
    4. Jesus was happy that Peter wanted more of relationship but Peter really did not understand the point He was making. One needs to understand the real needs and not be confused about the real issue. It was not about bathing but about no one wanting to do the needful thing of washing feet after walking on the streets.
    Q4 What have we learned from Jesus in this feet washing incidence?
    We learn the following 2 things:

    1. Greatness is about Serving others & It is measured by how much and the impact that you benefit others.

    2. Teaching is by doing first and then explaining.

    Humility lesson cannot be taught but by doing first. It is leading by example.
    The most effective form of teaching is modelling the right behavior. Children are good at following their parents behavior rather than what they say.

    Or Leadership is about serving and leading by example.

      Sunday, January 9, 2011

      Bible Study John 12:37-50 John's Review of Jesus' Public Ministry

      Q1 What do you think is the effectiveness of Miracles in Jesus' Ministry?
      The answer is in 12:37 "Though he had done so many signs before them, they still id not believe in Him".

      The original objective of miracles are for people to believe Jesus as the Messiah - Son of God to save men.

      Here are the some points to note:

      1. Some leaders still ask for Jesus to perform miracles to prove that He was the Messiah. It was not that Jesus did not, it was that they want Jesus to do according to their wish. They define how God should prove to them that He was God. It is a wonder whether who is God - them or God. If they bother to open their mind to see, they would be able to see the many miracles of Jesus.

      2. Some want to make Jesus King to feed their stomachs. The feeding of five thousands, four thousands made Jesus popular with the people. They want to make Jesus King of their own benefits rather than submit to the Lord. When Jesus tell them the truth, they departed from Him.

      3. Miracles per se do not prove anything. Devils can also work miracles from man's point of view like healing. The villiages wanted to worship Pual and Barnabas, but Pual rightly point them to God rather than to man. There must be a mesage first and then miracles confirm the message.

      4. We must come to know God by God's terms and ways. This leads us to the next question.

      Q2 Explain your understanding of "God has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart" 12:40.

      If God has indeed blinded and hardened men's heart, then men could not be responsible for their sin and disobedience after all it was God doing the blinding and hardening.

      The quote comes from Isa 6:10. Isa 6 recorded the commissioning of Isaiah. He had the vision of the throne of God and he took up the mission to speak to the people that were hard of hearing and understanding. The holiness of God against this disobedience actually increases the contrast and widen the gap.

      We have to go back to the original Hebrew of Isa 6:10. If we check the word for word KJV+ against the Strong concordance, the word MAKE was not in the original hebrew. Hence, we find in Brenton's translation, the word FOR is used instead. In YLT, we find the word DECLARE. It means that man is responsible for the choices that he made. In NASB+, we find the Hebrew word H8080, which was translated as Render insensitive by NASB, but in BDB (Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Definitions) it is defined as "1) to be or become fat, grow fat". To become is not quite the same as God rendering. The cause of the becoming is not stated and we should not add in our own thinking and say it was from God.

      Nevertheless, it was God who gave the message first and then man refused to listen. If there is no initial message from God and then there would not be a disobedience from man. It is in this sense that 'God made or God blinded' should be understood. Man holds the responsibility of his choice toward God's initiation.

      The rejection of Christ by majority of the people was foretold by Isaiah sometime around BC 740 (Death of Uzziah).

      There is the promise - so long as they see, understand and be converted, the Lord will heal them. At anytime, might as well be now, we can believe and receive Jesus as who he claimed he is and be rebirthed with eternal life of God.

      Q3 Who were the secret believers of Jesus? Why the secrecy? Were they saved?
      John cited a interesting segment of believers of Jesus. There were the religious leaders v42. But fearful of ex-communication from the Pharisees, they did not confess their faith publicly. John gave the reason in v 43, they loved the praise of men more than of God. 

      Were such secret believers truly saved?
      I don't know. They were called believers by John. To what extend of believe will one be classified saved - e.g. of the heart and not just of the mind only. Naaman asked God to forgave him of a particular worship act of the King (2Ki 5:18-19) and was granted.
      On the other hand, Jesus did had a warning, Mat 10:33  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
      Let God be the judge. We just make sure that we believe in Jesus with our hearts and let Him help us to stand for him at the appropriate time and situation.

      Q4 List down the key points of Jesus message.
      This is the summary by John of Jesus' key message.
      1. Believe Jesus as God (12:44)
      2. Jesus and God the Father are ONE. v44,,45
      3. Jesus is the light.  Believers of Jesus should walk in the light and not in darkness. (See Bible Study 1 John God is Light & Love)
      4. Jesus came to save the world v47.
      5. Jesus' message (His word) will be the judge in the last day. Essentially we will be judged by our reception or rejection of Jesus' word. v47-48
      6. Jesus' word is not from man but from God, His Father, who sent Him. Hence the authority and the power of Jesus' word is as of God. 
      7. Jesus speak as the Father who gave Him.
      8. Jesus and God's commandment is for everyone, who want to, to have everlasting life. The Way to everlasting life had be opened by Jesus. We just need to choose to believe and walk on it. v49-50

      Friday, January 7, 2011

      Bible Study John 12:20-36 Jesus Last Public Message - Follow Me to Eternal Life

      This is Jesus last public message. We can infer this from John 12:36 These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. After this verse, John recorded Jesus' teaching and conversation with his disciples in private.

      Q1 Who wanted to see Jesus? What was their motivation? Did they get to Jesus? What does all these mean?
      • The Greeks wanted to see Jesus (12:20). They asked Philip (Philip is a Greek name and so he was probably closer to the Greeks than others). Philip asked Andrew and they both asked Jesus. Philip and Andrew seemed to be Jesus' PR men. Jesus asked Philip to feed the people (John 6:5).
      • They wanted to know Jesus more and this meant that Jesus' reputation had spread from the Jews to the Greeks. Did they just want to know out of curiosity or to be Jesus' disciples?
      • Jesus' public message tell them to be His disciples and to follow Him. He is God and He is for us to follow. He is not to be our normal kind of friend for us to decide whether to follow or not.
      • Some commentators said that Jesus was taking the inquiry of the Greeks as a sign of His impending death and hence the discourse. I would not say that Jesus needed to follow sign as a confirmation of the leading of the Father. His Father would tell him the forthcoming things he needed to do.
       Q2 Point out the key messages of Jesus' discourse.
      1. Forecast of His Death. 12:24, 12:33
      2. Glory comes from His Death! 12:23
      3. The need for His death is that much fruit will comes from it 12:24
      4. The glory comes from the multiple new births from His one death (on the cross).
      5. We must give up our own life to receive His gift of eternal life. The secret is to exchange our lives for His life. We must love Him more than we love ourselves.  Love is more than talk and must be shown in serving Him.
      6. If we say we love Him, we must follow Him and serve Him. 
      7. Where Jesus is, his servant or followers must be there too. I will not just take this to mean physical closeness, but also to mean spiritual and mindset closeness. Think and do like Jesus. Jesus also implied that His followers will be where He is: now on earth and future in heaven. After Jesus' resurrection, believers are seated with Christ spiritually in the heavenly places even though physically we are here on earth. That's why believers have the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick in His Name.
      8. Father God will honor those who serve Jesus - it is eternal life + rewards of crowns and cities!
      Q3 Was Jesus afraid of His death? Did He change His mind? Why not?
      1.  It was not an easy decision. Jesus at this stage is a man, 100% man, on earth. His soul was troubled 12:27.
      2. No. Jesus made up His mind. He knew His whole life was for this very purpose of dying to save mankind. The saving of mankind is the great glory of God's goodness towards man. Jesus came to glorify God and in turns Himself is glorified by God.
      Q4 Who confirm Jesus' message? How can we tell it was true?
      The Heavenly Father God Himself spoke from heaven. 12:28  Then came there a voice from heaven, [saying], I have both glorified [it], and will glorify [it] again.

      It was not the first time. The first time was at Jesus' baptism. The 2nd time was at the mount of transfiguration. This is the third time. After resurrection, Jesus will come in the Power of the Son of God and not as son of man.

      12:29 recorded for us that the people heard it, like thunder. Some people said it was an angel and refusing to recognize that it was God and Jesus as Son of God who address God as Father.
      Jesus explained that the voice was for the people benefits - to have faith in His words and thereby receive His words for eternal life. Don't miss it and yet as John pointed out later(next post), many missed it!

      Q5 Discuss the implication of Jesus' death in the spiritual world.
      The Christian worldview is a parallel dual universes interlinked. Mat 16:19 tell us that we, on earth, are given the authority to control events in heaven or in the spiritual dimension.  Jesus tells us what happen in the heavenly or spiritual world with His death:

      31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
      32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.

      Jesus' death resulted in the casting out of devil (prince of this world) from heaven and had a short time on earth before he is bond in chained (Heb 1:13, 10:13, Rev 12:12).

      Q6 What was the blindness of the people?
      The answer in given in 12:34 We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
      They could not see a suffering Messiah only a victorious Messiah. Some how they forgot about Is 53.

      Q7 What was Jesus' final call?
      12:36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.
      The darkness is coming soon (35).

      Many people argued that Jesus died two thousand years ago and so what is the hurry or urgency. The urgency is that we are unique man and not mankind. Mankind has 6000+ years of history but we are only 60-90 years. We don't know what will happen tomorrow (James 4:14). The call needs to be decided now and not wait till tomorrow (Heb 4:7). Today is the day of salvation.