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UNLIKE JESUS! One Are Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 12)

We are looking at various excuses we Jesus-followers use for not following Jesus in this crucial area of being a friend of sinners. In our last post we began to think a bit about THE FORGOTTEN ART OF FRIENDSHIP.  Jesus was a friend of sinners.  But what do we do with James 4 which says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

It is absolutely critical that we recognize several possible meanings with the word “world.”  In John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world . . .”), it must mean the people of the planet.  In John 17:5 Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”  Here “the world” appears to mean the planet itself.  But we then read in I John 2:15- “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”  The God who loves the world (John 3:16) tells us not to love the world (I John 2:15).  Here “the world” must mean the pagan system opposing God and the things of God.  Obviously, the expression “the world” can have three different meanings, depending on context.

So what does “the world” mean in James 4:4 (“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”).  Looking at the context of James 4 we learn —

1. that fights and quarrels among believers often come from our ungodly desires (vv. 1-3).

2. that following Jesus means resisting the devil (v. 7), drawing near to God (v. 8), seeking holiness (v. 8), grieving about sin (v. 9), and humbling ourselves before the Lord (v. 10).

3.  that slandering and judging each other is really judging God’s law (vv. 11-12).

4.  that boasting about tomorrow can cause us to forget about God’s will over our lives (vv. 13-16).

5.  that not doing the good we should do is sin (v. 17).

These are the injunctions James gives for living life for God.  His admonition to not be a friend of the world occurs in verse 4.  So, we could say that being a friend of the world means —

(1)  living for our own desires which includes needless quarreling with fellow-believers;

(2)  not resisting the devil, not drawing near to God, not seeking holiness, not grieving about sin, not humbling ourselves before the Lord;

(3)  slandering and judging one another;

(4)  not pursing God’s will above our own future plans;

(5)  not doing the good that we should do.

Man, that puts some meat on the challenge NOT to be a “friend of the world,” doesn’t it?  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 11)

We are looking at various excuses we Jesus-followers use for not following Jesus in this crucial area of being a friend of sinners.  We are to be friends of sinners like Jesus (Mt. 11) but not friends of the world (James 4:4).  There is a world of difference between spending time with those who are lost versus conforming to the values and beliefs of a lost world.

Let’s think for a bit about THE FORGOTTEN ART OF FRIENDSHIP.  What does it mean to be a friend?  What’s involved?  What is the cost of close, personal relationships with others?  It’s tough enough to be a friend of fellow believers.  How in the world do I become a friend of lost people, sinners?

I found one of my favorite quotes on friendship by searching the internet.  I remembered a few of the words of the quote and then, through the miracle of the world wide web, discovered it.  Here is that quote: “Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans).  The troubling thing about that quote is that it was with a cartoon of a girl petting her dog!  Please notice — the quote says “feeling safe with a person”! 

I’m slowly learning that to be a friend of sinners involves the following elements:

1. Spending time with them.

2. Showing them that I want to listen to them and their stories.

3. Trying to remember special dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).

4. Using my home as a place to get together.

5. Inviting them to events other than church services!

6. Sharing with them some of my struggles and mistakes.

7. Looking for opportunities to speak about my faith in Christ.

I can honestly say that I have had only a few really good friends over the years.  I don’t blame them. I don’t think most of us understand true friendship.  And there are — and ought to be — some differences between being friends with other Jesus-followers and being friends with those who are not yet there.  I am not to seek my spiritual fellowship with those who are not yet committed to Christ.  But there are many other aspects of friendship that I can pursue and enjoy with those who don’t know Him.  And they, hopefully, can see in my life the differences that Jesus has made and is making in how I’m living out my life.  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 10)

Jesus was criticized for spending TIME with tax collectors and sinners.  We should be criticized for spending time only with ourselves and our loved ones.  As we saw in John 17, we have been left here on planet earth to reach the people of this world.  They need to be reached.  Lostness is real — and followers of Jesus have the answer to human lostness.

But the communication of that message takes TIME.  And time requires commitment, priorities, sacrifice.  And friendship.  Deep, on-going, strategic friendships.

I am an unapologetic C.S. Lewis fan.  He was not perfect.  And there are some areas where he and I disagree with one another.  But I love finding a new C.S. Lewis quote.  He said somewhere: “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”  Time is the great equalizer.  Time measures our priorities.  It declares, wordlessly, what is important to us and what efforts we have made to express our values to others.

Someone named Roy T. Bennett put it this way:  “It’s worth making time to find the things that really stir your soul. That’s what makes you really feel alive. You have to say ‘no’ to other things you’re used to, and do it with all your heart.”  I’m really no fan of Stephen King, a man who has terrified innumerable people with his books.  I heard that King was raised in an Evangelical family.  King says in one of his books: “Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.”

Jesus spent time with sinners.  It took time for Him to eat and drink with them.  He was charged with “welcoming sinners.”  It takes time to “welcome” someone.

Today is my last day of class with my fourteen lifer brothers in a local prison.  These men are in a two-year program to be trained as prison chaplains.  I’ve been teaching them Bible doctrine each morning from 9 AM to noon for three weeks.  Most of them will never leave prison.  Yesterday afternoon I went through security, got patted down, was let through several sets of locked doors, and met my students in the visitors’ room.  To play ping pong.  I invested a little bit of time with them, outside the classroom.

The brutal fact is that you and I have exactly the same amount of time every day.  We choose how we will use that time.  Lao Tzu said, “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”

How will you use the time God gives you today?  In the words of the great theologian Dr. Seuss, “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 9)

None of us like criticism.  But criticism from those who profess to know God is especially painful.  Jesus (and John the Baptist) get criticized in Matthew 11.  John is throught to have been demonized because of his frugality (he wore a camel’s hair cloak and regularly ate a lunch of locusts).

The Lord Jesus is criticized for His indulgence.  He was charged with being a glutton and a drunkard, accusations which had no evidence to support them.  But He was also criticized for being “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  To this third charge, I believe, Jesus would have responded, “GUILTY AS CHARGED!”

We followers of Jesus need to be charged as well.  But the charge against most of us is that we are not like Jesus!  We eat Christian cookies, read Christian books, have Christian wallpaper, and hang around only with Christians!

There is a world of difference between being a “friend of the world” (James 4:4) and being “a friend of sinners” (Mt. 11).  One makes us enemies of God; the other makes us like the Lord Jesus.

We saw that THE MYTH OF GODLINESS is the commonly-held belief that the fewer non-Christian friends we have, the godlier we are.  No, the less like Jesus we are.  We saw from Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 that He has strategically left us in the world to continue His work.  Believers in Jesus are not called to escape the world, but to serve Him, protected by God.  We are to be IN the world but not OF the world. (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel! (Part 8)

The Lord Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk. 15:2).  Many, if not most, Christians are NOT friends of sinners. We have swallowed a lie that the fewer non-Christian friends we have the godlier we are.  No.  The less like Jesus we are.

What we believe, what we swallow, can spiritually kill us.  And we Christians have bought into the lie that we are to be anti-world.  And that means being no friend of sinners.  Afterall, doesn’t the Bible say that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)?

But then we looked briefly at Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17.  Here is that prayer again:

Several conclusions are unavoidable if we take Jesus’ prayer seriously:
1. The word “world” can mean the planet, the people of the planet, or the pagan system opposed to God and the things of God. “World” must mean the pagan system in James 4:4 (“friendship with the world is enmity with God”) because God so “loved the world” (Jn. 3:16).  In fact, it is John who tells us in I John 2:15 not to love the world.  “World” must have two different meanings in John 3:16 and I John 2:15.  Friendship with the pagan system opposing God and the things of God makes us God’s enemies.

2.  John 17 is a perfect example of how “world” can mean several things.   For example, it apparently means the planet in verse 5 (“before the world began”).  It apparently means the people of the planet in verse 9 (“I pray for them.  I am not praying for the world”).

3.  Therefore, what conclusions can we draw about the Christian and the world from this prayer?  First, any efforts on our part to take ourselves out of the world of people run contrary to Jesus’ declaration in verse 11 (“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world”).  Jesus doesn’t pray for escape for His followers, but protection (see verse 11).  Second, followers of Jesus are to be IN the world but not OF the world (verse 14).  Our present geographical assignment is not heaven, but earth!  And we are to serve Him while we are here.  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 7)

We have established the fact that Jesus was a friend of sinners.  We saw that truth in Luke 15 where “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” (Lk. 15:2).  Other examples could be given that show the Lord spending time with lost people.  He declared that He did not come to “call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Lk. 5:32).

We need waste no time proving that many, if not most, Christians are NOT friends of sinners.  Why not?  What do we fear?  How do we engage ourselves if we are not becoming friends of sinners?  What does it mean to be a friend of sinners?  What are the risks and dangers of such a “life-style”?

The Myth of Godliness

Our dog Scrabble one day stopped eating and drinking.  I mean, completely!  For days — and

Scrabble when he was a puppy.

then weeks!  I took Scrabble to a local pet store and the vet said he thought Scrabble had pancreatitis.  Scrabble still wouldn’t eat or drink.  We had to syringe water down his throat.

In desperation we took our dog to a friend who is a vet and it turns out Scrabble had swallowed three rubber nozzles from some gardening equipment.  We don’t know why.  But they had blocked his lower intestine and he was going to die.  Our vet friend did surgery, removed the three items, and gave us back out dog.  Scrabble is doing fine now, if you’re wondering.

Many of us have swallowed a lie.  That lie, as Steve Brown says, “smells like smoke and comes from the pit!”  The lie is simply this:  We believe that the fewer non-Christian friends we have, the godlier we are.  That is a lie.  Godliness does not come to those who isolate themselves from a lost world.

A simple study of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 ought to shock us out of our stay-away-from-the-world mentality: (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 6)

I John 3:26 says, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”  Jesus-followers are to strive everyday to become more like their Lord.  But we have failed to be like Jesus in one crucial area — being a friend of sinners.  We read in Matthew 11:

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

To the three charges leveled at Jesus — being a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of sinners — I believe Jesus would have replied, “Not guilty.  Not guilty.  GUILTY!”  We saw that one of the most famous teachings of Jesus, the story of the prodigal son, was given because “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” (Lk. 15:2).  I copied and pasted my understanding of Luke 15 in our previous post.

Let’s be honest — We followers of Jesus are NOT friends of sinners.  We sometimes are hardly friends of each other.  All of us could use a primer in basic friendship, but we are desperately in need of the challenge to be like Jesus and to develop friendships with those who need Him!

There are a variety of EXCUSES which we Jesus-followers give for not being like Him in this area.  Some which occur to me — and which we will discuss in subsequent posts — are the tyranny of time, the fear of compromise, the curse of criticism, no interest in listening, etc.  We’re going to grind away at this one topic:  our absolute need to develop serious, strategic, sincere relationships with lost people.  You will be tempted to abandon this blog, but I plead with you to stick with me.  This really is important.  (to be continued) 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in discipleship

 

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