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What Did Jesus Pray About? (Part 6)

The Lord Jesus was a man of prayer.  The Son of God, the Second Member of the Trinity, needed to pray!  He became fully human and humans need to pray!  Some of His prayers were for the benefit of others.  Just before He raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, we read, 41 “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (Jn. 11).  Allowing others to eavesdrop on His pray was important to the Lord Jesus — it was so “they may believe that you sent me.”

Here in John 17, Jesus is alone with His Father.  And His prayer is rich and personal.  But His requests are for His disciples.  Let’s notice this section one more time —

6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

What does He pray for concerning His disciples?  First of all, He gives thanks that His followers have obeyed God’s Word and have accepted the words Jesus gave them (vv. 6-7).  Second, they believed that the Father sent the Son (v. 8).  Third, Jesus states that “glory has come to me through them” (v. 10).  Wow.  Embarrassment, certainly.  But glory?  Fourth, He prays for His disciples who will remain in the world and continue His work (v. 11).  We will look a bit at the believer in the world in our next post.  Today?  Bring glory to the Lord Jesus!  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2017 in prayer

 

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UNLIKE JESUS: One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 19)

Can we talk?  We who want to follow Jesus have our successes and our failures.  We’re focusing in this series of posts on the fact that many Jesus-followers don’t imitate the Lord in His connection with sinners.  Matthew 11 is clear that He was “a friend of sinners.”  Can the same be said of us?  Of me?  Of you?

He spent time with the least, the lost, and the last.  We suggested in our previous post that many of us need a refresher course on basic friendship.  If one were to study every social occasion in which Jesus spent time with sinners, one would learn that —

1. He listened to them (Zacchaeus in Luke 19).

2.  He ate and drank with them (the feeding of the 4000 and of the 5000 in Mark 8).

3.  He was not afraid to meet with them publicly (the story of the man born blind in John 9).

Perhaps that third aspect of Jesus’ friendship with sinners merits some discussion.  Are we Jesus-followers afraid of being a friend of sinners because we fear criticism — from the family of God?!

Jesus told the three stories of lostness (the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son) in Luke 15 because of the criticism from the religious leaders.  The text reads, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”  Notice that there was something attractive in Jesus that drew the tax collectors and sinners to Him.  And His response was to “welcome” them.  And to eat with them!

But He also ate with the religious leaders!  In Luke 7 Jesus was invited to have dinner with one of the Pharisees.  A sinful woman in that town came into that Pharisee’s home and anointed His feet with perfume, wetting His feet with her tears (presumably, of repentance).  The Pharisee who had invited Jesus said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”  But the truth was He was already with a sinner — the Pharisee!  And was eating with him!

Jesus was an equal-opportunity friend.  He could dine with the religious and defend the repentant sinner.  Criticism did not curtail His mission or harden His heart.

The movie director Mel Brooks was once asked by an interviewer what he thought of critics.  He said, “Well, when you’re camping in the woods, they can be very noisy at night and will keep you from sleeping.”  “No,” said the interview, “not crickets, CRITICS!”  “Oh,” said Brooks.  “They are even worse.  They can’t even rub their back legs together to make music!”  Don’t let the religious critics keep you from being more like your Lord! (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 18)

We are investigating how we who profess to follow Jesus — often don’t.  We don’t follow Him in being “a friend of sinners.”  And, it must be said, we’re often rather poor at being a friend of fellow-saints!  “I don’t have the time!”  “Maybe later we’ll get together.”  “Let’s do lunch sometime.”  — are excuses we give for not pursuing deep, personal relationships with other members of the family of God.

I must admit:  As an introvert, I’m perfectly okay with shallow connections, brief conversations, non-risky discussions.  I like being alone.  IF I can have my books, my dog, and occasional visits from my wife.  We all — introverts and extroverts — come into this world broken — and we each have to lean against whatever brokenness keeps us from being a friend of sinners.  And of each other.

I think we Jesus-followers need a primer on FRIENDSHIP!  What’s involved in being a good friend?  The philosopher Plutarch said, “I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.”  “One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives,” said Euripides. 

How necessary are true friends?  Orson Welles was pretty negative when he wrote, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”  My patron saint, C.S. Lewis, bluntly said, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

The Bible has much to say about friendship.  For example, the Apostle Paul often uses the expression “my dear friends” as he writes his epistles (see Rom. 16:8-9).  He refers to Luke as “our dear friend” (Col. 4:14).  The Lord Jesus frequently used the word “friends” when He addressed His followers and said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:15).  “You are my friends,” Jesus said, “if you do what I command” (Jn. 15:14).  Jesus declared, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13).  After His resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples (who had gone back to work) and He calls out, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (By the way, the question is asked in such a way in Greek as to imply a “no” answer.  Jesus knew they hadn’t caught any fish! Jn. 21:5).

We read in James 2:23, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.”  Oscar Wilder once quipped, “True friends stab you in the front.”  He really wasn’t all that wrong, for Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  There is a lot of wisdom in Octavia Butler’s statement that “Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.” (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 16)

We are talking about how we Jesus-followers have a great deal to learn — and to practice — about being a friend of sinners like Jesus was.  Matthew 11 is clear that Jesus was such a friend.  He was charged with three offenses by His contemporary culture:  being a drunkard, being a glutton, and being a friend of sinners.

Because drunkenness and gluttony are sins, Jesus obviously did not drink or eat to excess.  But being a friend of sinners was not a sin.  Oh, sure in the minds of His critics hobnobbing with whores and hanging out with Herod’s tax agents was abominable.  But Jesus defends His association with the sick and the lost, especially as He tells the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 (a story told specifically because, as we read in the first two verses, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”)

But, wait a minute!  Isn’t hanging out with “sinners” THE sin in many Christian circles?  One study shows that a new convert will lose (= is expected to lose) all his non-Christian friends within the first year of his new life in Jesus.  I wonder how such a thing happens?

The assumption is that a new believer will spend all of his social time with the family of God.  He or she might be “discipled” in basic Bible study and prayer, but who helps that new convert learn to maintain his or her relationships with those not yet in God’s family?  Who teaches that believer how to pray for their lost friends, to really listen hard to their problems, to be ready to share (even a little bit) of their “testimony”?  If not proclaimed out loud, it seems to be a subtle expectation that those unsaved friends will be replaced by new relationships. (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 15)

If it is true that we seldom develop friendships with “the lost” primarily because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable, and not because we are afraid we will adopt their sinful ways, then one Old Testament character immediately comes to mind.  Jonah.

No, I’m not thinking of his being swallowed by a great sea creature.  I’m referring to the fact that his heart doesn’t change throughout his four-chapter saga.  I recently preached on this minor prophet and used a pretty simple outline:  Jonah’s Predicament (Ch. 1); Jonah’s Prayer (Ch. 2); Jonah’s Preaching (Ch. 3); and Jonah’s Pouting (Ch. 4).  The book concludes with Jonah furious at God for withholding His judgment of Nineveh, the Assyrians’ repenting, and Jonah being angry at God for taking away his comfort.  Comfort, not conversions, was Jonah’s focus.

Would you agree that we should never underestimate the comfort factor?  Developing deep relationships with lost people is messy, time-consuming, and unsettling to our comfortable routine.

Part of the problem is that I am very me-centered.  I may not always realize my default position, but many of my decisions and choices come down to “What’s in it for me?”  Does this conversation fit into my agenda, advance my goals, meet my needs?  Am I wasting my time here?

A few weeks ago I was invited to one of my lost friend’s home after playing a set of tennis with him.  He talked for an hour about how he wanted to change out the wooden banisters in his house for chrome ones.  But I listened and I asked questions.  I had to mentally force myself to focus on him and the topic he had chosen.  We didn’t talk about Jesus or Christianity or being born again.  We (He) talked about banisters.  But we had a conversation.

I wonder — Could it be that some of us are rather poor at conversations?  While we long for conversions, must we be reminded that friendship involves a hefty dose of listening?  And each conversation that we engage in holds the potential of advancing that friendship, perhaps toward conversion.  Are we listening?  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 14)

Let’s think more about this idea of FUN, shall we?  Healthy, human life must include a strong factor of FUN!  Many Jesus-followers that I know and have known are sober, somber, and somnolent (a word meaning sleepy)!  We simply “don’t get out much.”  We seldom have FUN with each other, much less with the world (its citizens).

There is, of course, a fear factor.  For many the fear is that, if we spend much time with sinners, we will become like them.  We will adopt their sinful habits.  We will compromise our morals.  And that risk is very real.

However, Jesus spent time with sinners.  And He did not cave in to their sinfulness.  Perhaps the real struggle with many Jesus-followers is not a fear of compromise, but a refusal to spend their time with the lost.  They may not be tempted to drink or curse or philander, but they simply don’t want to be in uncomfortable situations with those who do.  Comfort, not conformity, is the issue.

I’ve been in situations with my unsaved tennis friends where they have offered me a drink.  I don’t make a bit deal out of my tee-totalism.  I tell them that if I were to drink a beer, I’d probably throw up on the court!  And so I have a soft drink with them.  Companionship, not sinful compromise, seems to be what they are seeking with me.  (By the way, Jesus drank with sinners.  Yes, my Baptist friends.  He did.  Afterall, He was charged with being a drunkard. But let’s not get bogged down in that issue.).

We will continue our discussion on this critical topic in our next post.  BUT I’D LIKE TO ASK YOU TO DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW.  In the Comments’ section below, please describe briefly one relationship that you have with an unsaved friend.  Really.  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in discipleship

 

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UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 13)

Let’s face it.  Most of us Jesus-followers aren’t following Him in being a friend of sinners as He was.  Matthew 11 is quite clear that He wore that charge as a badge of honor.  We’re often afraid of what other Christians will think of us if we spend too much time with lost people.

One of the excuses we use is TIME.  But the bottom line is that each of us has 24 hours in the day.  And we can’t (and shouldn’t try to) get around the fact that Jesus spent TIME with sinners.

We also looked at the fact that we have forgotten THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP.  In our self-absorbed culture, we tend to focus on me, myself, and mine.

We are looking at various excuses we Jesus-followers use for not following Jesus in this crucial area of being a friend of sinners.  Sometimes Christians are confused about THE WORLD and our place in it.  There is a great difference between being a friend of sinners (as Jesus was) and being a friend of the world (which James 4 condemns)!  We fail to properly define the world and end up, ironically, embracing the world’s values but avoiding its citizens!

Let’s begin a brief discussion of the issue of FUN!  What do you do for FUN?  I was once asked to interview a candidate for the position of dean of our seminary and I asked him two simple questions:  (1) “Please tell me about your unsaved friends.” (He candidly admitted that he had none).  (2)  “Please tell me what you do for fun.”  (He said he didn’t have time for fun).

Somebody needs to develop a theology of fun!  God made us to enjoy His world and that includes FUN!  Mike Witmer’s Becoming Worldly Saints is a tremendous help in this area.  We are to enjoy the world God has made.  There is a fun-factor built into each of us.  Hmmmm.  What if we were to spend time with sinners — and have FUN with them? (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2017 in discipleship

 

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