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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 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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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 1)

In this new series of posts, I want to investigate one specific area where we Jesus-followers aren’t following Jesus as we should.  Of course, we fail in many ways to be like our Lord, but there is one particular area that I’m convinced we’re missing.  And we (and the church) are worse off because of our oversight.

That area is . . . being a friend of sinners as Jesus was.   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.”

There is so much in this passage that we need to examine.  The Lord Jesus is giving His evaluation of His contemporary culture and He says that it is like a bunch of children pouting!  They are upset, He says, because He (and John the Baptist — the “you” of verse 17 is plural) aren’t dancing to the tunes they are playing.  He is neither dancing to nor mourning because of their music — and they are upset with Him.  Their vocal mockery and taunting highlight the fact that Jesus is living out His life to the music of another Singer.  And this did not please them. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2017 in discipleship

 

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