Tag Archives: friend of sinners
Friends: We are thinking about the incredible possibility that awaits us as we anticipate a brand new year — 2020. The expression “2020” reminds me of my first eye exam in high school — when I memorized the eye chart before going to the doctor’s! (I don’t know why). As we face this new year, we have the opportunity to focus on several priorities for our lives.
First, we can commit ourselves to becoming more like the Lord Jesus, Second, we want to focus on the truth that we are not to be conformed to this world. Third, we need to have a deep desire to get into God’s holy Word!
May I suggest a fourth priority for each of us in 2020? And it is that we would deeply care about the salvation of those around us. If we believe the gospel is true, then every person is headed either to heaven or to hell. Do we think about that truth as we meet people, engage with our co-workers and neighbors, and come in contact with total strangers?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this issue. It’s the reason I recently wrote Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World. In that book I make the case that we are to be friends of sinners like Jesus was. And I challenge each excuse that many of us give for having only Christian friends, listening only to Christian music, and eating only Christian casseroles. [I’d be glad to send you a copy for around my cost, about $10 with shipping. Just let me know.]
Would you pray the following prayer with me? “Lord, I want this new year, 2020, to be different as I engage with lost people around me. Open my eyes, Father, to opportunities to share You with them, beginning with a bit of explanation about how I was lost. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Friends: From August 3-5 I have the privilege of leading a group of young people at Dayspring Camp in Ironton, Mo., through a study of friendship evangelism. I want to take the next few posts to survey some of what we will be studying as we think about how we can become friends of sinners like Jesus was!
Session #1- A Theology of LOSTNESS!
Our primary text for the weekend will be Matthew 11 where we read Jesus saying, “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.”
Dr. Francis Schaeffer, author of The God Who Is There and Escape from Reason said, “We have in a real sense lost sense of the lostness of the lost!” We must recover a sense of the lostness of the human being before God.
Jesus’ story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is the best illustration of lostness, it seems to me. After discussing the lost sheep and the lost coin, the Lord speaks of the prodigal son who rejected his family, prematurely demanded his share of the inheritance, and went off and debauched himself. But the primary point of the story, I think, is not that son, but the older brother who resented the father’s joy and celebration when his renegade younger brother came to his senses and returned home. He essentially said to the father, “I’m constantly working in the fields for you and you’ve never even thrown a small party for me!” The older brother clearly represents the “Pharisees and the teachers of the law [who] muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (v. 2).
In their religiosity the Pharisees and the teachers of the law had lost a sense of their own lostness, counting on their own righteousness instead of the grace and mercy of God!
The human person does not enter this world spiritually neutral, but rather as an enemy of God (Rom. 5:10). And all who come into this world are lost and under the wrath of God (Jn. 3:36). Liberal theology teaches that we are all children of God and just need to learn how to live Christian lives. But creation does not equal redemption! According to the Lord Jesus, He came as “the Son of Man to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk. 9).
Many years ago a little boy and his twin sister became lost in a small community outside Boston. After they were missing for several hours, the police were called and a search party was organized. Meanwhile, the little boy and girl both showed up when they heard the commotion as the search party got organized. They asked what was going on and were told that a little boy and girl had been lost. For the next two hours they helped search for themselves!
People don’t search for themselves. Have you joined Jesus in His rescue mission to find lost people? (to be continued)
Friends: I’ll be in Rochester, NY, this coming weekend (March 23-25) for a simulcast with Biblical Eldership Resources. I’ll give two messages on Saturday — the topic is “Faithful Preaching and the Power of the Spirit.”
On Sunday I’ll be speaking at Northgate Bible Chapel. During the Sunday School hour I will be asking the following questions about our being a friend of sinners like the Lord Jesus was:
An Unsaved Friends’ Survey
Seven Questions about Your Unsaved Friends
2. What’s one danger of having unsaved friends?
3. What is one benefit of having unsaved friends?
4. What is one basic aspect of friendship that you might need to work on?
5. How are you praying for your unsaved friends?
6. How should the church fit into your efforts to reach your unsaved friends?
7. What’s one activity you could do with your unsaved friends if you chose to?
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)
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.
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)
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)
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.
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)