Friends: Thank you for staying with me through this six-part study of being a friend of Jesus. I get to do a “Theology Matters” conference with a group of young people at Dayspring Bible Camp in Missouri from August 3-5 on this critical topic.
We have already seen in our study that we need a theology which undergirds our efforts to reach lost people. We need a theology of lostness, a theology of friendship, a theology of worldliness, a theology of evangelism, and a theology of repentance!
Let’s notice this morning a sixth theology which we need to rightfully be a friend of sinners like Jesus was and that is —
VI. A Theology of INTENTIONAL LIVING!
Granted, if you were to survey a systematic textbook on various theologies, you wouldn’t find this one among them! What we mean is, if I want to be a friend of sinners, a great deal of intentionality will be required of me. I will see myself as “on mission.” I will wake up in the morning — after my requisite coffee — and ask, “Lord, is there someone today that I might befriend for Your sake? Where can I make strategic decisions to spend time with the lost and to listen to their stories?”
For me the challenge in Philippians 3 helps me here. There we read: “12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
What’s the “all this” in verse 12? In the previous section Paul spoke about “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (v. 8). He speaks of his desire to “gain Christ” (v. 8). He longs to “be found in [Christ]” (v. 9). He want to “know Christ” (v. 10). And he wants to attain “to the resurrection from the dead” (v. 11).
In summary, Paul wants to please the Lord, to glorify Him, to count everything loss in comparison to honoring and serving Him! And that just makes sense IF the Lord Jesus is who we believe He is — the Lord of glory, the One for Whom we should live each moment, the friend of sinners!
Here are several practical steps you and I can take in becoming much more intentional in following our Lord’s example in loving the lost:
1. Repent of your past of not purposely developing relationships with lost people.
2. Begin to pray strategically for a few unsaved acquaintances who can become close friends.
3. Determine to work hard at nurturing and advancing those relationships.
4. Commit yourself to listening to the stories of your not-yet-born-again friends.
5. Ask others to pray for you — and for them!
6. Don’t hesitate to ask other Christians about their unsaved friends. And if they say they have none, go over Matthew 11:16-19 with them.
7. Gently and respectfully ask the leaders in your church about their unsaved friends. And if they say they have none, ask them if they would be willing to look at Matthew 11:16-19 with you.
8. Make friendship evangelism a priority in your prayer meetings. Don’t allow those meetings to degenerate into mere “organ recitals” (= praying for each other’s health). Pray strategic, personal involvement prayers. Don’t pray, “Lord, save my friend John.” No! Pray, “Lord, give me an opportunity this week to have coffee with John and to ask him about his teenaged son who is on drugs.”
9. Celebrate break–throughs in relationships! Rejoice when good conversations take place. Praise the Lord with other believers when your lost friends ask good questions.
10. Do your homework. Developing serious relationships with sinners will require digging for answers to their questions. One of my friends had me over to his house for coffee and, somehow, within a few minutes he had asked me what Buddhists believe, what about those who have never heard the gospel, is there really a hell?, etc.
Choose not to be unlike Jesus. Be a “friend of sinners.”