In a few days I get to lead a group of young people through the topic of being a friend of sinners, like Jesus was (Mt. 11). In our six-part study, we have already seen that we need a theology of lostness (we come into this world as enemies of God and under His wrath) and we need a theology of friendship (we need to learn to listen to our unsaved friends without resorting to conditional friendships).
Let’s notice a third aspect of being a friend of sinners and it is that we need —
Session #3- A Theology of WORLDLINESS!
James 4:4 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.” We are not to be a friend of the world (in the sense of siding with the pagan system opposing God and the things of God), but we are to be friends of sinners! We need a clear understanding, a definitive doctrine of the world, that guides us is walking that fine line between those two imperatives.
Many Christians genuinely fear falling into sin if they intentionally become friends of sinners. But we can love sinners without compromising our Christian convictions. I’ve done a serious study of the “world,” a term used 17 times by the Lord Jesus in His high priestly prayer in John 17. That word cosmos (in the Greek) can be translated the planet, the people of the planet, or the pagan system opposing God and the things of God. Here’s my translation of John 17, attempting to insert the best translation of that word.
“And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the planet began.” (v. 5). … I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the pagan system. (v. 6). … I pray for them, I am not praying for the people of the planet, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (v. 9). … I will remain in the planet no longer, but they are still in the planet, and I am coming to you. (vv. 10-11). … I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the planet, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (v. 13). … I have given them your word and the pagan system has hated them, for they are not of the pagan system any more than I am of the pagan system. (v. 14). … My prayer is not that you take them out of the planet but that you protect them from the evil one.” (v. 15). … They are not of the pagan system, even as I as not of it. (v. 16). … As you sent me into the people of the planet, I have sent them into the people of the planet. (v. 18). … My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the people of the planet may believe the you have sent me. (vv. 20-21). … I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the people of the planet will know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (v. 23). … Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the planet. (v. 24). … Righteous Father, though the people of the planet do not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.” (v. 25).
There are ten conclusions that we can draw from looking at John 17 in this way:
1. The full deity of the Lord Jesus is foundational. He had the Father’s glory before creation (v. 5) and was loved by the Father before the creation came into existence (v. 24).
2. We all are in the pagan system opposing God until He saves us. No one is spiritually neutral. We are all enemies of God before conversion (v. 6).
3. Jesus personally prays for each of us (v. 9).
4. He is leaving the planet, but we are staying here (vv. 10-11).
5. He says these things while here on the planet so that we might have the full measure of His joy. Now. Here. (v. 13).
6. We should not be surprised that the pagan system hates us, for it hated Him! (v. 14).
7. Jesus prays for our protection not our escape from this planet (v. 15).
8. We have been sent/commissioned by the Lord Jesus to the people of this planet (v. 18).
9. The unity of Jesus-followers can lead the people of the planet to belief in Him (vv. 20-23).
10. The people of the planet do not know the Father, but Jesus does (v. 25).
Being a friend of sinners does not automatically mean being a friend of the worldly system! And our mission is in this world! Although we long for the Lord’s return for us, we are not to embrace a kind of evacuation theology that shirks our ministry here! (to be continued)