Jesus as Friend

“The Many Faces of Jesus”
How do you even begin to answer this question? There are so many ways to describe Jesus. Have you seen “The Dress” this week? Is it white and gold or black and blue? We’re looking at the same thing, but we’re describing two different dresses. Sometimes I hear people talk about Jesus in a way that makes me think, “They must be talking about a different Jesus!” For the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the “Many faces of Jesus,” to encounter Jesus as Friend, Miracle Worker, Servant, and Shepherd. These four “faces” give us a good picture who Jesus is, why he came, and why we talk about him so often.

Many Faces of Jesus

When I was on the football team in high school one the leaders on the team took up a collection for some new carpets in the locker room. I gave him $5 and never heard of the carpets again. Later on I found out he used the money he collected to buy beer for the big weekend party. Trusting someone who’s not trustworthy makes you feel pretty foolish.

Who hasn’t been there before? Some of us trust people way too easily and we find ourselves being taken advantage of. But other people seem to never trust others and are so skeptical they refuse to trust people who are actually trustworthy.

“Can we trust God?”
This might sound like a weird question to ask, but it’s absolutely honest and worth asking. How do we know he’s trustworthy? How do we know if he even likes us?

John 3:17 says, “God sent his Son into the world to judge the world but to save the world through him.” Jesus is not God’s warrior sent to slaughter sinners for their rebellion. Instead, He is God-in-flesh, the Son of God who came to RESTORE our relationship with God. Our sin made us enemies of God. Through Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we are made FRIENDS of God. 

John 15:13-14 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” This is how Jesus loved us. Sometimes we talk about the Christianity in a way that makes forgiveness sound free. But it wasn’t free. It was actually really expensive… it cost Jesus his life. 

For those of us who consider ourselves Christians, Jesus tells us that we’re supposed to do what he did: honor God and love others. He’s obviously not saying that you need to die for your friends and you’re not able to forgive them of their sins, but do you love them enough to put them first? Do you love them enough to sacrifice for them? Do you love Jesus enough to love others the way he has loved you?

Look to the CrossIf you aren’t a Christian, I want to kindly tell you that you’re missing out. You’re missing out on the amazing love of God who loves you so much he became a man who suffered and died in order to rescue you from sin and death and judgment. I want to make sure you hear from Jesus the reason he came: to lay down his life for his friends.

If you aren’t a Christian, I want you to know that you can trust Jesus. If you ever doubt that, you only need to look at the cross to see how much he loves you. Jesus not only tells us, but he shows us what godly friends do – they lay their lives down for each other. Jesus is so much more than just a friend, but that’s not a bad starting point to describe who he is!

What would it look like if we all lived as friends of Jesus?
What would your family look like? What would your school look like? What would our youth group look like?

  • I think we’d spend more time with people who are outcasts and left out of groups, and less time so focused on our friend-groups that we end up leaving people on the outside.
  • I think we’d spend more time praying for people and less time talking about them.
  • I think we’d be less materialistic and far more sacrificial.
  • We’d be more willing to risk doing or saying the right thing, even if it would mean some sort of backlash might come our way.
  • And when others hurt us, we’d be quicker to forgive them, because we know that Jesus forgave us.
  • All in all, We’d be way less worried about ourselves and more active about putting others first.

There are times when it’s really hard to trust God. It’s hard to trust him when you’re being picked on and bullied at school. It’s hard to trust him when you feel so overwhelmed by everyone else’s expectations, and you’re stressed out because you don’t want to let people down. It’s hard to trust him when life is really tough and your prayers don’t seem to be answered.

When we consider the many faces of Jesus, I think it’s helpful to remember that Jesus came in order to rescue us from our sin so that we could be friends of God. And whenever we question if we can trust God, let us look to the cross to remember the fullness of his love.

The Fatherhood of God: A Sermon Summary

How does your relationship with your father mirror and reflect your relationship with your Heavenly Father?  Maybe this is something you’ve thought about a lot, maybe it’s a new thought – but the more you think about it the more I’m convinced you’ll find many parallels.

The Big Question today is this: If I am painting a portrait of God for my children, what does He look like?  Is this portrait anywhere close to the one painted throughout Scripture.

I want us to look at the Fatherhood of God through three lenses: God’s Authority, God’s Provision, and God’s Love.  Fathers can faithfully reflect these characteristics of God, or they can greatly harm our view of God by abusing or neglecting these characteristics.

Before moving on, there are a few important qualifications that need to be made:

  1. Even if you aren’t a father, this sermon is for you because it is mostly about who your Heavenly Father is.
  2. If you aren’t married, let these characteristics of God guide you young men as you grow in biblical manhood, and let them guide you young women as you consider relationships and future marriage.
  3. If you compare your father to your Heavenly Father, guess who will come up short?  Don’t forget that as long as your father has breath in his lungs he will be a work in progress.  Give grace to your dad, and remember that you aren’t the perfect son/daughter either!
  4. If you have an absent or abusive father, You need to be assured of two things: First, God will never abandon you; and second, God will not abuse you.

God’s Authority
In the midst of his suffering, Job cried out in self-justification that God had treated him unfairly.  In response, God put Job in his place (Job 38:4-12), essentially saying, “Job, where were you when I created the world?  I didn’t see you there… on what authority are you judging me?”  God does not answer to me or to you.

It is good for my kids to have a healthy fear of me.  Not a fear that causes them to wonder if I will stop loving them or if I will reject them.  But what kind of portrait of God’s authority am I painting for them?  If I let my kids run the house, I am not pointing them to a Heavenly Father who has Authority, but to One who exists to do their bidding.

God’s Provision
One of the clearest ways that God has provided for his people is through Manna.  Imagine being among the Israelites in the exodus.  God has delivered you from slavery, sent the Ten Plagues and has now parted the Red Sea.  But then you start to wonder: Where do we go from here?  What are we going to eat?  How am I going to provide for my family?  The people started to grumble against Moses, and then we read Exodus 16:4-5

God literally made food rain from heaven.  Not just once, but every day (except for the Sabbath, but they were allowed to gather for the Sabbath ahead of time).  God loves to provide for his children (see, Matthew 7:9–11).

Will you trust God to provide, or do you give lip-service when you pray?  When you pray for daily bread, do you grumble and complain as if God was faithless when your food runs out at the end of the day?  When God’s will and your will are not the same, will you still pray, “Thy will be done?”  How I pray, how I make decisions, and how I spend my money will teach my kids whether or not they can rely on God to provide.

God’s Love
The story of Hosea might be the most beautiful portrayal of God’s love in Scripture, obviously excluding the Gospels.  While Hosea doesn’t give us a pattern to pursue in how God wants us to pick a spouse, his life is a clear picture of God’s faithful love for his children.  He marries a woman, Gomer, who time and time again is faithless to him, runs from him, gets herself in danger, and even sells herself into slavery.  But Hosea chases after her and refuses to give up on her, regardless of the cost or sacrifice to himself.  Hosea 3:1 provides a wonderful glimpse into Hosea’s story and its significance.

In the end, after relentlessly forsaking Hosea, Gomer receives Hosea’s love after she had done everything imaginable that could’ve caused him to hate her.  As the Apostle Paul would later write, “but God demonstrates his love for us in that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Tying it Together
At the cross we see God’s Authority, God’s Provision, and God’s Love at its finest hour.  (John 3:16–17)

 On the cross God’s authority overcame our sinful rebellion.  We had rejected his authority and put ourselves on his throne.  But God showed his power over sin through the resurrection.  The power of sin is death, and death could not hold him.

 On the cross God provided freedom from eternal judgment by taking the punishment we deserve upon himself.  He paid our debt, he took the punishment we deserved.

On the cross God’s love led him to adopt us as sons and daughters.  It was his love, not the nails, that held Jesus on the cross.  He had the authority to come down from the cross, but his love kept him there so you could be set free.

Regardless of what kind of father you are or what kind of father you have – God’s Fatherhood is perfectly marked by Authority, Provision, and Love.  Be thankful for every way your father has shown forth the faithfulness of your Heavenly Father.  Remember that despite every fault your human father has, your Heavenly Father is perfect.  This is most clearly seen through Jesus Christ on the cross, where we are adopted as children of God.

Rest in your identity as his child, and especially you fathers out there, be encouraged to live in such a way that the portrait of God you are painting for your children is faithful to the picture of God we seek through Scripture.

Is This Love?!

I saw this online yesterday and couldn’t believe that this is what is being taught about love.  Now before you go off and tell me I’m exaggerating, I want you to seriously read this and just imagine what life would look like if the image below really painted a picture about love.  In many ways, this really is the image of love people would see if they watch a lot of TV and movies and don’t have any healthy examples to observe in their real lives.

Now compare that portrait of “love” to what the Apostle Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

Tim Challies provides a really helpful blog post the other day that’s relevant here: 8 Bullet Points on Marriage.  Love and Marriage are not toys to play with, but deep and rich longings that must not be made cheap and easy.

Finally, I’d like to recommend you to read Jared Wilson’s post here named: “10 Things Young Singles in Romantic Relationships Ought to Know.”  Here’s a little taste of what he writes:

1. It’s not bad to want to have sex with your significant other. It’d be another sort of worry if you didn’t. The key is to want to glorify Christ more than you want to have sex with each other.

4. Nearly every Christian I know who is married to an unbeliever loves their spouse and does not necessarily regret marrying them, but has experienced deep pain and discontent in their marriage because of this unequal yoking and would now never advise a believer to marry an unbeliever.

8. Pre-marital sex wounds a young woman’s heart, perhaps imperceptibly at first but undeniably over time, as she trades in covenant benefits without covenant security. This is not the way God designed sex to fulfill us.

10. You are loved by God with abundant grace in Christ’s atoning work, and an embrace of this love by faith in Jesus provides Holy Spiritual power and satisfaction to pursue relationships that honor God and thereby maximize your joy.

Hope for the Lonely

My friend Walt Mueller posted the following video on his blog and I’m really wrestling with this.  Give it a look and really listen to the lyrics as the story unfolds.

I’m increasingly growing convinced that loneliness is one of the biggest epidemics of this generation.  Despite being “connected” to thousands of “friends” through Facebook, Twitter, and Cell Phones, it seems that everyone is so busy keeping in touch with everyone that they never get close to anyone.

I hope I don’t treat my Bible and prayer like I treat Facebook – something I go to for a quick check-in, read a status update, but then mindlessly move on to the next thing mostly unaffected by what I just read.  Sure, Facebook can be a great tool to deepen relationships, but I think that takes intentionality and effort… and I seriously question how much effort most of us put into Facebook.

But there is hope for the lonely… and it’s not found through the internet.  Even as I type I can hear people sighing and moaning, “Ugh, you’re going to say ‘God’ aren’t you, that’s so lame.”  Well, yeah, I am going to say God – but I’ll challenge you to really read your Bible and learn about who God is and what He’s done and then try telling me that God is lame…

We live in a broken and messed up, sinful world.  But God is faithful and close to the lonely.

  • “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10)
  • “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
  • “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
  • “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble, He cares for those who trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7)

I know people sometimes say that songs like these blow issues out of proportion and that teen loneliness really isn’t as big a deal as people say it is.  I disagree – it is a big deal… and I firmly believe that adults need to make the effort to correct what has gone so terribly wrong in our culture.  We must bridge the generation gap, taking Christ as our hope, our message, and our example (Philippians 2:3-11).

K’naan & Nelly Furtado’s song so clearly demonstrates our need for Jesus Christ, the one who loved us so much to give up heaven, endure loneliness and rejection and suffering for us to the point of dying on the cross.  He did that so he could tell his disciples “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Because of Jesus Christ, there is hope for the lonely… will you show them Jesus?

Taking More Love Than You Make

Sure sure, I love the Beatles too.  But I hope the love I take is greater than the love I make… because if I’m honest, my ability to love is very very limited.  But God’s ability to love is infinite.

Just look at a few verses from the book of 1 John

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16)

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Finally, one of my favorites that time and again reminds me why I can claim God’s love as my own (hint: it’s not because I’m worthy):

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

So while the Beatles have a catchy saying in “The love you take is equal to the love you make”… I’m very thankful to disagree.

A Good Warning When Disciplining Your Children

I just read Jeremy Piere’s post Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting, and absolutely loved it.  I frequently find myself correcting my language in disciplining my four year old son when it sounds like I could be communicating a conditional love.  I know some would say I’m over-reacting and thinking too much, but I’m convinced that how I discipline him now will directly determine how I will discipline him when he’s older… and I’d like to start off right!

I’ve taken to discipline with the moniker, “You know I’ll always love you and nothing could make me love you less, but you need to stop ______ and _______ instead.”  Sure, there have been times when he’s totally taken advantage of that and intentionally disobeyed and then looked at me and said, “But you still love me, right?”

Here’s a gem from the post linked to above, I really want to encourage every parent (regardless of how old your kids are) to read this post:

Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting, by Jeremy Piere

“I love you, but you need to obey.”

Every English-speaking parent has said that phrase at some point or another. It’s our attempt as parents to express commitment to our children even as we require them to obey: “I love you despite anything you do, but you also need to obey what I tell you.” I’d like to take issue, however, with using the conjunction butbetween these phrases. Using but may be communicating something we don’t want to say—namely, that there is some kind of conceptual opposition between “I love you” and “You need to obey.” …

The but has to go. Try so instead. “I love you, so you need to obey.”

This conjunction more effectively communicates the logical relationship between the two concepts. It’s not a relationship of opposition, but of grounding. The reason you are to obey me is because I already love you. This is how parents can be grace-based while insisting on obedience. We should never communicate even a hint of opposition between parental love and children’s obedience.

Adele’s “Someone Like You” & The Love We All Desire

My wife makes fun of me because I like to know most of the songs that are on the iTunes “Top Ten” and keep informed about new upcoming artists.  It’s not uncommon for us to hear some song on the radio and I’ll just roll my eyes and start talking about the song or the artists and she gives me this look that says, “You aren’t a teenager, why do you know so much about this?”  Ahh, life as a youth pastor.

Anyway, one of the artists I’ve been keeping an eye on is Adele (my wife actually bought the CD, so she can’t pick on me for this one!).  Her songs are filled with such powerful emotion and her lyrics are deep and easy to identify with.

“Someone Like You” has broken tons of records and has sold well over 2,000,000 downloads and Adele’s last big song, “Rolling in the Deep,” sold over 5.3 million.  So there’s a good chance “Someone Like You” could stay at the top of the charts for quite some time.  Without further ado, here’s the video:

How can you not identify with this song?  Who hasn’t felt the sting of some heartache and betrayal?  “Someone Like You” is clearly about a guy she hasn’t gotten over yet and is still in love with, but she knows she needs to get over him and find someone else like him.  The song is brilliantly straight-forward, so I don’t feel the need to give too much explanation beyond giving some of the lyrics (find the full lyrics here):

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.”

Nothing compares
No worries or cares
Regrets and mistakes
They are memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

You can just feel the hurt and loss screaming through this song.  And why wouldn’t you!  God created us to love and be loved.  We all want someone to treasure, and someone to treasure us.  When we think we’ve found that and lose it you feel like your world has come crashing down… because it has.

In the midst of this, we have a lover who will never fail us.  Being a Christian and loving Christ doesn’t mean you are immune to heartache and that you suddenly don’t need human love anymore (duh!).  But knowing Christ and receiving his love holds us together in the midst of the pain and loss that Adele is singing of in “Someone Like You.”

Here’s a great and simple website with a bunch of Bible verse on God’s “Unfailing Love,” check it out (though I wish there were verses from the New Testament too).  This doesn’t mean God is our butler who gives us everything we ask for (so if you expect God to give you whatever you want, then you’ll be disappointed), but He gives us all we truly need.

Most of all, to put it simply… we need Him.  As Saint Augustine wrote many many years ago, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”