Is He Your Friend, or a Doctrine?

“A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.”

  ~D.L. Moody

Friendship with God can be a liberating secret. It releases us from the terrible bondage of religion and ritual with all its negative connotations. Intimacy with our Lord will carry us beyond creed or doctrine to the place of true communion.

It’s not that the Law is bad, but in the intense light of God’s grace it’s a poor substitute. We value legalism, and that is precisely what we believe when we bypass the relationship. Doctrine is a good servant, but a poor master.

Grace always trumps legalism. Love surpasses rules.

We evangelicals talk big about “a personal relationship.” That is indeed crucial. But few be the believers that walk in a daily friendship with their Savior. That is truly a tragedy.

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends since I have told you everything the Father told me.”

John 15:15, NLT

Friendship with Jesus will bring true guidance. He shares secrets and wisdom with his friends. We are brought into a true knowledge of the Kingdom through the relationship of friendship with the King. We are not slaves– or drones, slavishly serving out of slavish fear.

We are now His friends.

Jesus wants to confide in us; sharing mysteries hidden by time and sin. And his kingdom is full of great perplexities! He is looking to bring us into a willingness of daily communion.

He will heal our wounds, and forgive all our sins. He is truly our savior as well as our friend.

Friendship comes with a price. It means we are now tethered to the Lord. That can get old, especially when I want to do my own thing. I will continually have to lay something down and choose to accept tether and follow Him.

But my soul now has a best friend.

Testimony of the Scars

JC-Lamb

At the crucifixion, Jesus suffered great injury.

He was beaten, flogged, spat upon, and had a crown of thorns jammed into his brow. Then He was nailed to the cross through His feet and hands and then pierced in the side with a spear causing blood and water to flow from His body. He was covered in welts, bruises, and blood so that He was almost unrecognizable.

After His resurrection, He appeared to His disciples in the upper room, the welts, bruises, and blood were gone. His body showed very little of the pain and suffering He had endured. He did not have scars on His face or across His back. He was once again beautiful. His resurrected body testified to the resurrection we will all one day know with new, healed bodies that are once again beautiful, even in our own eyes.

The exceptions to this miraculous healing of His body were the nail scars on His hands and feet, and the scar from where He was pierced with the spear. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” John 20:27 (NIV).

These scars testified to His death and suffering on the cross. They testified to the love and mercy we find there. They testify even now to the greatest gift God has ever offered mankind: the knowledge that He was one of us, faced death as we do, and came out on the other side victorious as we one day will be if we trust in Him.

We all experience suffering and injury.

We all bear scars, some physical and others emotional or spiritual. We tend to hide our scars from the world, thinking we are the only ones who bear them.

Our scars long to testify to the love and mercy of a God who saw us through our trials and helped us come out victorious on the other side. They long to testify that we were not defeated because God was on our side.

What if, instead of hiding our scars from the world, we shared them for all to see just as Jesus bid Thomas touch the scars on His palms and His side? What if we let our scars testify to the love and mercy of our God? What if we helped share the greatest gift God has ever given mankind, a gift that our scars testify to?

What victory do your scars testify to?

Are you willing to share them, to let your scars testify to God’s love in your life to someone who needs Him desperately? Maybe not every scar all at once, but one little scar at a time? Remember, God will be with you when you do, and then He will be with the one with whom you share the testimony of your scars and His.

 

Admitting I Need Jesus

When I was in the sixth grade, a friend invited me to her church. My parents didn’t go to church, but said I could go with Clarissa if I wanted to. Before long, I was spending at least three days a week with my church friends. I learned who Jesus was and that if I believed in Him I would be saved. I believed, though I didn’t truly understand my need for a Savior.

It would be many years and much wayward living later before I would realize the importance of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17 NASB).

It’s easy to think “of course I’m not ashamed of the gospel.” Why would anyone be ashamed of the good news that Jesus died for our sins so that we might be reconciled to Him?

But at its core, faith in the gospel requires the believer to say “I can’t do this myself.” That realization, I think, is what trips up believers and nonbelievers alike. We humans like to be independent and self-sufficient. We like to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We encourage our children to be independent as well.

I remember a time when my son was in high school and because of a snow day his class schedule was changed. As a result, he took the wrong books. He called to ask me to bring the right books to the school office on my way to work, which I happily agreed to do. When I got to the office to drop them off, the school secretary chided me for bailing him out. “These kids need to learn to be responsible or suffer the consequences,” she said.

I’ve thought of that encounter often, being thankful that Jesus didn’t say the same to the Father when the plan of salvation was put into place. What if Jesus had said, “You know Dad, these humans need to be more responsible or suffer the consequences.” We’d all be doomed.

In a world where DIY is all the rage and dependence on anyone else is frowned upon, Paul’s message is all the more important. We cannot be ashamed to admit that we are unable to perfectly do the right thing always. As the prophet Habukkuk wrote, Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habukkuk 2:4 NASB).

And so, although it requires me to admit I can’t do it alone, I choose to live by faith in the One who gives me His righteousness.

For the broken believer (which is all of us, if we’re honest), it is all the more important to be okay with something less than full independence. We were created to be dependent on God and on one another. We were created to live in community and relationship with others.

Note: A version of this article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of The Christian Journal, a publication I highly recommend, and not just because they publish some of my writing.

Bitter Water

In Exodus 15 there’s an incident that carries weight for today. Israel has come to the springs of Marah. The water is bitter. The people turn to Moses. They challenge him and the complaint voraciously. “Why have you brought us here?” They press Moses to the point of mutiny. They are furious.

Some commentators believe this bitter water was a laxative, and anyone who drank this “bitter” water made many trips to the outhouse!

Moses is shown a branch of a common tree. The Lord speaks a word of ďirection he’s to throw the branchaďirectly into the spring. It’ll cure the water, and make it sweet.

It seems to me that Jesus’ awful cross cures the bitterness we absorb as we make our way through life.

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