GOOD FRIDAY IRONY

If Pagan Mortal Enemies Can Make Peace, Why Can’t You?

old crosses of stone to the backlight

How many times have I read a familiar portion of Scripture only to react: “I’ve never seen that before.”?

In the final moments leading up to his passion, Jesus goes to trial before Pilate (Luke 23:1-5). Pilate, evading the hot seat temporarily, ships Jesus off to Herod, the fox (Luke 13:32).

Herod and company delight to abuse the Son of God, ultimately transferring him back to Pilate’s jurisdiction in a game of political Ping-Pong (Luke 23:6-11). What fun.

Verse 12, Luke’s editorial comment on the turn of events, stopped me dead in my tracks.

“And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other (emphasis added).”

The word for “enmity” appears in Romans 8:7 as “hostile” to characterize the dilemma of the mind set on the flesh in relationship to a holy God. These infamous characters on history’s Good Friday stage did not care for each other in the least. And still their contempt for Jesus Christ wound up reconciling them as friends. Talk about major league irony!

Octavius Winslow’s comments, in his work Morning Thoughts, brought this insight to light for me:

How striking and solemn the instruction conveyed in this incident! Pilate and Herod, standing in the attitude of the deadliest hate to each other, are now made friends! And what strange but mighty power has thus suddenly subdued their animosity, and turned their hatred into love? What mystic chain has drawn and bound together these hostile rulers? Their mutual and deep enmity against Jesus! Believers in Christ! are the enemies of our glorious Redeemer, inspired by a natural and kindred feeling of hatred, induced to forget their private quarrels, and merge their differences in one common confederation to crush the Son of God, the object of their mutual hostility; and shall not the friends of the Redeemer, constrained by that divine principle of love which dwells in the hearts of all who are born of God, quench their heart-burnings, bury their antipathies, and draw more closely together in one holy, vigorous, and determined alliance to exalt the Son of God, the glorious and precious Object of their mutual affection? Oh, if Jesus is the bond of union to those who hate Him, how much more should He be the bond of union to those who love Him! Beneath His cross how should all unholy jealousy and bitterness, and wrath and anger, and clamor and all uncharitableness, be mourned over, confessed, abhorred, and renounced by the children of the one family; and how should all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity be unhesitatingly and cordially recognized as such, thus “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

“If Jesus is the bond of union to those who hate Him, how much more should He be the bond of union to those who love Him!” 

Indeed. Please allow me to challenge you this Good Friday.

Are you at enmity with some brother or sister somewhere in the body of Christ?

If Pilate and Herod can reconcile, cannot you at least take the first step (Rom. 12:18) toward your “enemy” for which Christ died and seek to be made friends?

 

 

Demythologizing Discipleship

To demythologize a subject is to reinterpret it so it is free of mythical or heroic elements.

This needs to happen with our concept of discipleship in the local church.

This occurred to me recently in a conversation with someone at OGC about his need for a discipler. Try as he might, he has failed to enlist the help of another believer in teaching him all that Christ has commanded – the essence of discipleship (Matt. 28:18-20).

I empathized with the disappointment. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. This applies to discipling as it does to evangelizing (though both concepts actually fall under the command to make disciples). Chronic shortages seem to apply on both fronts.

But after resonating with the frustration in this regard, I summoned the courage to ask a question. Whom are you discipling? I was working off a concept I read recently by Randy Alcorn in an article in the current edition of Eternal Perspectives. In dealing with the challenge of depression he writes:

Hurting Christians increasingly complain about the treatment they’ve received from other church people. If you’ve had a bad experience, write out a list of what you wish church people had done for you and what you wish they hadn’t done. Then follow your own counsel and use it as a guideline to reach out today and minister to others who need your wisdom and encouragement.

My brother immediately responded, “I can’t disciple anybody. I’m not spiritually mature enough. Discipleship means somebody further down the road spiritually taking someone less mature under their wing and helping them grow in the faith.”

That certainly can be the case. Consider yourself blessed if you’ve got someone like that in your life. But must we limit our definition of discipleship to such narrow parameters?

I think not. Jesus commands all His followers to make disciples, as referenced in the Great Commission passage mentioned above. A disciple (the Greek word is mathetes) means simply a learner. The moment I cast my allegiance with Jesus as Savior I instantly became a learner of all His teachings. I will never outgrow that definition until I go home to glory. He commands me to own the identity as discipler – helper of others in the learning process. John MacArthur puts it this way:

There are only disciplers and we are all disciplers. It’s only a question of the availability to God to be that wherever we may be. It’s irrelevant. It’s immaterial where it is. It’s only material and it’s only relevant that it is that we are disciplers. You’re not a discipler because you went to Bible school. You’re not a discipler because you went to seminary. You’re not a discipler because the church pays you to do it. You’re not a discipler because you joined a missionary organization. You are a discipler because you’re saved, because you’ve come to Christ.

I pressed in the conversation with my reluctant discipler friend with another question. If you had another Christian come to you confessing a struggle with worry, where would you take them in the Bible to help them with the problem? Now admittedly he felt put on the spot by a pastoral pop quiz. But he eventually got to Phil. 4:6-7. I tried to bring home the concept that discipleship isn’t a super-spiritual believer helping a not-so-spiritual one get with the program. It’s brothers and sisters in relationships bringing the Word of God to bear on one another’s lives in the power of the Spirit.

Are you looking for someone to disciple you? How about reaching out and discipling somebody you know? Friendship with a compass, our recent women’s retreat speaker called it. If the principle what you sow you will also reap (Gal. 6:7) is true, and I believe of course that it is, then you may get closer to having a discipler if you determine to live like one yourself.

The Best Friend

Last Saturday’s Oxford Club discussion in Richard Phillip’s The Masculine Mandate may have been the best yet. We tackled chapter 11, Men in Friendship. Phillips argues that biblical masculinity starts with a commitment to our wives and children to work and keep (see Gen. 2:15), but it doesn’t stop there. Meaningful relationships with other godly men we call friends enter into the mix as well.

Toward the end of the chapter he makes this statement: The best friend is always one who turns our hearts to rest upon the Lord. He draws that principle from the account of David and Jonathan in 1 Sam. 23:16 were Jonathan went to his friend, David, on the run for the express purpose of strengthening his hand in God. Rightly so.

Thus we asked on Saturday, what does it look like to act as this kind of best friend? How do we strengthen one another’s hands in God? We came up with four things.

First, we point our brother to the promises of God. This came from Phillips himself as he argues from 1 Sam. 23:17 how Jonathan reminded David that God ordained him to reign as Israel’s next king so he need not fear Saul’s murderous threats. Phillips adds: A godly friend ministers primarily to the faith of his brothers in Christ, seeking to build up their trembling hearts and protect them from the danger of unbelief and fear. Few things help that battle more than the unshakable promises of God.

Second, we comfort our brother with our presence in his suffering. This we took from the example of Job’s friends in Job 2:11-13. Job’s friends were at their best when they just sat with him for a whole week in his suffering. Things went badly down hill from there. Discernment knows the difference between a time to strengthen with words of promise and  a time to comfort with a silent, compassionate presence.

Third, we support our brother with our prayers for his strengthening. Jesus modeled this in preparing Peter for his three-fold denial in Luke 22:31-34. Our Lord countered Satan’s threat to His disciple through intercessory prayer that ensured Peter would survive the onslaught and even use it to strengthen the other disciples in their need.

Fourth, we help our brother with our provocations of his obedience. Hebrews 3:12-14 urges best of friends to exhort each other daily in light of the deceitfulness of sin and the potential for hardening of the heart. Anyone can flatter but only true, loving friends risk all with loving reproof when needed.

Do you have a friend in Christ who does such things for your welfare? Regard him among the best of friends. Are you that kind of friend to others? They will rise up and call you blessed.

Masculine men, friendly men, strengthen one another’s hands in God.

Men in Friendship

This Saturday we resume our study in Richard Phillip’s excellent treatment on manhood entitled The Masculine Mandate.

We have come to chapter 11 – Men in Friendship. The author derives numerous practical principles from the relationship of Jonathan and David in the book of First Samuel.

Here is a sample to whet the appetite:

Jonathan’s example with David shows us that a godly friend ministers primarily to the faith of his brothers in Christ, seeking to build up their trembling hearts and protect them from the dangers of unbelief and fear. This is the Genesis 2:15 work-and-keep mandate at work in the important arena of male friendship. When we come to a friend and “strengthen his hand in God,” we restore his wavering faith to its certain confidence in the unfailing promises of the Lord (p. 127).

For help with your reading and study you can click on The Masculine Mandate – SG 11.

Bring your own breakfast and join us for the fellowship and interaction at the church office from 7 AM to 9 AM!

Will There Be Knitting at the Men's Retreat?

Not the kind that probably first comes to mind, I can assure you.

But I pray for the kind of knitting of soul between brothers that happened between David and Jonathan in 1 Sam. 18:1-5 immediately after David slew Goliath.

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. [2] And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. [3] Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. [4] And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. [5] And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.

Look carefully at the terminology in v. 1. The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David. That’s a good translation of the Hebrew word used here. It means literally to tie a knot or make a chain. The same word is used in Gen. 44:30 to describe the relationship between Jacob and his son, Benjamin – his life is bound up in the boy’s life.

This is remarkable! Jonathan, Saul’s firstborn, stands in line to inherit the throne. If ever anyone had reason to be suspicious of the young upstart David and reject him as a consummate threat, it was Jonathan. And yet something of an immediate chemistry with David strikes him resulting in love that binds them soul to soul. The text says, As soon as he had finished speaking, this happened. Jonathan overheard the conversation between his father and the young man at the end of chapter 17. But words on the lips reflect passions, commitments, character traits in the heart. These two ended up with hearts beating hard together. As one hand climbed the cliffs at Michmash and bested a whole garrison proclaiming, Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few ( 1 Sam. 14:6), so the other hurled a stone from a sling felling a giant declaring, The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand (1 Sam. 17:47). Proverbs 27:9 became their reality from that moment on. Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.

My point is that this was something special. It was indeed a peculiar, soul-mate kind of affection. It was a gift from God. You don’t get this kind of connection all that frequently. When it comes, treasure it, cultivate it, protect it. It is worth its weight in gold.

It’s the kind of thing that can start when men get together for a weekend to pursue their covenant commitments toward one another on retreat. It’s not too late to sign up. Call the office today and register for some soul knitting.

Two Are Better Than One

Tomorrow at 3 PM, Lord willing, I will have the privilege of marrying my son, Joshua, to his betrothed, Emily in a park in south Orlando.

I plan to present my message charge to them from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

There is a scene in the movie Gladiator where Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, leads a group of fighters into the Roman Coliseum to face not one another, but some unknown foe. The gladiators have no idea what kind of battle awaits them. Just before they step into the arena, Maximus pleads with them: If we stick together, we have a much better chance of surviving whatever is going to come out of the other tunnels.

He invoked, knowingly or unknowingly, a principle of ancient wisdom contained in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 4. It was written by one of the wisest men to ever live – King Solomon. And it is supremely applicable to the reality of marriage. Two are better than one. It follows some verses where Solomon laments the emptiness of a person swallowed by greed who works feverishly all his life without anyone at all with which to share his life.

The reason two are better than one, v. 9 goes on to say, is because they have a good reward for their toil. The Old Testament usually uses the word reward to refer to wages rendered for work done. But here it has a wider application to that which brings a satisfactory or pleasant outcome. And nowhere is that perhaps more true than in marriage, though this passage actually never says anything at all about marriage. It speaks to the superiority of companionship on any and every level over and against the inferiority of isolation.

But clearly we aren’t off base when we apply it to marriage when we consider God Himself and His estimation of the condition of aloneness in the Garden of Eden in Gen. 2:18 when He first created the institution of marriage. It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. It’s not good, this alone thing. As a rule, though there are exceptions, two are better than one when it comes to that part of the image of God in man that is his mandate to exercise dominion and subdue the earth.

Married couples are meant to participate in the larger story of what God is doing on His earth. He leads couples to understand that together they can be more effective than apart as regent and vice-regent in the task. If this was true with Adam and Eve before their fall into sin and rebellion, how much more is it true now after sin has tainted everything in the human experience?

Every time we attend a wedding it should remind us of the gift of companionship of all kinds and the advantage it brings to our call to execute our God-given stewardship on this earth.

Hug your spouse and/or friend tomorrow and say a prayer for Josh and Em whom I toasted this way at the rehearsal dinner on Friday night:

Long life, lasting love, ferocious commitment, and the daily experience of what the wisdom writer said, “Two are better than one.”

Man of Sorrows, What a Friend

Today’s entry, April 3, in Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts, leads with Proverbs 18:24.

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Making application to Jesus, the friend of sinners, Winslow writes:

There is no sympathy, no love, no gentleness, no tenderness, no patience, like Christ’s! Oh how sweet, how encouraging, to know that Jesus sympathetically enters into my afflictions—my temptations—my sorrows—my joys. May this truth endear Him to our souls! May it constrain us to unveil our whole heart to Him, in the fullest confidence of the closest, most sacred, and precious friendship. May it urge us to do those things always which are most pleasing in His sight. Beloved, never forget—let these words linger upon your ear, as the echoes of music that never die—in all your sorrows, in all your trials, in all your needs, in all your assaults, in all your conscious wanderings, in life, in death, and at the day of judgment—you possess a friend that sticks closer than a brother! That friend is Jesus!

As we observe this Good Friday day of remembering the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, may we also recall and treasure the words of Jesus in John 15:13.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.

Hallelujah, what a Savior! He calls me, he calls you, friend, and sticks closer than a brother.