Jesus-Friend of Sinners

I trust all of you enjoyed Chad’s post yesterday Cookies are not Scary, it was a pleasure trading venues for a blog post with him yesterday.  It is such an encouragement to see a guy that seemingly had it all from the American Dream perspective give it away to work with teenagers at a church, and to be happy to do it!  He is doing some special things with the young men in the church, and is helping to shape them into men of leadership in both the church and in society.  Amazing things!  The purpose of this entry is to post my article that Chad shared with his community of friends yesterday, and just want some feedback as usual.  Let me know whatcha think, and I look forward to any comments and questions that may arise from this.  It is a “tad” wordy…ok, so it’s a lot wordy, but bear with me and take the 10-15 minutes to read, and enjoy!

“Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided”

from “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns

If any of you have ever heard this song, then you have likely been as affected by it as I have.  I have been a born-again believer since I was 8 years old and have been spending the past 21 years trying to figure out what all that actually meant and entailed.  I’ve been up and down as most all Christians tend to go throughout their walk, and I’ve experienced the amazing times of worship with 3000 other bodies gathered to worship the Heavenly Father as well as experiencing such intimate times with the same Father with just my breath in the room.  The life of a believer is usually a fairly complex one, so many times we go through the temptations to fall back into the sins that nailed Christ to the cross.  Along with those times of temptation and darkness, the light of forgiveness and redemption comes when we truly repent and recognize the grace that we can’t and didn’t earn on the cross.  Christ calls us to a life of perfection, plain and simple.  All the while we are called to perfection; we are still human and miss that mark and expectation of perfection on a daily basis.  The compassion of Christ is what grants that grace, not just to us, but to everyone who calls (Romans 10:13) on His name!  I want to spend a little time on His compassion during this post, and I do tend to get a little wordy sometimes, so I apologize for that ahead of time.

As a believer, we have a clear mission outlined for us from Christ in the Great Commission.

“Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”             Matthew 28:18-20

Upon that charge, we are called to not only share the Gospel of Christ with those we come in contact with, but to make disciples.  How do we do that?  How do we make disciples?  Isn’t sharing the Gospel making disciples?  The short answer to the last question is a resounding: NO!  Just sharing the Gospel with someone isn’t making a disciple, it is sharing the Gospel.  Sometimes when we share the Gospel, a person comes to know the saving grace and mercy of Christ and has salvation because of that faith.  The next step is where discipleship comes in.  Now, this blog was to be about compassion right?  Right. The short version of how to make a disciple is to not just pray a prayer with a person and throw them out on their own.  Discipleship is spending time and pouring knowledge and prayer into that person to help them grow in their faith and in their walk with the Lord.  Part of that process is having the compassion to help them when their faith is weak, and when their lives feel like they’re caving in during the process of giving everything to the Lord.

Our tendency as humans is to start looking after ourselves when things get tough, and to not look out for others.  How do we avoid these tendencies in life?  We look to the cross, and we look to Christ.  The ultimate example of compassion is Christ, all throughout scripture, there are examples of His love.  One passage I want to focus on is found in Mark 5:24-34.  Christ has just healed a demon-possessed man, and is en route to visit a family who fears their daughter is dead.  As He is moving through the crowd, a woman who has had bleeding for 12 years and had only digressed even after seen numerous doctors, grabs his robe, and is healed of this affliction.  Her faith that Christ could heal her, just because He was who He said He was, was what healed her.  Wow.  How often do we miss out on the blessings of Christ just because we don’t recognize who He is, and have the faith that He will do what He has said?  At this point, Christ could have really given this lady the what-for.  After all, she had taken a blessing without asking Him directly for it.  In our carnal minds, when someone takes something they didn’t ask for, our response is to condemn.  Christ’s response was love and compassion.  He didn’t ask her any questions, He didn’t ask her what she was thinking, He told her that it was her faith that had healed her.  He had compassion on her when many in her culture and society had likely had none.  How often do we come into situations like this and walk away, or turn a blind eye?  Maybe we’re not the ones inflicting the damage, but we definitely aren’t the ones trying to heal.  We are called to be compassionate in our ways, to love to each other, because the example of Christ was such.

Another tendency we have as Christians, is to approach a fellow believer who is straying in a way that isn’t loving or compassionate.  As the second part of that first verse of the song above says:

“The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided”

We get in the way of effective accountability because we are so bent on correcting someone that we forget to get our lives in order.  That’s not to say that we aren’t to correct someone because we sin too, but when we approach someone who is sliding, we have to do it in absolute humility and love.  If we fail to do this, we become a stumbling block and a hindrance to not only ourselves, but also the person we are speaking to.  As a believer, I expect accountability when I mess up, especially when it is in front of other people.  That accountability usually comes in the form of my amazing wife letting me know I blew it, or am about to.  She is compassionate toward me because she doesn’t want me to compromise my witness to others who may not know Christ, and that is a tough thing for her to do, because I’m pretty sure she just wants to smack me on the back of my head, and ask “What are you doing?!?!?!”  Christ didn’t do that, and we should follow that example as well.  Correct in humility and above all, in compassion like Christ.

My encouragement, to those of you who read this, is to consider each day how you can show compassion as Christ did, and encourage each other on toward love and good deeds, as it says in Hebrews 10.  I appreciate you guys taking time to read this, and for Chad for allowing me to post this on his blog, thanks and God Bless!

-Phillip Whitfield   <><

Cookies Are Not Scary

Hey guys, as promised, here is my good friend Chad Nelson’s blog post. I love his unique perspective on things, and his blog is a continual example of how the Lord is working in him and through him to share the Gospel. Chad currently serves as the Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church in Burnet, TX, which also happens to be my home church. God is truly using Chad in a huge way in Burnet, and has been using him to mentor and disciple the young men in the church. I’m truly excited to see where God leads these young men in the future. Keep an eye out for them!! Go check Chad out at Chad Nelson Online, and leave him some feedback, you’ll be blessed by what you read on there! So, without further ado, I give you…

Cookies Are Not Scary

When I was a kid, the concept of “forever” terrified me.  By terrified, I mean stay-up-at-night-crying-like-a-Lifetime-movie-character terrified.  Believe it or not, the fear arose because I could not wrap my mind around being in heaven forever.  Surely it had to end at some point, right?  How can time cease to exist?  It is how we measure everything.  It was then that my mom calmly reminded me that God had not only created everything I see (including me) but had created time too.  It didn’t exist before He created it and it wouldn’t exist in heaven (or hell) either; a deep concept for a 12 year-old but one that made sense.
Fast forward 30 years – I am standing in front of the church as I do every Sunday during invitation when a beautiful little girl walks toward me with her mother.  The mom explained that the girl is terrified of people breaking into their home at night and ultimately, of dying.  God immediately put the time paradox on my heart.  I asked her if she liked to bake cookies (for illustrative purposes and because I was hungry).  We then agreed that if she created the cookies that there was no reason to fear them.  The same is true of death and the holder of its fear, the devil.  God created each so knowing and being saved by the “Baker” gave us power over both.  In fact, earthly death simply becomes a transition to eternal life for those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Here are a few ideas for keeping fear in its proper perspective.
Acknowledge that God is in control.  This is so frequently stated that it can be taken for Christian cliché.  We have all said it but do we truly believe it?  If you forget from time, consider the miracle of life, the concept of gravity, the precise distance of the sun for light, life and warmth and other mind-boggling ideas when you are not watching “Toddlers and Tiaras”.  If these concepts are too big (as they are for most of us), consider that 1.7 million or so optical fibers have to line up perfectly for you to read this.  Big bang that.
Acknowledge that God created everything.  That tree?  Yes.  That caterpillar?  Yep.  This keyboard?  Uh-huh (through inspiration divinely provided by His gift of intellect and creativity).  He even created time and space.  So it stands to reason that if we know the Creator, our fear of the created should subside.  Editorial comment: I will admit that I am a little afraid of the big lady on the “Dance Moms” previews.
If death is our ultimate fear, we have missed the point of Jesus.  Jesus came as man, ministered and ultimately died so that death could be overcome.  God’s grace is so powerful and so reaching that everyone who accepts Jesus’ death in exchange for our own will be saved.  Everyone.  This includes you, me, the lady from “Dance Moms” and even the worst of us.  Everyone.  To miss this eternal opportunity is to miss the purpose of our existence.
Take a moment and consider 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.  Death has no victory for those who call upon Jesus.  I think I’ll celebrate that with a cookie.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

Guest blogger

Hey guys, recently I was approached by a friend and fellow minister in the faith about blogging and posting on each other’s blog. I thought it sounded like an awesome idea, and so tomorrow morning, there will be a guest blogger on behindthecross! I am really excited to see what the Lord is going to say through my good friend, Chad Nelson. Check out the blog tomorrow to see!