Friend of Sinners Versus Friend of the World

Why is your Teacher [a friend to] eating with the tax collectors and sinners? (Matthew 9:11)

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

Society was regarded as a shipwreck from which each single individual man had to swim for his life….. These were men who believed that to let oneself drift along, passively accepting the tenets and values of what they knew as society [culture – the world system], was purely and simply a disaster.

Thomas Merton – The Wisdom of the Desert

The Friend of sinners.

One of the most beautiful descriptions of Jesus is that He is a friend to sinners!  His love for humanity is not only unparalleled, it is both staggering and humbling to those who ponder such a sacred truth.  On a personal note, when I meditate on His choice of me and the unimaginable cost of the cross, I am rarely left with dry eyes.  His measureless love for humanity and His unfathomable sacrifice is such a holy truth that people have literally given their lives to preserve the integrity and clarity of His message.

When Jesus answered the question of why He was a friend to sinners:

He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.  (Matthew 9:12)

Humankind was/is sickened by sin!  Our own sin and the sins of others that have painfully impacted our lives.  (As a counselor I hear this in the stories of people I meet with every day!)

He not only came to heal chronic sin by his sacrifice and resurrection, but to invite us into a brand-new life (right now!); a life filled with heart-healing, soul-restoring truth.  He is offering us a present-tense life that is to be guided and formed by His love-motivated Presence, saturated with His revealed truth and lived in the context of a community of fellow followers.  The Lord is here-and-now to transfer us out of the world system and into the here-and-now Kingdom of God.  A kingdom ruled by the Lover of our souls.  His kingdom is a kingdom that “grows” love, joy and peace (and other fruit of the Spirit) and is a kingdom that will ultimately culminate in a visible eternity.

He is Rescuer.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness [the world system] and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves,in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13 -14)

We need now and continue to need “rescuing”!  He truly paid an unimaginably extravagant ransom on our behalf.  He did and does for us what we cannot do for ourselves alone. He brings us FREEDOM!  His love for us in not a theological notion, but a tangible heart-staggering freedom-producing-reality.  

What in the world is wrong with the world?

It is very clear that God loves His creation!  We see the “it was good” statements He made in Genesis with His “it was very good” statement reserved for His creation of human beings.  We see His love for His creation once again in John 3:16, the word “world” in this verse means cosmos, or creation.  His creation comes from Him – therefore because He is GOOD, it is GOOD!  But something has gone very wrong according to the scriptures above and many more.

The corrupted system of the world.

The scriptures speak often declaring that we are to no longer to live our lives under the influence of this system of life  – the world system. The world system gives no centrality to God, is riddled by flawed man-made philosophies, is deceived, broken and corrupted by sin and is described in the verse above as darkness (Colossians 1:13). 

Paul goes on to reveal who is behind the corruption of the world system and his intentions.

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world {system}, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

Notice the words “hidden, minds, see, understand” and you will get an idea where the battle takes place!

 Simply look at the state of our world/country/politics/culture, etc.. Need I say more?

Please take a moment and meditate on the verses below:

Paul further details the means and the goal of the broken system of the world and its philosophies.  Once again please notice the key words that he expresses:

  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world (system) rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Perhaps the most scathing description of the world system was penned by John the disciple.  John, who is known as the Beloved.  John, who laid his head on Jesus’ chest.  John, who wrote the phrase “God is love”. John’s words about the Lord’s love comprise some of the most beautiful and intimate language ever written. Yet John was no friend of the world system.

Do not love the world (system) or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world (system) — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world (system).  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

If you ponder the verses about the world system you will begin to notice that the world system manipulates by its use of accusation, blame, fear, anxiety, deception, false power promises, unhealthy competition, in-groups versus out-groups, confusion, materialism, unfulfilling achievement and never-enoughness – to name just a few. One author said when you hear the news it is typically telling us “what to fear next and who to blame”!

Please note two things.  When the above scripture says “the love of the Father is not in him”, it is not saying that the Father’s love for people is not there.  It is!  But John’s words are echoing Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) that it is impossible to whole-heartedly serve two masters.  One will be loved and the other “despised” (resented as intrusive).

James rachets up the strength of the language a notch!

…..don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world (system) becomes an enemy of God.  James 4:4

The world has one simple goal; to eliminate our distinctiveness as followers of Jesus and absorb us into the values of the culture.  Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

The Church is to be the LIGHT to the world.  The church is meant to proclaim the Truth and be instrumental in implementing Jesus’ great rescue.

……God’s household, which is the church of the living God [the Kingdom],(is) the pillar and foundation of the truth.  (1Timothy 3:15b)

Jesus’ call to transformation

15 I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. (John 17:15-17)

In the verses above we literally see Jesus praying for you and me (John 17:20)!  Nestled into the words of His prayer we discover His desire for our lives.  He is NOT taking us out of the world but taking the world OUT of us and replacing it with His love and His truth which are two major attributes of His kingdom! 

Holiness, which can be another word for “transformation”, develops and forms by turning away from the deception the world promotes and embracing and acting upon (with His help) His truth.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern(system) of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (with Truth). Then you will be able to test and approve (demonstrate) what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Jesus most certainly was and is a friend to us sinners! And we are to be as well!  Jesus, without compromise proclaimed and demonstrated love and truth.  In that lived-out proclamation people were drawn to Him and the life He offered.  We are to do no less! But, He is not a friend of the corrupt world system.  In fact, He is here to rescue us from that system and transfer us to a kingdom filled with light, love, peace, truth and so much more!  That is good news (the Gospel).

Questions to ponder:

Is the culture/the world system being influenced by the Church (the foundation of the Truth) or is the Church being influenced by the philosophy of the world system?  Remember that from a biblical perspective – We are the Church!

Is the Gospel I believe transforming my life from the inside out? Who or what has the greatest influence in my life?

Is what I believe so alive, so real, so life-giving that it is worth dying for?

Final Thoughts:

This is a different kind of blog for me.  For many years everything I’ve taught, written or counseled is permeated by the amazing extravagant love that the Lord has for us.  I hope this blog presents nothing less than that heart-staggering truth. One old friend said that Ray teaches many messages – but they all say “God loves you”.  I consider that a very high compliment!  I hope my comments on the “world system” simply echo what the scriptures reveal.  I hope what shines through all of the language is that we have an amazing opportunity to experience the Lord’s love for us.  To embrace Him and all that He has for us, in my way of thinking is the only life worth living!

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3 Responses to Friend of Sinners Versus Friend of the World

  1. Colley Stowell says:

    Great word Ray, Transformation gives me Hope in what God can do if we allow him too.

  2. maurice samples says:

    Excellent … needed reminder ,,, Jesus isn’t easy but He is Awesomely wonderful!

  3. Kelly Fanning says:

    Beautifully said!

    I can’t believe I didn’t know you had a blog sooner!

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