Was Jesus a Friend of Sinners?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL: DAY 204

“The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34, KJV).

Was Jesus a friend of sinners? The answer is, “No.” We shall soon find out why. Let’s start by examining the context of today’s Bible passage. Here, Jesus is expressing His displeasure at the attitude of people toward Him. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. He led a relatively austere life, neither eating bread nor drinking wine (cf. Luke 1:13-15). His food was locusts and wild honey (cf. Matthew 3:4). Yet, people found fault with him and said he had a devil (cf. Luke 7:33). Jesus, by contrast, ate freely and did not abstain from wine. In general, He was less strict with Himself compared to John the Baptist. Surprisingly, people found fault with Jesus, too. They accused Him of being a glutton, a drunkard and a friend of sinners. Here is where some people get confused and conclude – wrongly – that Jesus was a friend of sinners.

Let’s keep in mind that the tag, “friend of sinners,” was just an accusation. The question we must ask is, “Was the accusation true or was it false?” Was Jesus a “friend of sinners?” To answer this question, let’s look again at today’s opening Scripture. Jesus was accused of being three things: glutton (He overeats), drunkard (he drinks in excess), and a friend of sinners (He hangs out with sinful people).

Let’s start with the first accusation.

Was Jesus a glutton? No, He was not. Gluttony is over-indulging in food, which is a form of greed and lack of self-control. The Bible expressly says Jesus was without sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). If Jesus was a glutton, then He was a sinner; but the Word of God cannot lie. Second, was Jesus a drunkard? No, He was not – for the same reasons noted above regarding gluttony.

Now, to the third accusation:

Was Jesus a friend of sinners? Again, noHe was not. Here’s why. If you are a friend of sinners, it means you share (directly or indirectly) in their sinful life (which is what the accusation against Jesus implied). We are using the word “friend” in the strict sense (i.e. those you share your life with based on mutual love, respect and common interests), not in the loose sense where you might casually say to someone, “Hey, friend!” or “My friend!” (see, for example, Matthew 22:11-12).

The truth is, Jesus was no friend of sinners. He did, however, welcome all who wanted to hear Him: men and women, young and old, rich and poor, godly and ungodly, Jews and Gentiles. He went to their homes if He was invited; there, He often took the opportunity to proclaim the truth of salvation. Some sinners who listened to Jesus eventually received His message, repented and became His disciples. In short, Jesus was compassionate, loving and merciful toward all people, but He was not a friend of sinners.

The only group of people Jesus called His “friends” were His disciples (cf. John 15:15). In the previous verse (John 15:14), Jesus declared: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Notice the condition a person must fulfill to become Jesus’ friend: if you do whatsoever Jesus commands you. Do sinners do whatsoever Jesus commands them? No, they don’t. Conclusion: Sinners are not friends of Jesus; and Jesus is not their friend, either. 

Let us, therefore, present Jesus accurately to people, because friendship with Jesus (or lack thereof) is a matter of heaven or hell.

May the Lord bless you, give you understanding and enable you to walk with Him in holiness and righteousness. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Psalm 15:1-5

Urgency in the Lord’s Business

Daily Devotional: Day 157

“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42, NKJV).

Peter and John had been arrested and brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Following the wise counsel of Gamaliel, a prominent member of the council, the Apostles were released. But they were commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus again (cf. Acts 5:34-40). Two verses later, in Acts 5:42, the Bible says, “daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Look carefully at the Bible’s choice of words. It says the Apostles did not cease teaching and preaching. They maintained a daily, incessant routine of speaking about Christ. The key word and phrase are “daily” and “they did not cease.” 

The Bible is pointing us to the necessity of maintaining a sense of urgency when it comes to teaching and preaching about Christ. Observing the Apostles, you notice that there was a sense of urgency about their attitude. The fact is, they understood the signs of the times. They knew that knowledge of salvation is an offensive weapon in the kingdom of God. Our spiritual warfare entails an urgent call to strengthen believers, bring light to those walking in darkness and rescue the perishing. This is a daily call which requires a daily response.

Even satan knows that the stakes are high, and there isn’t a day he goes to rest. Revelation 12:12 comes to mind: “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (ESV, emphasis added).

Each new day counts. We, therefore, don’t have the luxury of resting on our oars or being on the defensive. The only way for us to rest is to do the Master’s business daily. And, the only way to win is to be on the offensivearmed with the Word of God. Each day is an opportunity to make Christ known in our homes, in our relationships, on the streets and at the workplace. We can do this, because the Holy Spirit is with us. 

Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today. Amen.

For further study: Matthew 28:16-20

When to Obey God, Instead of Man

Daily Devotional: Day 121

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives . . . “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:15-17, NKJV).

The Israelites lived peacefully with the Egyptians for about 400 years. But all of this changed when a certain Egyptian king ascended the throne, who felt threatened by the increasing number of the Israelites. He, therefore, adopted a policy of hostility and enslavement to subdue God’s people. This is the background for our Scripture reading today. The king of Egypt ordered the Hebrew (Israelite) midwives to kill all Hebrew sons whose birth they assisted. But the midwives disobeyed the king. As I often like to stress, pay attention to the detail. The midwives did not disobey just for the sake of disobeying.  They did not disobey because they were arrogant and rebellious. Notice this: The midwives disobeyed the king, because they feared God.

On several occasions the Bible admonishes us to honor and submit to civil/political authorities (cf. Mark 12:13-17Romans 13:1-71 Peter 2:13-17). When, however, you are ordered to commit evil, deny your God, or violate your Christian conscience, then you must object, and if necessary, disobey that human authority. In other words, whenever you are put in a situation where you must choose between obedience to God’s Word and obedience to men, God wants you to obey Him rather than man. God alone must be feared. I have said this in one of my Daily Devotionals, and I’d like to repeat: You cannot fear God and fear man at the same time. You must choose whom to fear.

God rewards those who fear Him and respect His commandments (See Exodus 1:20 for the blessings God bestowed on the midwives for their bold stance). When the Hebrew midwives disobeyed the king of Egypt, they were putting their profession and even their life on the line. But because they feared God, they did not fear what the king could do to them. They’d rather die than disobey God. This is the meaning of fearing GodBeing willing to rather die than sin against God. If you are a ‘people-pleaser,’ you can’t be a ‘God-pleaser,’ or vice-versa. Likewise, you cannot be a ‘God-fearer,’ if you are a ‘people-fearer.’

I’ll share a personal story with you. About 15 years ago, I was a senior at a seminary in Ghana where I was training to become a Catholic priest. As president of the student council, I had several responsibilities, and often I had to make important judgment calls. I’ll spare you the details, but one day there was a shortage of food at lunch time. Three professors (who were my superiors) ordered me to break into the food storage room to make food available to the students. But in good conscience, I disobeyed the order. I was fully aware that these professors were taking advantage of the temporary crisis to use me as their pawn to further their political agenda against the Rector of the seminary. I refused to play along. At the end of the day, God vindicated me. 

The point is this: You have a God-given right under the Bible to disobey a human law that commands you to violate the law of God or your Christian religious conscience. Whom or what you fear says a lot about you. Do not compromise your loyalty to God’s law because of your fear of human power. Your sole desire as a Christian is to do what pleases the Father, following your Bible-trained conscience, regardless of what people think about you or threaten to do to you.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today. Amen.

Pray to the Father about what you’ve heard today.

For further study: Daniel 3:1-30

Truth Is Neither Positive nor Negative

Daily Devotional: Day 118

“Then Peter took Him [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:22-23, NKJV).

To accomplish His mission as Savior, Jesus had to die for the sins of the world and rise from the dead to give us a new life – the new creation life. Satan tempted Jesus early on with the hope of getting Him to fall. He failed, but he did not give up. He moved to Plan B. If he couldn’t deceive Jesus directly, perhaps he could succeed indirectly – through Peter, a close associate of Jesus. That is what is taking place in today’s Bible text. Peter attempted to speak ‘positive’ things into Jesus’ life, but Jesus let him know that he was not speaking God’s mind, but satan’s.

Lesson 1: Not all those who speak supposedly ‘good things’ into our life are necessarily speaking the mind of God. Moreover, not all ‘misfortunes’ are necessarily bad for us. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). At times, the Father allows us to go through a ‘misfortune,’ because He has planned a manifestation of His glory through those circumstances (cf. John 9:1-3).

Lesson 2: At times we speak from the flesh and we don’t even know it, because we are not thinking what God is thinking. You may mean well and still speak the mind of satan instead of God’s mind. Peter meant well, but he was wrong, because he allowed satan to influence him; and he didn’t even realize it. Train yourself through prayer and meditation on God’s Word to detect satan’s presence.

Lesson 3: Peter’s (or satan’s) reaction to Jesus was selective. What I mean is, he reacted to only part of what Jesus said, but ignored the rest. He only heard the part where Jesus said He would suffer and die, but he ignored the part where Jesus mentioned that He would rise from the dead. Sometimes, we too, engage in selective listening of Jesus’ Word; we pick and choose what we want to hear and what we don’t want to hear.

Lesson 4: We live in a world – often influenced by New Age and theosophical teachings and terminologies – where we’re being conditioned to only seek and speak messages that are ‘positive.’ The belief is, so long as we sound ‘positive,’ we must be in the right direction. It sounds ‘Christian,’ but this is not what the Father teaches us. If you use a Bible app, do a word search for ‘positive’ or ‘negative.’ See what comes up.

When Jesus said that He was about to die, it sounded ‘negative’ to Peter, which explains why Peter said, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” Peter’s statement sounded ‘positive’ and caring, but it came from satan. Remember this: God’s Word is always true, but it is not always ‘positive.’ Satan’s word is always deceptive, but it is not always negative. At times, satan can deceive us with supposedly ‘positive’ messages. Bottom lineTruth is neither positive nor negative. We must, therefore, care about True or False, from God or from satan, but not Positive or Negative

The mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you today. Amen.

Pray to the Father about today’s message.

For further study: John 8:12-59

Exposing the Thief of God’s Word

Daily Devotional: Day 111

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1NKJV, emphasis added).

As you walk with the Lord, it is important to be well grounded in His Word. “Well grounded” means you understand, are rootedsecure and sound in God’s Word. It is not enough to learn a few catchy phrases and passages. This point is important for several reasons. We will talk about one of the reasons today.

There is something you need to understand about satan. He is a thief of God’s Word.

The most precious thing satan wants to steal from you is not your health or your money, but the Word of God. Please remember this point always. One of his chief weapons is to rob you of God’s Word either completely or at least by distorting (and diluting) the Word so that you miss out on vital supernatural nutrition. Subsequently, his victims become spiritually malnourished and become vulnerable to satanic manipulation. The devil has been doing this since the time of Adam and Eve.

After creating Adam and Eve, God gave them His Word – the commandment to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Holding on to this word would keep them alive and save them from death. But notice what happened when the serpent (satan) tempted Eve. His first move was to attack the word which God had entrusted to Adam and Eve. Why didn’t he attack their health or something else? As one author put it (I don’t recall who it was): “The Bible calls satan a lot of things. Fool is not one of them.” Satan’s strategy for defeating man works like this: “First, attack the Word; then the rest will be easy.” In our time, he has found even more crafty ways to corrupt the purity of God’s Word, thereby depriving men and women of the blessings contained in the Word.

Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 13:19: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom [Word of God], and does not understand it, then the wicked one [satan] comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart . . .” (emphasis added). Satan is not after your money or your health. If he attacks any of these, it is a ploy. His primary target is to steal the Word of God from you or to give you a distorted-diluted version of it. Once he notices that you are not grounded in the Word, the rest is easy business. He will launch a full assault to keep you bound. Be alert, dear reader. The times are evil. Don’t make light of the Bible. Hold on to it for dear life. Read it, study it, meditate it, and obey the Father’s instructions in it. May the Lord bless you now and forever. Amen.

Pray to the Father about His Word that has come to you today.

For further study: Mark 4:1-20