To My Friends Who Are No Longer Friends With Jesus

This article was featured at For The Church and shared as part of The Gospel Coalition’s “Around the Web” articles.

To my friends who are no longer friends with Jesus: I want you to know that if I am aware of you walking away from Jesus, I have prayed for you and even cried for you. A couple of years ago I was reading The Last Battle from C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” to our kids. I came across a passage that took my breath away and filled my eyes with tears. Tirian, the last king of Narnia, is meeting the former kings and queens of Narnia:

‘Sir,’ said Tirian, when he had greeted all these. ‘If I have read the chronicle aright, there should be another. Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is Queen Susan?’

‘My sister Susan,’ answered Peter shortly and gravely, ‘is no longer a friend of Narnia.’

‘Yes,’ said Eustace, ‘and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’

The reason I got a lump in my throat and then looked at my wife Melanie and saw that wewere both tearing up is because we were thinking of you, friends. Walking away from Jesus is not child’s play. At the end of The Last Battle, it is revealed that there has been a crash and the kings and queens are in heaven. They are safe, eternally. Susan is not. But there is still time. 

It seemed that you used to be friends with Jesus. You sang to him, you read his Word, you prayed to him, you talked about him with me.

Only God, and maybe you, know if that faith was genuine. But I do know this: the Jesus you used to confess with your lips is the same Jesus who can save you today. It doesn’t matter if it has been years or months of walking away from him, Jesus died and rose again not to make it possible for us to earn our way back to God, but to bring us to God. He will still do that for you if you will come to him.

You are not the first disciples of Jesus to deny Jesus. Do you remember Peter, one of Jesus’s closest disciples and friends? He denied Jesus three times, when Jesus most needed someone to come alongside of him and stand up for him. 

Decades later Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” It has never been easy to be a Christian. What stood true two thousand years ago stands true today: there is a great enemy of your soul.

Peter knew that Satan is active in the world today, and he didn’t just think of the devil like a roaring lion. It’s like Peter was remembering how he had felt that enemy breathing down his neck on the night that he denied Jesus.

But there is someone else described like a lion in the Bible, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Jesus is the One who was promised to come and save us. He came and represented God to us as holy and righteous and yet as willing and ready and able to forgive for when we have failed him.

Precious Words of Promise

Some of the most precious words in the Bible are at the end of the Gospel of Mark. After Jesus has risen from the dead, the angel tells the women at the tomb, “…go, tell his disciples and Peter…” (Mark 16:7)

The other disciples had failed too. They had also said they would follow Jesus all of the way. But only one of them, John, stood at the cross at the end. God made sure they all received the message of Jesus’s resurrection— “Go tell the disciples…” But he also put this nugget of grace on the angel’s lips: “…AND Peter.” Peter was a disciple. But God was already moving towards Peter specifically in his specific sin, preparing his heart for restoration.

I don’t know what God has been doing in your lives recently. But reading this article is a start. There is some reason you clicked on it. 

When Peter denied Jesus, Jesus looked at him. If you sense the Lord looking at you right now, you have two choices. 

You can try to run from the gaze of Jesus just like Adam and Eve tried to run from the eyes of God. Or you can run to the gaze of Jesus and see that there is forgiveness and acceptance and restoration in his eyes. 

This is what Peter experienced when the resurrected Jesus came to them later, when Peter had gone back to fishing. When Jesus appeared on the shore, Peter didn’t hold back. Peter couldn’t wait to be near Jesus again. He couldn’t wait for the boat to get to the shore. Peter jumped into the water to go towards Jesus.

He didn’t walk on the water this time; he simply threw himself into the water to get to Jesus. That may be what repentance looks like for you, what coming back to God looks like for you. Just throwing yourself towards Jesus. 

If you do that, I know that Jesus will be waiting for you. Jesus himself promised it and sealed it with his redeeming blood: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37

Friends, if you come back to Jesus, he will welcome you home as his friends, now and for eternity. I hope to see you there.

This Easter, Become Conversant With the World’s Largest, Most Diverse Religion

This article originally appeared in our local paper, “The Manchester Journal.”

Easter is here again, and with it comes global celebrations of Jesus’s resurrection. It may be shocking to find out that Christianity is the world’s largest, most diverse religion today. But it should be equally shocking to imagine that probably the majority of residents in our well-educated town have never read one of the four Gospels that lays out what Christianity believes, including the resurrection of Jesus. A 2017 Lifeway survey found that over half of Americans have read none or little of the Bible.

In her book Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions For the World’s Largest Religion, New Englander Rebecca McLaughlin explains the global diversity present in Christianity today: “But, ironically, our habit of equating Christianity with Western culture is itself an act of Western bias…if you care about diversity, don’t dismiss Christianity: it is the most diverse, multiethnic, and multicultural movement in all of history.” (45) She goes on to explain that around the globe, the people most likely to be Christians are women of color. Projections by sociologists don’t see this changing anytime soon. McLaughlin elucidates: “…by 2060, the latest projections suggest, Christianity will still be the largest global belief system, having increased slightly, from 31 percent to 32 percent of the world’s population.” (12)

But what is the basis of what so many Christians from so many backgrounds around the world believe? Citizens of today’s world should be conversant with a faith that pervades so much of society. The Bible calls the basis of what Christians believe “the gospel,” while “The Gospels” are the four foundation documents of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The term “gospel” can be translated “good news.”

The good news about Jesus is that he died on the cross to atone for the sins of all who will believe in him. He suffered and died publicly on the cross as the punishment for the sins of all who believe in him, so they will never have to pay for those sins themselves. The Gospel of John famously makes this good news clear: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) 

The Bible teaches that our sin separates us from God, but that Jesus is the bridge that brings us back to God. We can have forgiveness of sins today, and forever in heaven with God precisely because Jesus died, but also rose again. As the resurrected Jesus himself proclaims: “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18) Jesus literally claims to have the key that can close the door to death for you, and give you eternal life. 

This is why Christians celebrate Easter. We believe that Jesus didn’t stay dead. The story of Easter is that Jesus rose from the dead again. Those who believe that this really happened call themselves Christians. In identifying that their lives are united with Christ and in calling him “Lord,” they are identifying themselves with him in his death and resurrection.

No one really finds this easy to believe. His disciple, Thomas, who had been with him for three years, did not believe when the other disciples said they had met Jesus who was alive again. When Jesus appeared to Thomas and challenged him to put his fingers in the nail marks, and his hand in his pierced side, Thomas fell down at Jesus’s feet and confessed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) Christians around the world, Christians of all ethnic backgrounds, Christians in our own community, are people who have said to Jesus after they have believed that he is their savior, risen from the dead: “My Lord and my God!”

So, what do you know about Christianity? Have you ever read one of the four Gospels that lays out the foundation of the world’s largest, most diverse religion? I challenge you this Easter to become conversant with Christianity by reading the Gospel of John. But beware. Within its pages, you will hear Jesus say this: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) Jesus is not content for us to simply come to learn about him. He also wants us to know him today. As Christians around the world will be celebrating this Easter, he didn’t stay in that tomb. He is alive today. That is not only worth celebrating, it means that all that he said is true.

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