I think most of us have the idea, if not all of us, have the idea that the way that God will relate to us is through our doing things for him. If I can obey good enough, or to the extent that I obey, that's the extent to which I'll experience his approval of me. And so we tend to think of Jesus like that as well. Surely Jesus, you know, the most perfect man who ever lived, the Holy God, the Son of God incarnate, he would not want to spend time with me. I'm a miserable person. So maybe if I am on my best behavior, maybe if I've, you know, really done a lot of cool spiritual stuff today for him, then he'll want to give me some time.
And that's not the testimony from Christ himself in the scriptures. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.
You can find us at familylifetoday.com. This is Family Life Today. Okay, who's your best friend? You. Oh. Jesus. Okay, we're not even gonna be honest, are we? I know I'm not your best friend. Jesus might be. You are totally my best friend.
Why would you say that? I am your best friend. I know. But Michelle is your next best friend. Yeah, she is. Yeah, and friendships really, really critical.
They really matter, and we need them desperately, and many of us don't have that and couldn't even say they have a best friend. Yeah, we've got a new friend in the studio today, Jared C. Wilson is back. No, he's not my dad, not my brother, not a cousin. He's not related to us, but he is definitely a friend. We've had such a great time having you with us at Family Life Today, so welcome back. Yeah, thanks for having me back. We are talking about a book you didn't write too long ago, Friendship with the Friend of Sinners, the Remarkable Possibility of Closeness with Christ. Don't we all want that?
And I like that you say the remarkable possibility. Yeah, of all the all things to write about, I know you teach at a seminary, and you've been doing that for years. You preach. Right, preach. But of all the topics, why friendship, and especially the friend of sinners, Jesus? Well, okay, for a couple of reasons. One, the idea of friendship with Jesus, I think, has become somewhat lost in that most Christians I know are somewhat content to be in a relationship with the idea of Jesus.
They have a relationship with the concept of Jesus and forget sometimes that Jesus is a real person. Okay, yeah, I'm not gonna make you do it now, but you've got to develop that. I will develop that, yes. I developed that in the book.
I'll be glad to develop that. But also, I think we have a real friendship crisis. We have a real loneliness crisis that's happening right now. There's research even to back this up. Over the last several years, even before COVID, there were concerns about middle-aged men in particular, that the, you know, friendlessness or the loneliness epidemic is a health crisis. It's connected to all sorts of things mental health-wise and even physical health.
You know, there's studies that correlate that. Over in Japan, they actually have a governmental position assigned to the loneliness problem. Loneliness is such an issue there that it's leading to increased, you know, suicide and and other mental health risks. So, despite the fact that we have social media and the social internet connections, we're more connected than we've ever been, but I think more lonely than we've ever been. So, if anything, the social internet has in some ways deformed our ability to relate to each other. We have the illusion of closeness and I think when you get down to it, that's actually compounded some of the issues that we have as it relates to relationships.
And you're teaching at a seminary. Do you see that with your students? Are they lonely or do you think now than they have been in the past? Yes, but I also see it just in relation to a lack of emotional intelligence and this is really sort of surprising as well because the younger generation is growing up connected through social media and yet disconnected in reality, but also immersed in a kind of therapy speak and a kind of therapeutic speak. So, very big on being in touch with feelings, just even the notion of therapy, all those sorts of things, and yet socially awkward, finds it difficult to go into deep places relationally, somewhat impatient with people's failings and brokenness, which is somewhat startling given the kind of, you know, superficial knowledge that we have. So, you take that problem, the problem of loneliness, the problem of kind of this friendship deficit, and you add the spiritual dimension to it, which we're all spiritual beings, but when you add the possibility of being in a relationship with God, being friends with God, which is what, you know, the Bible holds out as a possibility for us, and it creates a real problem that I think, you know, the gospel needs to speak into.
So, that's sort of the, you know, the platform for the book. Let me ask you guys, would you say that Jesus is your friend? Like one of your best friends? I learned a book about it.
I learned a book about it. I'd better be able to say that. Would you say that? Yeah, but even as I was reading your book, Jared, I related to a lot of your thoughts because, and I'm sure women have the same thought, but when you wrote early in your book that, and you just said it, the idea of Jesus, we're having a friendship with someone we can't see. When we talk to him, we know he's listening, but we don't hear him listening, so we don't get feedback, and so the friendship is a, it's a different friendship. It's almost like an online friendship with the camera turned off, you know, and the sound turned off. It's sometimes where it's like, and we can get into it later. Ooh, I don't feel like that.
I would say he's my best friend. I'm saying there's a lot of, I think, guys that feel like that. Maybe women don't.
Yeah, I think certain women, we all feel that at times. Is that where you're getting at with the idea? Yeah, well even the question, the way you framed the question, Anne, to say, would I say Jesus is my friend, the answer is yes, but more importantly, what would he say about me is the starting point, because I struggle with those things, and that is a challenge for me, which is I cannot see him yet. I can't hear him audibly yet. That just complicates it, you know, the relationship on my end, and it makes me, I think, a bad friend to Jesus, so the question then is, would he call me his friend, and I think unequivocally, directly in Scripture, we have the answer is yes, and Jesus, of course, isn't challenged by any of those things. He's not hindered by anything, and so just the fact that in John 15 15 that he says to his disciples, who not only have failed him, and, you know, just spend so many minutes not getting it throughout, you know, their time with him, they're not great friends to him, and even looking forward from this moment where he says this, he knows Peter's going to deny him. He knows Jesus is gonna betray him. They can't even stay awake and pray for him. They're gonna be sleeping while he is in his greatest moment of, you know, of anxiety. They're gonna run away when he's, you know, arrested and crucified, and yet he says to them, I no longer call you servants.
Servants don't know what the master is doing. I have called you friends. I believe it's true.
It better be true. I'm glad that it's true, because I'm a terrible friend of Jesus, and yet this is the disposition he has to me. He has decided that we are friends, and if Jesus decides that you're friends, guess what? You're friends. Yeah.
That's a good place to be. Yeah, I mean, do you think there's any difference for men in their friendship with Jesus than women? And the only reason I'm asking is sometimes, Anne and I have talked about this, it's like she's relating to a man, and Becky, your wife, same thing, they want intimacy from us. I'm not talking sexual.
Yeah. I'm talking, you know, relational and vulnerability and closeness, and I want to give that to Anne. Another guy?
I want to, too, but it's different. It's like, I don't want to be, like, too intimate with you, because then it's like two guys, you know? And again, I don't know what I'm saying, but it feels a little awkward compared to, like, being with Anne, and Jesus is a man, and so sometimes I thought, is it harder for men because it's a guy rather than a female? Well, I do think there's a difference in how we relate, right?
Men and women. So I think, you know, when you said you didn't really have a problem or it wasn't a significant issue for you in terms of you can't see him or hear him, I do think for men, like, even our friendships with other guys, they're so often based on, we're doing things together. Like, we become friends by doing a project together or working side by side or, you know, being on mission together. Women, I think, relate more intuitively.
It's, yeah, yeah, and so maybe it's not as big a hindrance to them. I mean, we've even taught at our marriage stuff is that you've used this illustration. Women sit face-to-face.
Yeah. If you leave two girls in a room, they'll turn face-to-face. Guys would generally bond through face-to-face communication and conversation.
And men often in the same room, you'd come back and their chairs are shoulder-to-shoulder. And I love it. I always say, you know, I got a motorcycle because when I go on a ride with a dude, we're riding, but we're not talking. We get to a stoplight. Hey, man, how you doing?
I'm doing good. Okay, see, yeah, we liked it, but a friendship with Jesus is face-to-face, and that's great, but sometimes I think it's, we have to step through that and go, okay, I'm gonna have a real intimate friendship with Jesus because I'm his friend. I'm not his slave.
I'm not his servant. He calls me friend, so lean into that. Yeah, well, I just think even having the components of friendship, which for us involves communication, right, so not just a familiarity or an ease. You know, you talk about the side-by-side. I know I'm friends with another guy when we can ride in a car together for a long period of time, and we can go through stretches of silence, not speaking to each other, and it's not weird or awkward.
Yeah. When I'm not friends with someone and there's no conversation happening, I get a little uneasy, like, I need to be keeping my end up or why aren't we talking, but when I'm with a close friend, it's totally fine that we cannot talk. We know each other so well.
We're at ease with each other. We don't have to fill every second with conversation. With Christ, however, there's just the idea of, like, the divine dialogue of how does he speak to me? Well, it's through his word, right, so I have to be in his word to hear his voice, to hear him speaking, and how does he hear from me? He hears from me in my prayer, so if I'm not reading the Bible and I'm not engaged in prayer, I'm basically disconnecting from what connects me to him, at least in our communion, which is the divine dialogue of Scripture and prayer. Those are the means by which we engage in intimacy with Christ, and then we wonder, like, I don't engage in those things, and then I wonder, why do I feel so far from God? Or, you know, why does he feel so far from me? And a lot of it is because I've cut off this means of communication with him. I'm waiting for some kind of spiritual vibe or feeling. I'm looking for that despite the fact I'm not actually engaging in the normal conversation that I have.
I really like your writing. I like how you say certain things. You say, in his presence, playing pretend seems so stupid.
Hiding seems so pointless. At his table, we let our guard down. We let our hair down. We sigh. We breathe. We unsuck our gut, because it's not the idea of us that he loves, but the real us, our dumb, old, foolish, real selves.
That's the truth. It's the truth of Scripture, but why don't we believe it? I think most of us have the idea, if not all of us, have the idea that the way that God will relate to us is through our doing things for him. If I can obey good enough, or to the extent that I obey, that's the extent to which I'll experience his approval of me. And so we tend to think of Jesus like that as well. Surely Jesus, you know, the most perfect man who ever lived, the Holy God, the Son of God incarnate, he would not want to spend time with me.
I'm a miserable person, so maybe if I am on my best behavior, maybe if I've, you know, really done a lot of cool spiritual stuff today for him, then he'll want to give me some time. And that's not the testimony from Christ himself in the Scriptures. He draws near to the brokenhearted. He loves sinners. He died for sinners.
He has not come to call the, you know, the healthy, but to call the sick. We have over and over again, his heart is for those who have nothing to offer him. And so that means when he does sit at the table with me, I can be me. I don't have to be some religious version of Jared or some spiritual version of Jared, you know, something that I used to fool other people, right, to impress other people.
I can unsuck my gut. I can let down the pretense that I'm anything but who I actually am because he sees the real me anyway. Like he's not gonna be fooled by that, you know, but also he accepts me as I am, which is, I mean, it's just wonderful.
It's just wonderful that he's like that. Well, I mean, you put it in something, a remarkable possibility. Yeah, you're right. I don't know how to get your brain around it. We are friends. And by the way, you didn't say friendship with Jesus.
You said friendship with a friend of sinners. Why? Because of that? Because of that. Because he is a friend of sinners. Because he comes near to those. He's willing even to risk his own reputation with others, right? I mean, you think of how often the religious leaders of his day or others who tried to tarnish his reputation.
Why? Because he was hanging out with people who had bad reputations. He was drawn to them, to the people in the margins, the people who had no religious currency, no social currency.
He spent time with them. I think this is in Mark 5, but it's when Jairus comes to ask Jesus to heal his daughter who's on the verge of death. And in the middle of that encounter as Jesus goes with him, that's when that woman with the bleeding issue reaches out through the crowd and grabs hold of the hymn of Christ's garment. And she's healed instantly. Well, why is she doing that? Why is she trying to steal that blessing? It's because in some ways she believes Jesus can heal her, but she doesn't think Jesus will heal her.
Jairus goes directly and says to his face, will you come heal my daughter? This woman is trying to, in a way, steal that healing. Because she doesn't feel worthy. Well, she doesn't feel worthy. She's been considered unclean.
She's been treated like human garbage all her life. And then here is not just a Jewish man, but the one who is the Messiah, or at least they say is the Messiah. So in her brain, if that's true, he certainly won't want to touch me. I will have to touch him. And yet he turns. And not even him, but his clothing. That's right. The hymn of his garment.
Yes. And what does he do? He interrupts this, going to help this VIP with his problem. He stops and he turns. He calls her to account, who touched me?
Which is really fascinating. Like, did he not know? I think it's a very similar moment to when the Lord comes walking in the garden after Adam and Eve had fallen.
And he says, where are you? Like, they could really hide from him, right? I think he's trying to provoke faith in them to call them out.
And I think Jesus is doing the same thing here. But in any event, when he's finally facing her, he doesn't rebuke her. He doesn't despise her. He doesn't do what she probably is afraid will happen and what has happened in her life. She has good reason to think that this is a possibility. That she would be rejected.
Because she's always been rejected. He doesn't just say, you know, your faith has made you well. He calls her daughter.
Yeah. You know, he uses the language of intimacy with her. The same that he'll use when he goes and speaks to the little girl. He goes to heal a little girl and he calls her a little girl or a little sweetie, right? Talitha Kumar. So, the same kind of relational intimate language he would use with the VIP's daughter.
The little girl who, you know, is innocent. He uses with this tarnished unclean woman. It tells us where Jesus heart is.
That he doesn't relate to us the way everybody else might. You know, everyone else is wondering, you know, what have we done for them lately? What can we offer them? Can we be impressive?
Can we look good? Can we do something for them? There's nothing we can do for Jesus.
He doesn't need anything. And yet, he is so gracious and so open-hearted to us that he would say to those losers at the table around him, I call you my friends. It's such a word of grace. I remember, I was young, really young in my faith and this older woman who was mentoring me. She said, just close your eyes. I want you to just picture yourself being in front of Jesus. And at this point, I hadn't dealt with any of the sexual abuse in my background.
Any of my past sins and the things that I had done. And I remember, I said to her, like, I can't picture it because when I picture it, I can't even get close enough to him. And she said, why can't you get close to him? I said, because I'm so unworthy. Like, I can't even have him look upon me because I can't be in his presence because of my unworthiness.
And so, I think a lot of people feel like that. Like, if you knew what I've done, and here's Jesus, like, I do know. I know what you've done. I know what's been done to you.
I know what you faced. And I'm drawing you, just like the woman bleeding. I'm drawing you. I'm calling you daughter. I'm calling you son.
Come close. It is the gospel, which is the most mind-blowing grace. I can't even fathom it. To know that he wants to be near me, with me, to be my friend, is unbelievable. And it's such good news, isn't it? Yeah, I mean, it just changes the way you look at the Christian life. To know that Jesus would look at me this way, what his disposition towards me is, it impacts my inclination to spend time with him.
Yes. So, those lines of communication that I maybe have cut off, what's the reason for that? Well, there's, you know, spiritual laziness, sure. But sometimes it's a matter of that. Like, I've been distant for a while and I'm gonna drag myself, you know, in front of him. I better clean up a little bit first before I get there, you know.
But that's not how Jesus looks at it. His door is always unlocked. He's always ready. He's always receptive. He's always eager. He's more eager to hear from us than we are to speak to him.
And so, if I think that there's just a whiff of judgment or condemnation there, I'm gonna be reticent to reach out, to read my Bible, to pray to him. You know, I always say, like, it's the picture of, you know, those moments, whatever the, you know, toughest moment is in someone's life. But it's that sitting at the, you know, the breakfast table in the middle of the night with your head in your hands, everyone's in bed, but you can't sleep because there's something. And it may be personal, emotional.
It may be, you know, practical. You can't pay the bills or there's something going on in your life. But it's just that everything's going wrong moment and you can't sleep and you're just sitting there in fear, anxiety, maybe some shame, and Jesus comes and walks into the doorway and the little light is just landing on his face and you look up. What you see on his face makes all the difference in the world. Is he looking down at you sternly? Is he looking down at you disappointed? I mean, I just spent so many years in the Christian life thinking, yes, I mean, Jesus is always disappointed in me.
Just always disappointed in me. But if I can now picture him in the doorway smiling with love, with approval, with the confidence that I don't have, but with an embrace ready for me, it just changes everything about how I process what's going on at that table and in my own head. It may not, you know, immediately solve my problems, but it gives me the spirit with which to address them and not to run and hide, not to be afraid to confess sin. It just changes everything the disposition that you believe Christ has towards you is the difference.
Honestly, it can be the difference between life and death. I think that's why I would say he's my best friend because now after years of figuring that out, of understanding the word, of understanding the gospel, understanding who Jesus is, who wouldn't want to be around him and to be his friend because he offers grace and love unlike anyone on this planet. Like Dave, you love me, but as human beings, our love can tend to be conditional and it is not with Jesus. Yeah, and I was thinking, you know, when you were talking earlier that we sort of have a love or a friendship with the idea of Jesus. Even as I'm listening to you just walk through some stories in Scripture that I know well, that blows away the idea part because it's like once I see and hear and read, it's like, oh, I had an idea, but it's not even true.
This is the real Jesus. Then you're leaning in. I mean, you want to run to that man. I don't know if you've ever watched anything in The Chosen and I'm not saying it's the best thing in the world. I've seen one clip, I think.
Yeah. Well, they did an episode on that woman with the blood disease and again, Dallas Jenkins who, you know, would say, we're not trying to be, you know, this is perfectly Scripture, but they did a good sense of helping you feel her shame. I mean, you watch it, you're weeping like this woman. That's probably what she felt, which magnified when Jesus turns to her, you get it. You're like, he is the friend of sinners and I want to be his friend and then you go, he says I'm his friend.
You got to be kidding me. I mean, it's like you said, it makes you want to run to him rather than away and like you said earlier, the way that happens is get in his word, dig in there and open your eyes again to get a fresh vision of who he really is and I think you'll be drawn. If somebody's feeling, I don't feel any of that.
Yeah. I know him. I've given my life to him and surrendered. I know the Holy Spirit lives within me, but I feel distant.
How do I get that friendship and then maintain it? You begin with the truth that just to feel distant from him does not mean that he is distant. I think that's like the heart of the matter is to say my feelings don't dictate the reality. They'll tell me something important and it's nice to feel close to God, but how I feel about him or his closeness does not dictate whether he is distant from me. He is closer than my next breath and if I'm a believer, his Holy Spirit is taking up residence inside of me. So just knowing that I think helps because it's like, okay, I may feel this way, but it also inclines me then to his word and to say the way that I'm gonna feel intimacy, the felt closeness with God is by actually opening up this line of communication, but there's other things like the felt presence of Christ. It happens when we gather with our brothers and sisters at church, the body of Christ, so we feel the closeness of Christ because of the means of grace of the church. Celebrating communion as well, you know, these are tangible practical things.
You know, I'm not a trans substantiationist. I don't believe Jesus is actually literally present in those elements, but he gave us something tangible that I think helps us. It's a means of grace in that way.
It can strengthen our faith in a way to know, okay, he is real, and he is close. You know, he's closer even than my next breath. I found that it's so important to remind myself of that truth, that Jesus is near. He's close to you right now, and living as if that's actually true will change the way you relate, not only to him, but to all the other people in your life as well as your circumstances, whether those circumstances are good or bad.
I'm Shelby Abbott. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Jared C. Wilson on Family Life Today. Jared's written a book called Friendship with the Friend of Sinners, the remarkable possibility of closeness with Christ. This book really helps you to gain insights into building a close, honest, and unconditional relationship with Jesus. We love this book, and it's gonna be our gift to you when you give today, and you can get your copy now with any donation by going online to familylifetoday.com and clicking on the donate now button at the top of the page, or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Or feel free to drop us something in the mail if you'd like.
Our address is Family Life 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida 32832. Now coming up tomorrow, I'd say that many of us would probably communicate that we need intentional real-life connections. Well, Jared Wilson is back with David Anne Wilson tomorrow to talk about just that, including what it means to be close to Jesus and generous in our relationships. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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