Do you know what Jesus’s nickname was? It was “Friend” (Matthew 11:16–19 NIV). More specifically, “Friend of Sinners.”
Who gave Jesus that nickname? Religious leaders who watched how He lived His life and didn’t like it. But apparently Jesus liked it so much that He kept it!
It was easy for “Friend of Sinners” to stick because everywhere Jesus went, He befriended people and was a blessing to them. His entire life and ministry were a rhythm of befriending and blessing. Jesus blessed every person and every place He encountered.
For example, He met two brothers, Peter and Andrew, a couple of working-class fishermen. For the next three years, they were the best of friends, and Jesus blessed them by teaching them, showing them miracles, and giving them a mission for their lives. In a much briefer encounter, Jesus shocked Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, with His offer of friendship. The two shared the blessing of a meal and conversation, and Zacchaeus left a changed man.
In fact, as word spread far and wide about how Jesus blessed people, one of His friends, Mark, described what happened: “People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would… bless them…. Then he hugged the children and blessed them” (Mark 10:13, 16 CEV). Jesus proved that when you are a good friend who blesses people, you don’t have to sell them anything or trick them into doing anything. Instead, they come to you!
Jesus’s mission was to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV), but His simple strategy was friendship and blessing.
The more I look at Jesus, the more I realize how I got it so wrong:
I made the good news complicated when it should have simply come from my heart.
I tried to manipulate something that was meant to fit into everyday life.
I made something relationally awkward that was meant to be a blessing stemming from friendship.
And I tried to make something happen that only God could do.
And there were times when I was passive while God was at work.
A rhythm of friendship and blessing was how Jesus loved people and proclaimed the good news. Could that work for me? Could that work for the people in my church? Could I have overlooked something so very obvious and simple? The more questions I asked, the greater my conviction grew that it could definitely work for me and for you.
We have just released a new Bible Study on the book BLESS: 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World by Dave Ferguson
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.
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