It’s Friday

adapted from a sermon by Tony Compolo

It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s a coming.

It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.” It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God, who will not abide with sin, pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, “My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” What a horrible cry. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. And at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming.

And on that horrible day 2,000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man, died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. Finally he had disproved the prophecy God had uttered in the Garden and the one who was to crush his head had been destroyed. But that was Friday.

Now it’s Sunday. And just about dawn on that first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. But that wasn’t the only thing that was shaking, because now it’s Sunday.

And the angel of the Lord is coming down out of heaven and rolling the stone away from the door of the tomb.

Yes, it’s Sunday, and the angel of the Lord is sitting on that stone. And the guards posted at the tomb to keep the body from disappearing were shaking in their boots, because it’s Sunday. And the lamb that was silent before the slaughter is now the resurrected lion from the tribe of Judah, for He is not here, the angel says. He is risen indeed.

It’s Sunday, and the crucified and resurrected Christ has defeated death, hell, sin, and the grave. It’s Sunday. And now everything has changed. It’s the age of grace, God’s grace poured out on all who would look to that crucified lamb of Calvary. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary was buried and rose again. All because it’s Sunday.

It’s Friiidaaaay!

But Sunday’s coming!

Patience

by Jerry Lewis


Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Psalm 37:7-9 (NIV)

Martin Luther says this: “The sum of this Psalm is, Suffer; that is, learn patience.” As I ponder this phrase, suffering seems inevitable, but how much more do we grow through the valleys versus the mountain tops? In these valleys, suffering is accompanied with waiting. Waiting is hard. We wait for diagnosis, in road construction, for our next paycheck, our kids to grow up or reach that next stage in development, or to hear from God. Our lives seem to be in a constant state of waiting. Waiting can lead to anxiety, to stress and we can’t make the waiting go by any faster.  How hard is it to be still in the waiting; to not rush ahead before God leads? 

Patience means the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. There is a gracefulness to patience, a quiet calm that resonates deep in the soul. It helps keep the anxiety at bay as others around you seem to be getting everything they ever wanted, in a world where we see snapshots of everyone’s best life plastered for everyone to see. We rest in the stillness of God and His love for us. 

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

Romans 5:3-5

I was always told to never pray for patience because then you would end up in a situation where you would have to put it into practice. However, as Christians we should practice patience on a regular basis, whether it’s with our children, our spouse, or our coworkers. David tells us that those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. May this be a reminder to you that though the wait may be long there is always hope and joy through the valley if you only look for it. 

Lord, I ask that you teach me patience, to show grace and mercy to those around me. Give me the strength to endure the waiting, to focus on You through the suffering to grow closer to You. As in David’s case, let me place my hope in You. Amen.

Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise

by Jerry Lewis

Do you know the most compelling evidence to me of who we are in Christ? He is unnamed. We’re not exactly sure the crime he committed. We just know that it wasn’t by accident that he was scheduled to be executed the same day Jesus was crucified. Most executions were not attended by crowds. Most crucifixions didn’t cause a stir. For this unnamed criminal, his most embarrassing moment became his most exhilarating. His most confining moment became his most liberating. He was crucified…and rightly so. He was guilty of crimes.

Jesus was crucified right beside him…and for no good reason. He was falsely accused.

This unnamed criminal, hanging naked, bleeding, writhing in pain on the cross, saw something in Jesus that the Romans soldiers refused to see. He saw something in Jesus that the Jewish leaders refused to see. He saw something in Jesus that the other thief refused to see. He also saw his sinful self.

Do you know what happened? That day, the naked, destitute, friendless, guilty criminal became a saint. What grace from the cross when Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He had no time to join the church, no time to mend fences, no time to make restitution. He didn’t have to. He was crucified with Jesus…literally…and he was crucified with Jesus spiritually. He had a new relationship.

From criminal to citizen. From outcast to insider. From a thief to a saint. In just one moment.

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, that’s what happened to you.

I know. It’s scandalous.

Grace is.

Triumph in Humiliation

by Jerry Lewis

Lord, our master, whose glory fills the whole earth, show us by your Passion that you, the true eternal Son of God, triumph even in the deepest humiliation.  —Bach in John’s Passion

Triumph and humiliation do not usually belong in the same sentence.  God excels in the ironic situations of life.  When Joseph’s brothers worried over the consequence of how they had treated Joseph, he responded, “You intended it for evil; God meant it for good.”

The suffering of Jesus is the supreme example of triumph in the deepest humiliation.  Jesus was beaten mercilessly.  Isaiah completely called this sequence of events:

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(Isaiah 53:2-3 ESV)

As one from whom men hide their faces.  People couldn’t bear to look at Jesus.  I wonder, in Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus, if Pilate looked at the ground–did he look him in the eye?

Majesty was veiled by blood.  Glory was masked by groaning.  Royalty hid behind repulsion.

What is your humiliation?  Your shame?  Your embarrassment?  In Jesus’ hands, and under Jesus’ blood, you can triumph even in the deepest humiliation.  This Easter season, call out to the humiliated Jesus who is now exalted.  Cry out to the One who cried out to His own Father on the cross.

It may be Friday…but Sunday’s coming.  Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

It May Be Sunday

by Jerry Lewis

It may be Sunday, but Friday’s coming.

The sun is shining brightly. The crowds are brimming with excitement.

It may be Sunday, but Friday’s coming.

They find a donkey. They pull off their cloaks to saddle the donkey. Jesus, their supposed king rides down into Jerusalem on that donkey.

It may be Sunday, but Friday’s coming.

The crowd throws their coats down in the road. They cut palm branches and soften the path for Jesus as rides into the eastern gate. They are shouting “Hosanna!” They’re waving palm branches.

It may be Sunday, but Friday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The crowd tears their clothes with anger. They clench their fists. They wave in defiance.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging, bleeding, dying. The crowd is mocking. The disciples have fled. Mary weeps. Jesus is crying. To his Father.

They took his clothes. And gambled for them.

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.

Peace: the Fruit of Prayer

by Jerry Lewis

Every day I talk with someone who deals with fear or anxiety. If your personal life isn’t falling apart, 5 minutes of the news reveals a world seemingly spinning out of control. A couple of years ago I discovered a resource from Biblestudytools.com.  Use this as a prayer guide when you’re afraid.

  1. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) God, I acknowledge my need for you today. I pray that you would breathe peace onto me through your Holy Spirit. Guard my heart. Show me how to protect my mind. I am weak on my own and so I fall back on your strength today.
  2. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3) Jesus, I put my trust in you today. Anxious thoughts are taking over my mind, and it’s easy to take my eyes off of you when I feel afraid. Remind me of who you are. Pour out your love on me, that I might remember you are always good and always faithful, especially when I am afraid.
  3. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)  Lord Jesus, thank you for always being with me. Your name, Immanuel, means God with us. I’m so grateful today that you are near me no matter what anxious thoughts try to creep into my mind. Thank you for being my strength when I am weak. You are faithful always. I love you, Lord, and I rely on you today and every day. Amen.
  4. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) God, thank you for this truth. Thank you for the gifts you bestow on us–gifts that help ease our anxious spirits and remind us of who we are in Christ. Thank you for giving us power to fight the lies. Thank you for loving us even in our brokenness.
  5. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)  Lord Jesus, we know in you we are conquerors. Sometimes, it can feel so hard to believe that. We don’t feel strong or courageous, and we worry relentlessly about our lives and circumstances. Remind us today that we are strong in you.
  6. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) Lord, my heart is broken. My mind is restless and my spirit is uneasy. When I feel broken down or defeated, I want to run to you, knowing you are always present and always near. Comfort me, Jesus.
  7. An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. (Proverbs 12:25) Jesus, my anxious heart is weighing me down today. I confess that I have become consumed by my own thoughts and I have lost sight of who you are. Speak kindly to my heart, Lord, and remind me of what is true. Thank you for your forgiveness and your endless grace for me.
  8. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. (Colossians 3:15) Dear Lord, it is my deep desire that your peace would rule in my heart. When I feel uneasy or unsettled, I want to know you are near me. Calm my fears, settle my spirit, and bring rest to my heart as I surrender myself to you today.
  9. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11) Lord, thank you for giving me strength. On the hard days, help me to remember you are never far away. Your strength is always fighting for me–I need only to be still in your presence. Thank you for bringing peace to me. Thank you for every blessing. I want to name and remember them today, for you are always good. Amen.

Faithfulness: Trusting God When Bad Things Happen

by Jerry Lewis

If we are honest, everyone on this planet recognizes that there is something inherently wrong with the world.  Since the beginning of history, mankind has attempted to provide an answer to the existence of evil.  Horrible things happen.  When they do, people scramble to understand them in light of their beliefs. Whether they are atheists, agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, or Christians, the problem of evil is too prevalent to dismiss.  The question for Christians becomes an even more difficult one:  If God is good and loving, then why does God allow (or some would say ordain) bad things?  (i.e. Why do bad things happen to good, and even God’s, people?)

When we can’t find sufficient answers, we have a tendency to create our own.  Here are a few of the most common misconceptions:

  • Bad things happen to God’s people because God is not involved. Technically this is called “deism.”  Deism suggests that God does not interfere with the world in any way–everything runs according to its natural course. To be sure, actions have consequences.  If you smoke, you could get lung cancer and you could die.  Smoking causes cancer.  Actions have consequences.  However, Christians believe that God is very involved.  He didn’t just wind up the universe like some master watchmaker and then step back and watch it run, or worse, walk away completely (Thomas Jefferson ascribed to this belief by the way).  As a matter of fact, God invaded the universe with His Son Jesus Christ.  The incarnation is the centerpiece of Christianity–God becoming man.
  • Bad things happen to God’s people because God is impotent.  God either doesn’t exist, or if he does, he is incapable of controlling or stopping bad things.  Those who hold this view simply point to the cacophony of evil in the world.  “If God is God (and therefore in complete control of the universe), then why did he allow……?” God appears to be impotent–unable to do what is needed to be done in a certain situation.  Atheists hold to the extreme form of this view.  God is impotent because he doesn’t exist, therefore to explain evil does not necessitate the mention of God.
  • Bad things happen to God’s people because of their personal sin. This assumption is as old as time itself. Jesus and his disciples encountered a man who was born blind.  His disciples looked at the man, and then at Jesus, and asked: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)  The disciples’ assumption was that personal sin resulted in the blindness.  This assumption has several holes in its logic.  First of all, the blind man, like everyone since Adam and Eve, was born into sin.  If his sin resulted in blindness, then all people would be born blind. Second, the blind man’s parents were born into sin just as he was.  If their sin caused their son to be born blind, then all children would be born blind.

All of those answers leave us feeling guilty or empty, despairing or despondent.

Why, then, do bad things happen to God’s people?

  • Bad things happen to God’s people because Adam and Eve sinned. Genesis 3 tells the story.  The serpent deceived Eve.  Eve convinced Adam and they ate the forbidden fruit.  God came walking in the garden and they hid themselves.  For the first time in their lives they were afraid of God.  Sin does that.  Sin distances us from God. God cursed the serpent, but he did not curse Adam or Eve.  (Childbearing became difficult and God cursed the land.) God made clothes for Adam and Eve.  The Creator of the universe became a tailor!  Since then death and disease, sin and temptation have been the norm.  Romans 8:22 says all of creation groans as it waits for renewal.
  • Bad things happen to God’s people because suffering stands alone in its ability to draw us into fellowship with God.  Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”  Christianity is counterintuitive. How attractive is a faith whose leader is described by Isaiah this way: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (53:3)  The hero of the Christian faith was a man of sorrows.  When you suffer you are most like Christ.  When you suffer, you are in God’s company.  C. S. Lewis, in the Problem of Pain, said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
  • Bad things happen to God’s people because God uses their suffering to reveal Himself to those who don’t know Him.  Jesus’ disciples thought the blind man’s sin, or his parents’ sin, caused his blindness. Jesus’ answer caught the disciples by surprise: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3) The blind beggar was a showcase of the glory of God. His parents never saw this coming.  Neither did he.  Jesus chose to heal him. We don’t know why God heals some and doesn’t heal others. What we know is that God uses the suffering of his beloved children as a showcase of His glory. Jesus spit on the ground, put mud on the blind man’s eyes, instructed him to wash in the pool of Siloam and the man left seeing. The Pharisees complained and the blind beggar became one of the first worshipers of Jesus.

Suffering is inevitable…and so hard.  Christians never dismiss it.  As a matter of fact, when our brothers and sisters hurt, we do too.  Paul instructs us in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”  In Galatians 6:2 we are told to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  We will never have all the answers (that is, this side of glory)–we will struggle to understand.  In those times, we cry together.  During those times we shoulder each others’ burdens…and in the process we fulfill the law of Christ.

A Prayer and a Practice

by Jerry Lewis

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.  

1 Corinthians 2:14-16

When you come to know Christ, you are given the Holy Spirit who lives inside of you. As He resides within you, He gives you the views, the feelings, and the temperament of Christ. You are able to think like Jesus Christ. You are able to make decisions like Christ would make. You are able to respond to situations as Jesus Christ would.

“How can I do this?” you may ask. “How can I reinforce this ally that fights against my old sinful nature?”

I want to be very practical here. I want to suggest a prayer and a practice. The prayer comes from Robert McGhee’s work, Search for Freedom.

Dear Lord, I have believed the wrong thought of (name the thought). I hate thinking this thought. This thought is not a healthy one for me. It is against what you want me to think. I want to bring my thoughts into obedience to your thoughts. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). I also want to think about things that are worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8) Thank you for forgiving me, for accepting this thought that has affected my life so negatively. I now, by my own free will, choose to replace the wrong thought of (name the thought) with what you want me to think. The next time I think that wrong thought, help me to tell you and change it. Thank you for the truth that sets me free.

The practice: memorize Bible verses. Scripture is the most powerful tool used by the Holy Spirit to renew the mind. Scripture verses, when applied to your heart, can change your life. The Spirit uses the Word. And when the Word is in our hearts, we will advance—not retreat.

We Do Not Know

by Jerry Lewis

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God  things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

romans 8:26-28

We live in the age of knowledge. If you wan t to know anything, you can find it out! A few years ago, I attended a conference hosted by Josh McDowell. Josh McDowell was an atheist who set out to prove that Christianity was not true. The result of his study was a book entitled More Than a Carpenter in which he beautifully defends the Christian faith. In his talk, he talked about knowledge. I do not remember the exact figures, but it went something like this. From the time of the Romans (near Jesus’ time) until the 1500’s, there was relatively little increase in knowledge. Then came the discovery of the western continents (North and South America) and the expansion of the world. As this happened, knowledge began to increase much faster than before. Knowledge, up until that time, doubled once approximately every 40-50 years. With the industrial revolution, knowledge increased once every 40 years. Then, we entered the 1800’s knowledge began to increase every 20 years. Now, with the advancement in modern technology, knowledge doubles every two years.

 The more we know and the more we can do, the more we doubt and the more we worry.

Our doubts and our worries appear to be commensurable with our knowledge. Whatever were the intentions and hopes of the originators of the idea of progress, certainly they did not intend to make life more insecure or worrisome.

So when we come to a sentence like, “we do not know how” we don’t like it! However, the truth is that many people do not know how to live life as you should. You want to succeed, but success seems to elude you. You want to be a better husband, but you don’t know how. You don’t like how you lose control, but your temper seems to get the best of you. In an age of ever increasing knowledge, we can find comfort in the almost embarrassing phrase, “I don’t know how.”

What happens when we admit that we don’t know how? The Spirit helps. This word helps is a wonderful word in the Greek. The word help in the English doesn’t do this word justice. It more accurately means, “to lend a hand together with, at the same time with one.” What happens?   Here Paul beautifully pictures the Holy Spirit taking hold at our side at the very time of our weakness and before too late. At the moment of weakness, not a moment too soon and not a moment too late, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid, walks alongside us, lends us a hand, and walks with us through the weakness.

Paul wants to drive home the point. He says, “The Spirit Himself” to show that when you are struggling the worst, God does not send a substitute—He comes Himself to your aid. And what does He do? He intercedes. This is the only time this word appears in the New Testament. It is a picturesque word of rescue by one who happens on someone who is in trouble and in his behalf pleads “with unuttered groanings” or with “sighs that baffle words.”

You have a Savior who rescues and the Spirit who regenerates.

Father, thanks for your wonderful gifts, especially Jesus who rescued me from my sin and its deadly result, and the Spirit who enables me to live the life you desire. I know that the fruit of the Spirit will only be produced in me as you work in and through me.

The Spirit’s Faithful Interruption

by Jerry Lewis

The day of trouble will come. I’m not trying to be a pessimist here–just realistically saying that difficult days come. Sometimes we can look out on the horizon and see them headed our way–like a menacing storm. At other times they come suddenly, like an unexpected earthquake, and cause the very foundations of our lives to shake.

Psalm 20 anticipates the day of trouble. The king is going out to war–he is marching into imminent danger. The people gather to send him off and they do so with remarkable encouragement.

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

Psalm 20:1-5

Notice what is missing in their remarks. They never mention how great the king is. They never refer to his mighty stallions, well-built chariots and well-trained army. No! May the Lord, may the name of the God of Jacob, may he…If the king returns victorious, clearly the Lord will have done it.

The king responds in verse 6.

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.

Psalm 20:6, ESV

The tiny word now suggests that something happened when the people spoke. The king now knew something he didn’t know before. In a 2016 article in the Atlantic, Julie Beck writes about inner speech.  “We can produce it much faster when we don’t have to go at the pace required to use tongues and lips and voice boxes. One researcher clocks inner speech at an average pace of 4,000 words per minute—10 times faster than verbal speech. And it’s often more condensed—we don’t have to use full sentences to talk to ourselves, because we know what we mean.” We aren’t privy to what the king may have been saying to himself before the people showed up with their prayer of verses 1-6, but one thing we do know…he knows something different now.

Now I know.

Who is interrupting your self talk, speaking truth, praying grace, confronting lies that you tell yourself?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

Psalm 20:7-8, ESV

How important is godly interruption! How easily the king could have trusted in his own skill, his mighty army, his horses and chariots!

Now I know.

If no one is speaking truth to you, repent. Find a godly truth-teller. Ask someone to interrupt the self-deceiving inner speech that either makes you a victor in a battle you’re doomed to lose, or a loser in a battle you’re bound to win–all because you are trusting in yourself and not God. Get back to your Life Group, reach out to your accountability partner. Repent.

O Lord, save (put your name here). May he answer us when we call.