Six circles of relationship formed around Jesus in his time on earth. In theoutermost circle, the Crowds who were curious. Next, the Five Thousand who wereneedy, while the Seventy worked and served in Jesus’ ministry; then came theTwelve who walked with Jesus, the Three who suffered and celebrated with him,and finally the One who sat beside him at the Last Supper. Jesus’ closestfollower listened more closely than any other, and recognized the Savior whenno one else did.
Scripture promises if youmove closer to God, he will move closer to you. Wherever you are in yourpursuit of Christ, you can draw closer still. In The One Jesus Loves, youwill learn about each of the six circles, and what it takes to move further in,closer and closer to Jesus.
Which circle are you intoday? Jesus is calling you closer.
"After reading The OneJesus Loves, you’ll not only understand how to deepen your relationshipwith God by drawing closer into His ‘circle of intimacy,’ you’ll also see howbecoming a closer follower of Christ can improve every other relationship inyour life."
—Mark Batterson, author of The Circle Maker and lead pastor of National CommunityChurch
“This book itself will be a gift to you. Robert Crosby has notjust studied the costly grace of Jesus; he's lived it. This grace is a pool offathomless depths. The deeper we go, the more healing we find.”
—John Ortberg,author of Who Is This Man? andsenior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
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About the Author
Dr. Robert C. Crosby is a conference speaker, writer, and pastoral leader. He has pastored churches in New York,
Boston, and Ohio and served as a university vice president. He is the professor of practical theology at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He writes for Christianity Today, Patheos.com, Leadership
Journal and the Huffington Post. He and his wife, Pamela, are the founders of Teaming
Church Conferences and Resources.
Read an Excerpt
The ONE JESUS LOVES
Grace Is Unconditionally Given, Intimacy Must Be Relentlessly Pursued
By ROBERT CROSBY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Robert Crosby
All rights reserved.
An outrageous Request
What do you wish?
—Jesus, Matthew 20:21 NKJV
What is the biggest thing anyone ever asked Jesus to do? Do you know? Can you recall?
One day someone approached Jesus and asked him for something no one else had ever had. It was such an extravagant request that everyone who heard stared in disbelief. At that moment and right in broad daylight, with all the disciples looking on, this person walked right up to Jesus, knelt down, and asked him for a ring.
Don't you remember this story?
Perhaps not, but happen it did.
Oh yes, there once was a woman who had the nerve—or should I say boldness—to come to Jesus with a most unique request. It was not for a loaf of bread, a healing, or the answer to a question or a puzzle; it was for a ring.
Yes, a ring.
No, it was not a wedding ring she was after. It was a ring of a different kind. Her question was not "Will you marry me?" but "Will you do something for me, something no one else ever would or even could do?"
A Child's Wish
As a child I was fascinated with the concept of Aladdin's lamp. I cannot count the times I contemplated just what I might ask for if I were lucky enough to be allowed one rub of such a mystery lamp. Maybe it was watching too many episodes of the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie when I was a child. Who knows? Anyway, as the story goes, three wishes would be granted—whatever the person desired. You remember the drill.
The more I considered the dreamy notion of a magical lamp as a kid, the more intrigued I became. I imagined in such a situation and with such a golden opportunity, certainly no one could ever wish too big, right? I carefully weighed what I might ask for. The options seemed countless and fascinating:
"To be king of the world!"
"To have my own McDonald's!"
"To become a millionaire!"
"To be a famous actor."
"To play quarterback for the NFL!"
"To own my own jet!"
"To have a candy store right in my bedroom with an unlimited supply!"
And then I realized not one of those wishes was truly the best, not by a long shot. I could do better. The best wish of all suddenly became clear to me. It was so obvious I wondered how I could have missed it. It was so good it seemed almost too good. I was sure if I could have this wish, I could forgo the other two. With this particular wish, all the others would be unnecessary. That's right. I had whittled it down to only one wish.
And what was the wish?
It was to have as many more wishes as I wanted for the rest of my life.
Aha! Bam! There it was. One wish. The gift that keeps on giving or, better said, the wish that keeps on wishing.
"That's not fair," you say. "You weren't playing by the rules! You'd better go back and reread that fairy-tale manual, Crosby! I'm sure there must be a rule against such an open-ended wish. It's right there in the Aladdin's Lamp Constitution and Bylaws, right? Read the fine print."
I beg to differ. After all, as I recall, the three wishes came without stipulation or qualification.
An opportunity not to Be Missed
The woman who came to Jesus that day viewed him not as a genie coming out of a lamp but as a King coming into a kingdom. She did not bring with her a list of wishes. She had only one request. But it was really big. Possibly the biggest thing anyone ever asked Jesus for. Most people in that day or even in ours would never presume to ask such a big thing of him. To most, it would sound presumptuous, pompous, and even preposterous.
As a matter of fact, it seemed that in the course of his ministry, Jesus had to remind most of his followers that they could make requests of him. Apparently for much of his ministry, those closest to him did not realize the privileges that being close to him afforded them. On one occasion, Jesus said to his followers: "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:24).
The disciples overlooked this great opportunity, but this woman did not. This mom asked big. During the earliest days of Jesus' ministry, she came to him, and she had only one thing to bring. It was not an offering or a sacrifice but a request. Everyone else might have forgotten to ask, but this woman was not about to.
She brought laser-sharp focus and rocket-fueled determination. For some reason, in this woman's mind at least, this one request would be enough. This one thing, this ring of sorts, was important enough for her to risk approaching the man with whom everyone wanted an audience—Jesus, the talk of the town.
The mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her two boys and, kneeling down, she asked a favor of him.
"What is it you want?" he asked (Matt. 20:20–21).
This was one incredible moment not to be missed. This mother is not mentioned by name. Some traditions, however, hold that she was Salome, who was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. If so, she would have been Jesus' aunt.
Regardless of her actual name, this mom bowed down in tender reverence. The Greek word used here for "kneeling down" is proskuneo, which means "to show reverence" or even "to kiss towards." For this moment, this woman entered the most privileged circle, the place of Christ's presence, and brought with her a request for the ring.
The woman who approached Jesus was the mom of James and John, both disciples of Jesus and a part of the Twelve. She wanted something desperately for her sons, and she was determined to go straight to Jesus himself and ask. No passing it through committees for her.
And her request? Or wish? She asked him, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom" (Matt. 20:21).
This mom was on a mission. Her request caught the attention of Jesus, all the disciples, and more than one gospel writer. It was a startling and shocking request because of what it implied and what it sought. The implication was that there are levels of closeness in relationship and proximity to Jesus. Although her sons were already among the twelve disciples of Jesus, she sought for them a place closer still.
Three questions emerge from this story: (1) Are there levels of closeness to Jesus? (2) Can we actually request to sit in those most privileged places? and (3) Can we really ask Jesus for a ring?
I wonder. Don't you?
Well, at least one woman most certainly thought so.
Remember ... followers of Jesus look for ways to get closer to god.CHAPTER 2
The Rings of the Lord
Come near to God.
Jesus had an inner circle. The Bible offers plenty of examples. As a matter of fact, he had several circles or rings of relationship around him.
When the mother of James and John asked Jesus to allow her sons to enter one of those rings, he did not deny her request. However, he did ask them an important question: "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" (Matt. 20:22). She did not fully comprehend the magnitude of her request, but Jesus certainly did.
Pastor and author J. Oswald Sanders said, "We are as close to God as we choose to be." God has made it perfectly clear he is vitally interested in being close to every man and woman he has made.
One of my great concerns for the church, however, is that we not only challenge people to grow closer to Jesus, but that we also find ways to help them know when they are doing just that. After all, what would it be like to meet with an athletic coach week after week for years and hear him say again and again, "Win the game!" but he never lets you play? Or you never find out whether you actually are growing and improving as an athlete? But many Christ followers feel exactly that way. Their leaders and the Bible regularly challenge them to grow, and yet they remain uncertain about whether they actually are growing.
Consider the rings of relationships that gravitated around Jesus as he walked this planet. I call them the "Rings of the Lord" or the "Circles of Christ." An overview of the Gospels shows there were at least six identifiable groups around Jesus:
1. the Crowds
2. the Five Thousand
3. the Seventy (or some versions translate this as the Seventy-two)
4. the Twelve
5. the Three
6. the One
Each group represents a circle or ring of relationship to the Lord, six stages or areas in relationship to Jesus Christ. They represent places to which people came and experienced him.
Each of the six rings of relationship around Jesus was characterized by something important, even developmental, in our relationship to God. Let's take a quick tour of each:
THE CROWDS. The outermost ring of association with Jesus and the first one we come to is the Crowds. Crowds started to gather around Jesus early in his ministry. These groups at times probably numbered in the tens of thousands and perhaps more. On one occasion, the Pharisees were so astounded by the Crowds they said, "Look, the world has gone after him" (John 12:19 ESV).
Among all the circles of relationship around Jesus, the Crowds were the most impressive in size and yet often the least impressive in soul and substance. The Crowds were the most loosely committed bunch then and still are today. Nonetheless, they represent an important, even precious, place—the place in which all Jesus' followers begin their journey.
The experience of knowing Christ is more of a lifelong journey than a momentary experience. It is related to not just our position on doctrines but our personal choice in pursuing our relationship with Christ and our proximity to him.
The Crowds represent those who follow Jesus to the places of watching and listening. They come to watch what Jesus might do and to hear what he has to say. This place requires the least commitment. It was from this ocean of observers, however, that several fish were eventually caught in Christ's net.
THE FIVE THOUSAND. The Five Thousand did more than observe and evaluate Jesus as he touched and helped them. This group followed him into the desert, desperate not to miss even one of his miraculous works of healing or provision (John 6:1–15).
The Five Thousand represent those who follow Jesus to the places of feeding and healing. They joyfully discovered then, and still do today, that Jesus has many truths to teach and many gifts to offer. Although Jesus willingly and lovingly met so many of their needs and led them to this place, he did not want them to stay there.
THE SEVENTY. Next were the Seventy. Out of the larger groups, a select team rose up to share in Jesus' ministry. You might say these people left the ring of observation and entered the ring of participation. The Seventy would do the same works they had seen Jesus do.
The Seventy represent those who follow Jesus to the places of working and serving. To this day, many followers of Jesus make it to this ring in their relationship with him but go no farther. Yes, ministry was and is important, but Jesus wanted them to understand that his call was not primarily to work harder but to come closer to him. That's what this book and this journey are all about.
THE TWELVE. The ring most familiar to us is the Twelve, Jesus' beloved band of brothers, his chosen disciples: "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles" (Luke 6:12–13, emphasis mine). Christ called this "Shepherd's dozen" to leave all they had and follow him.
The Twelve represent those who walk with Jesus to the places of leaving all and following him. As they entered this ring, they left their own wishes and selfish desires and entered into a new place of surrender to Jesus. But as close to Christ as this ring was, there were closer places still.
THE THREE. One of the innermost circles around Jesus was his cabinet of Three. Church history respectfully dubbed this ring the Triumvirate. Triumvirate is a Latin term that refers to a powerful team of three individuals. Of all Jesus' disciples, there were three who saw, heard, and experienced the most.
The Three represent those who follow Jesus to the places of glory and suffering. These were the confidants of Christ. He entrusted them with insights and experiences the rest of the Twelve were apparently unprepared to hear or know.
THE ONE. Ultimately only one person bears the distinction of having been the closest person to Christ during his earthly ministry. I like to think of this person as the One, the closest One.
The One sat right next to Jesus at the Last Supper. The One listened closer to Jesus' words than anyone else and, as a result, recorded more of them than anyone else. The One was the go-to man when Jesus' disciples had a question they wanted to ask him. The One spotted Jesus on the shore when no one else in the boat recognized him. The One followed Christ to at least one place no other among the Twelve would go.
Our desire for God is a gift we must regularly open and engage if we are to fully realize and enjoy it. While salvation is an unconditional gift of God's grace, some intimacies with God come only with a relentless pursuit of him.
Author and pastor A. W. Tozer warned against rigid and overly structured approaches to God and faith: "The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless.... We [must remember] that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can."
The promise of Scripture affirms his glorious invitation: "Come near to God and he will come near to you" (James 4:8, emphasis mine). Make no mistake, there is one place and one place alone to which Christ wants you to be when it comes to him, and that is closer.
Remember ... followers of Jesus refuse to follow at a distance; if you're not moving closer, you're moving away.CHAPTER 3
God loves us: not because we are lovable but because He is love.
—C. S. Lewis
What is the biggest thing you have ever asked God for?
The answer to that question will tell you a lot about yourself and about your faith or the lack thereof. Although God is certainly no genie from an Aladdin's lamp, the Bible tells us "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17). It also tells us he is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20).
Dawson Trotman, the late disciple maker who helped Billy Graham train the masses of converts he won to Christ across the world, posed the challenge this way:
Do you know why I often ask Christians, "What's the biggest thing you've asked God for this week?" I remind them that they are going to God, the Father, the Maker of the Universe. The One who holds the world in His hands. What did you ask God for? Did you ask for peanuts, toys, trinkets, or did you ask for continents? I want to tell you, ... people, it's tragic! The little itsy-bitsy things we ask of our Almighty God. Sure, nothing is too small—but also nothing is too big.
What can we find out about the mom who came to Jesus that day asking for the ring, the one who made such a big, bold request, the one who asked for her sons to be allowed to sit at Jesus' left and right? Wouldn't you love to meet this lady?
We don't know a lot about the mother of James and John, her mailing address or her height, but we do know she was a big asker! When it came to asking Jesus, she believed nothing was too big. She wanted to see whether she could get her sons into Jesus' inner circle. If he didn't have one, she was ready for him to start one with her two boys. If her sons wouldn't ask, she would. She was determined to go big or go home!
James and John were already disciples of Jesus. In other words, they had already been called out from among the Crowds and drawn into a closer circle around Jesus, namely, the Twelve. Many would have probably asked this woman, "Don't you think your sons being in the Twelve is already enough?" Nonetheless, their mother felt there was something more. Although her sons had already come close to the Master by becoming two of the Twelve, another place was closer still.
Excerpted from The ONE JESUS LOVES by ROBERT CROSBY. Copyright © 2014 Robert Crosby. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 An Outrageous Request 1
Part 1 Approaching Christ, the Man
The Crowds: Observing the Words and Works of Christ
2 The Rings of the Lord 11
3 Closer 17
4 Jesus' POV 23
5 The Bigger Story 29
6 The Day Jesus Followed 35
7 Crowdsurfing: Z's Story 41
The Five Thousand: Enjoying the Gifts and Graces of Christ
8 The Day Jesus Wanted to Be Alone 49
9 Sack Lunch Spirituality 55
10 Something in the Way 61
11 My Kind of King 67
12 Thinking with Your Stomach 73
13 Crazy Talk? 79
14 LifeWords 85
Part 2 Encountering Christ, the Lord
The Seventy: Serving the Purposes of Christ
15 Follow, Follow, Follow 95
16 Do, for You 101
17 Don't Miss the Wow! 107
18 The Locker Room Speech 113
19 Thank You, George 119
20 We Can Work It Out 125
21 If You've Seen Me 131
The Twelve: Following the Call of Christ
22 The Following Leader 139
23 Let's Get This Show on the Road 145
24 The Gospel According to Peter? 151
25 The Line Jesus Drew in the Sand 157
26 The Power of A.S.K. 163
27 Get Your Joy On 169
28 One in Every Crowd 175
Part 3 Knowing Christ, the Friend
The Three: Knowing the Depths of Christ
29 Mama's Prayers 185
30 Mountain View Lodge 191
31 Cloudy Christianity 197
32 Disney's Dynamic Duo 203
33 Weeping with Christ 209
34 Cowboy Disciple 215
35 Speechless 221
The One: Experiencing the Death and Life of Christ
36 Crucified with Christ 229
37 The One Jesus Loved: Seven Giveaways 235
38 Risen with Jesus 243
39 John's Favorite Word 251
40 John's Best-Kept Secret: The 14:21 Principle 257
Conclusion: The Relentless Pursuit 265
Conversation Starters 273
About the Author 311