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Faithlife

Biblical Friendship

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Notes & Transcripts
Good morning again, and just want to thank all you for joining us here this morning, accepting the invites from various members here to join us for national friends day. This morning we are concluding a series entitled Get Real: a challenge to lose the superficial approach to our faith and get real with God, also a call to get real with each other in our relationships with one another. Instead of wearing hypocritical masks, instead of coming to this place pretending we’re polishing our halos: to get real recognizing this is no museum of saints: this is a hospital for sinners, for the sick. So, this morning I hope to conclude our study looking at Biblical friendship: is what we know as friendship in our culture the kind of friendship we see in the Word of God? Well, if we believe we live in the last days: Paul has this to say concerning the trends of the church, our main passage for this series:
Summary Get Real
2 Timothy 3:1–5 ESV
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
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Paul is saying in the last days: people will love self, they will love pleasure: and this results with a selfish life: primarily we have focused on the last result: that they will have the appearance of godliness, but deny its power. Yea: I believe in God: but I don’t live like I believe in God: it’s an appearance of godliness: denies the power. But, also not only is their relationship with God is affected, but their relationship with others. Because they are lovers of self, lovers of money: notice how they treat others: proud, arrogant, abusive, dishonor parents, not grateful, heartless, unappeasable: not satisfied, their slanderous: their talking about everyone behind their backs, brutal, do not love good, their treacherous. There’s so much selfishness within them: they can’t love anyone other than themselves. So, not only is there a superficial relationship with God, they have superficial relationships with others. Do we see these kinds of friendships today? Secular sociologists have noticed this in fact and call it the commodification of relationships. A commodity is something that you buy and sell… when you do that, you enter into a relationship with the person called a “consumer-vendor relationship.” That relationship is not based on your enjoyment to or commitment to each other, but on what you’re getting out of the relationship. For example, if you have a local grocery store you really like to go to—you like the people, and they like you: you may even know their names, but if the quality of the food goes down or if the prices go up or you see rats running around in the store, then you quit going; because ultimately the relationship is just a means to an end of getting something… and if you’re not getting that something, then you just walk away. That’s okay if you’re talking about grocery shopping, but sociologists have noted that for Americans, we have slipped the concept of commodity into somewhere it’s never been before: our friendships. I enter into a relationship because of something I need to get from you, and if I don’t get it, then I walk—whether that’s marriage or church or friendship. People are just a means to an end in our generation: why because we are first and foremost: lovers of self, lovers of pleasure. And by the way that’s how many people see the church: we don’t care about you: we just want you to come sit in our service and give us money. Who is the church: we’ve been asking that for two years now: with this theme Vintage Church: from the beginning I said the church is about relationships: relationship with God, relationship with each other. The church is not first and foremost about missions: about giving to the poor, about feed the hungry, about digging wells in Africa: those are great things and should be part of purpose, but not the priority of the church in Scripture. It’s about love for God, love for each other. Christian love is best expressed, first, in loving our our body. Jesus said, “By this will all men know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” This is the distinguishing characteristic of my people: they are great friends with each other. In the NT there are 58 “one another” commands… “love one another,” “care for one another,” “pray for one another,” “encourage one another,” “share with one another.” Jesus died to create a community of friends who would do these things with one another. That’s the vision of this church: not a huge audience, but a community of friends that do all 58 of these things with one another.
As we begin: I want you to do something, a form of self evaluation here before we get into the Word. I want you to write down your closest friends: how about three? Write down your three closest friends: not your spouse (I know you would say that’s my best friend, great and should be the case, but don’t write down your spouse), 3 closest friends, not spouse, not family member, not dog. As we begin here: I believe we’re seeing different things but also the same thing: different: some are having a really difficult time writing down names perhaps, some are having a difficult time discovering who is closest, some really wanted to write down their dog’s name, but what I believe we are seeing for the most part: is that even our closest friendships are just not that close. Why is that? There are several theories of why true friendship seems to be no more. About 50 years ago C. S. Lewis said this in his book, The Four Loves: “Because we don’t really value friendship, friendship is the first relationship that is squeezed out of our lives. We continue family relationships, work relationships, but not friendships.” Especially men. Over 30, no friends. If there’s a relationship we lose first: it’s friendship: not family, not romantic relationships, but friendship. Why are we doing this: first theory: we’re too busy. What do you do when your too busy for them and their too busy for you: you abandon the relationship. Second: theory is technology and modern conveniences. It may sound odd to you, but think about how the air conditioner affected friendships. There was a time everyone gathered on porches, to catch the shade and breeze, talked with their neighbors, a time when the kids did not play with the ipad but outside and then: the ac brought them in. And then you have the attached garage vs. detached garage: used to be that small walk from the garage to the house was a time of real social interaction neighbor with neighbor: now it’s hit a button and drive into the batcave never to be seen again. And of course you also have thumbs interaction over face to face: thumbs preffered to face to face, and even over voice call. Do you know there is in fact a new phobia that is a fear of answering the phone: it sounds ridiculous, but admit it some of you let it ring to voicemail everytime because you’re afraid to actually talk to someone. So you thumbs it instead. And then of course there’s social media: which offers a temporary fix to our social loneliness. Getting some interactions with our selfies and posts temporary relieves our appetite for genuine friendships, but is as socially detrimental as it is physically deterimental to give a starving child a lolipop. It may satisfy temporarily: but you’re still impoverished. What is the real reason friendships are so superficial today: it could be busyness, it could be technology and modern conveniences, it could be social media: but I think it goes deeper than that: to the love of self and the love of pleasure so that we have no more love to give to others. I want us to look at several verse here in Proverbs to see wisdom concerning friendships. Proverbs, of course is about wisdom, and wisdom is far more than knowing how to do the moral thing. Few decisions we make our based on: okay here’s what is good, here is what is evil. Wisdom is possessing the knowledge, and understanding in those other 90% of our decisions. And we’re reminded here that if you don’t have genuine friends: you’re not going to make it very far when it comes to wisdom.
Proverbs 17:17 ESV
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs
Proverbs 18:24 ESV
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 25:17 ESV
Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
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Proverbs 25:20 ESV
Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.
Proverbs 26:18–19 ESV
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
Proverbs 26:18 ESV
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
Proverbs 27:5–6 ESV
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
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Proverbs 27:
Proverbs 27:9 ESV
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
Proverbs
Proverbs 27:14 ESV
Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.
Proverbs
Proverbs 27:17 ESV
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 28:23 ESV
Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.
Proverbs 29:5 ESV
A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.
Proverbs 29:5 ESV
A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.
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Prayer
From the wisdom of want us to focus in on four aspects of genuine friendship. First of all I want us to see the necessity of genuine friendship, secondly the discovery of genuine friendship, third the building of genuine friendship, and fourth the power and sustenance of genuine friendship.

1. The Necessity of Genuine Friendship

First of all the necessity of genuine friendship.
Proverbs 18:24 ESV
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs
What is he saying here: he’s saying a friend can be better than a sibling. This is actually more shocking in it’s original context: because you have a culture that is far more family oriented than ours, yet a friend can be better than a sibling. Why is that? Look again at
Proverbs 17:17 ESV
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Here’s what he’s saying: the people you’re related to by blood, your family, they’re going to be there in adversity, in difficult times: because they care. It’s loyalty: they’re going to be there for you even though they may not like you. They may not want to hang out with you though, they may not want to join you in your interests. You’re not the person they want to hang out with perhaps, But, a friend is someone who has chosen you. : he sticks closer to you than a brother. The word sticks is a Hebrew word often translated as cleave: it speaks of commitment and passionate love. A friend, then, is better in many ways than a sibling: there is a unique necessity to friendship. Friendship is unique from all other relationships, and it fulfills a unique necessity that all other relationships do not quite fulfill. It brings something into your life that family cannot bring, that romance cannot bring, that aquaintances cannot bring. We have to remember that because our culture puts friendship in the backseat and each of us are tempted to do the same thing. Our culture puts romantic and erotic love as the priority. Do you ever wait in line at Wal-Mart and see on the magazines headlines of who is best friends with who now? George Clooney and Matt Damon are now best buds: do you ever see that: no because we don’t care about friendships. We want the headlines of who is sleeping with who, right? Let’s get on Itunes and see how many songs are about friendship compared to romance and sex, or let’s look at what comes out of Hollywood: how many on friendship vs. romance? I even think of one of my favorite series and I know I’m a scifi/fantasy nerd so you may not join me in this area of interest, but I really like the Lord of the Rings series. If you’ve ever read the books: it’s obvious what the major underlying theme is: it’s friendship. It’s about communion, friendship and fellowship, but then watch the movies: it’s different: there’s romance. Why the difference? In the books all of the romance: Aragon and Arwen for example was in the appendices, not in the main story, but Hollywood puts it as a major theme: why because that’s what we value. Our culture is not turned on by friendship: it is not close to the most important relationship. But to Tolkien: that’s what the book was about. In our culture: it’s romance, in a traditional, conservative culture: it’s family: in nearly every culture friendship is put on the back burner. And the reason is because we see friendship as not really necessary, we fail to see the necessity. If it wasn’t for erotic love, you wouldn’t exist. If it wasn’t for family life, you wouldn’t have been brought up. If it’s not for neighbor love, you couldn’t even survive crime and oppression. So: in a busy culture like ours, in an incredibly busy culture like ours where we’re working long hours and we’re traveling, all the other loves, all the other relationships, will push themselves upon you. You still have to deal with your family. You still have to have civic relationships. You have to have vocational networking to have a job. You’ll still want to have romance, but friendship, which takes incredibly deliberate amounts of sacrifice and being intentional will always get squeezed out. Yet the book of Proverbs says you won’t make it without friends. Fools perish for lack of friends or poor chosen friends: you see that theme throughout this book. Notice also :
ESVTwo are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Ecclesiastes 4:9–11 ESV
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Friendship love brings something into your life that is unique. Fools perish for lack of friends or poor chosen friends: you see that theme throughout this book. Yet, in our culture we think I am who I choose to be: you’re not who you choose to be. In the early stages of your life: it’s your family who shapes you, as adults your friends. Show me your friends and I’ll show you you. If new friends: show me your friends: there’s you in five years. We are shaped by the community around us.
Yet, in our culture we think I am who I choose to be: you’re not who you choose to be. In the early stages of your life: it’s your family who shapes you, as adults your friends. Show me your friends and I’ll show you you. If new friends: show me your friends: there’s you in five years. We are shaped by the community around us.
Proverbs 13:20 ESV
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
There is a deep need for genuine friendship with the wise. You struggle in marriage; you don’t need to be surrounded by friends struggling in marriage, you struggle with negativity: you don’t need to be surrounded by negative friends, you struggle with complacency and lukewarm Christianity: you need to be surrounded by passion filled believers, you struggle with materialism, your struggle with gossip, you struggle with lust: you get my point, right? Several years back there were several “punk video” shows where they play pranks on people… one of the greatest shows I’d seen…but in one of these shows they filmed this unsuspecting guy as he gets onto an empty elevator. As it goes up, people get on one by one on different floors… but they all face the rear when they get on (they’re in on it). Well, after the fifth person faced the rear, the original guy also faces the rear. In another one, an unsuspecting guy walks into a doctor’s office and one by one everybody in there does something strange. They get up and tear off a page from a calendar. The original man gets up and tears off a page as well. In the best one, everybody sits quietly for a while, then stand up and undress down to their underwear. Unbelievably, the guy who didn’t know what was going on did it, too. o One more: Years ago scientist were trying to decide why fish swam in schools. They had isolated the part of the brain that caused the fish to swim in schools so they took one of the fish and did a partial lobotomy on it. They put the fish back in the water. Sure enough, he could still swim but he swam all by himself and not in a school. Do you know what happened? The rest of the fish followed that fish. A BRAINLESS FISH leading the pack. I read that and I thought: that’s an explanation for how fads start in high school: one guy turns his hat around sideways and for a while everybody’s like “weirdo” and then one by one everyone does it because they want to be different like everybody else. Then somebody in France says, “The new cool thing is to put a safety pin through your nose.” All right…Why not? o The power of the need for acceptance over us. Now, you can do two things with that… You can say, “Don’t be influenced by peer pressure, don’t bend to your friends, you’re your own decisions…” and that is certainly important. Or, and this is just as important, you can get new friends around yourself so that the natural, internal gravity pulling you to be like the people around you is going the right direction. This is what Proverbs is saying… “He who walks with wise men will be wise; but the friend of fools shall be destroyed.” And I won’t leave this point: because this will continue to come up with the rest of the points, but I will move on to point two: to focus in on the discovery of friendship.
And I won’t leave this point: because this will continue to come up with the rest of the points, but I will move on to point two: to focus in on the discovery of friendship.

2. The Discovery of Friendship

I know we’ve read it already, but look again at
Proverbs 18:24 ESV
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Notice you have plural companions, and singular friend. You can have many, many companions, many acquaintances, many associations, but few friends. The idea is that true friends are few, they are hard to come by, they aren’t many, and really it’s impossible to have many: they are rare. Look down now to
Proverbs 27:9 ESV
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
You see the sweetness of friendship: this is a word that always had to do with honey. Friendship is sweet like honey. One thing commentators point out that in the day Proverbs was written: nobody had sugar as we do today: they did not know how to sweeten food. Today we can sweeten everything, but back then you had to discover sweetened food. Sweet, not sweet, not sweet, not sweet, sweet. There are some foods: naturally sweet: that was it. That’s the point here in : there has to be a natural foundation for friendship, there has to be a common love and a common vision. In other words true friendship cannot be artificially generated. In preparation for this sermon I owe much of my study to Tim Keller, C.S. Lewis, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Lewis and Emerson both who wrote famous essays on friendship. Emerson says this: ““Friendship does not ask, ‘Do you love me?’ so much as, ‘Do you see the same truth?’ Are you passionate about the same thing?” C.S. Lewis puts it like this. The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought that no one but myself …” That’s the beginning of a friendship. “You too? I thought I was the only one.” What makes a friend is not, “Oh, do you want to be my friend?” but, “You too? You think that’s important too? You love that too?” That creates a friend. Lewis goes on to say: “That is why those pathetic people who simply ‘want friends’ can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends.Where the truthful answer to the question, ‘Do you see the same truth?’ would be, ‘I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a friend,’ no friendship can arise … There would be nothing for the friendship to be about … Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.”
True friendship, then, has to be discovered: it cannot be generated, it cannot be artificially induced: it’s a common passion, a common love, and a common vision. And when you look at Acts: at the church: you see their friendships: wow, sacrificially giving to one another, every day encouraging one another, but it came back to the fact as we read over and over: they were of one accord, and one purpose. I have had great friends: some linked with common interest of sports, I have had good friends: linked to a desire to grow in science, and yet they would even be unbelievers but we still had a great relationship: you can have perhaps a friendship with someone based on your common hate of your boss, I don’t know, but I do know: there is no relationship, no friendship that can compare to one that is joined by the common love, devotion, and passion for Jesus Christ. True friendship is discovered, and when it is discovered: it is sweet.

3. The Building of Friendship

Third, let’s look at the building of friendship. Because we cannot just have the foundation of friendship: yes we discover friendship: we discover that common love, passion, and purpose, but that’s not enough. We must build upon that foundation. Tim Keller points out that we see in proverbs: four things that you must do: to build this friendship.
Constancy: there must be constancy: friendship must be constant. Again : a friend loves when: at all times. What does this mean though? Does this mean that we should spend all of our time together? Defintely not: because you can read : too much of you: he’ll hate you. At all times means through all of the times: you’re still a friend: through the good times, the bad times, the ordinary times, through the messy times, through all times: you’re still there, you’re still available. And that is a constant pursuit. That’s what is about as well: many companions you can go to ruin, but a friend sticks closer than a brother. A friend will not let you go to ruin. Most relationships as I said earlier are commodity relationships: we have relationships to use that person for what we want out of that person. I want to be your friend because you’re useful to me so when things are getting messy, heading to ruin: true friends are still sticking to you. Companions say hey call me if you need something. Friends say I’m here even if you don’t want me here and I’m doing whatever it takes to keep you from falling into ruin. It’s going to cost me something, but it doesn’t matter because friendship is being constant. A fair weather friend is actually no friend at all. Build with constancy.
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Carefulness: Build with carefulness. Friends are careful. There are a few proverbs here that points that out some with bad examples: what not to do. There’s : the foot too often in their door: you have to be careful to not invade their space too much, there’s : deceives his neighbor: I was only joking! There’s : loud voice in the morning to wake him up. This is someone who is emotionally disconnected from this other person: I don’t know you well enough to know this joke hurts you, I don’t know you enough to know that you are still sleeping and how much of a morning person you are not. And then look at : one who takes away a garment on a cold day or pours vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. This is someone singing a joyful song to someone that’s sad. This again shows an emotional disconnection. I can be happy even when you, my friend have a heavy heart. You with the family know in intimacy: this cannot happen. You are as happy as the least happy member in your home. Because you connect with their emotions: you go where they are as instructs we rejoice with those who rejoice, we mourn with those who mourn. You have to be careful, you have to be students of your friends and carefully love them, carefully be constant with them.
Candor: there must be a careful candor. Candor is truth telling. Look at : “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” What is this: friendly wombs? it’s words from a friend that are going to be painful to hear, but they have to hear them. Open rebuke is better than hidden love. You might say, “I love that person too much to confront. I love that person too much to tell them the truth.”Look at what it’s parallel to in verse 6! Hiding, covering up the truth out of love in verse 5 is the same as the work of an enemy in verse 6. It’s parallel to the second clause of verse 6. It’s just as bad as Judas betraying with a kiss, because why? Because if you say, “Oh, I love the person too much to tell them the truth,” what you really mean is, “I love myself too much to have to go through that.” You’re not being a friend. And then look at 29:5: “whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.” Instead of telling your friend what’s wrong with him or her so the person gets an accurate view of both their strengths and weaknesses, if you don’t do that, you are setting them up for a disastrous life as much as if you were putting their foot in a bear trap. Why? Because they’re going to make their decisions on the basis of what they think they are, who they are, and they’re going to be making one disastrous decision after another because they’re out of touch with reality because of their so-called friends. By the way, do you notice how hard this is? Carefulness and candor. Candor is, “I’m telling the truth,” but carefulness is, “I am so emotionally connected that the painful words I’m going to tell you are going to create pain for me.” This is the reason why it’s so hard to be a friend. You can either be careful and just shut up, or you can be candid and not really care. Either of those ways isn’t painful, but to be a friend is constant pain because you have to be careful and candid and constant. You have to be constant, with care and candor.
Counsel: the fourth of the marks of a true friend and the fourth of the building blocks of a true friendship is counsel. (). “… the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” The word earnest means from the heart. The word counsel means secrets. It means to tell someone a secret. It means to confide in somebody. This is something only a really close friend can do, and you desperately need it. You’re never going to become the person you need to be, you can be, without it. There are two aspects to this counsel. Here it’s pleasant. It’s reassuring, but look down at 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” It has to be both of these: if it’s always uplifting only or if it’s always challenging only: it’s not both at work: the counsel of a friend goes back and forth: it’s pleasant, but then it’s sharpening, it’s challenging. There it is: the building of friendship: it’s constant, it’s careful, there’s candor, and there’s counsel. Or if you want to summarize them into two, a friend always lets you in and never lets you down. Transparent, always lets you in. Candor and counsel. There for you. Never lets you down. Constancy and carefulness. Always lets you in. Never lets you down. If you find somebody who has that common affinity with you, the foundation, and you use those building blocks, you have a friend.
“Things in a secret garden almost always grow mutant.” David Powlison
: confess your sin; we can impress with our strengths but we connect in our weaknesses

4. The Power of Friendship

Alright, so we have seen the necessity of friendship, the discovery, and the building of friendship. Now, what? Well if you’re like me: two things happen as you reflect on what biblical friendship really is. You look at a true friend: one who cleaves to you, loves you through all things, speaks the truth out of love to you, counsels with pleasantness and with sharpening, who is so emotionally connected to you knows when to or not to tell the joke, show up at the house, sing a song. When you reflect on that two things happens I believe: first: there’s a feeling of longing. You want that kind of friendship. And so there’s this tension, but I don’t have enough time, or if only so and so wouldn’t have moved away. Sometimes friends are taken from us before we can even build on the foundation. There’s longing, but then there’s also crushing. We are crushed because when we put ourselves up next to these proverbs: we realize how poor of friends we have been. Let us admit one of the reasons we do not have the friends our hearts need is not because of our terrible, mobile society but because we aren’t the friends we should be. The reason we don’t have enough great friends is because we’re not great friends. The reason we don’t have people who are giving us this stuff is we’re not giving it, because it’s hard. It’s so hard!
We need power to be this kind of friend, power to sustain us, power to endure us through the ups and downs of friendship. Where are we going to get the power to be the friends we need to be so we can have the friends we need to have? The answer is the night before Jesus Christ died, he was (if I can use this word of Jesus) desperately trying to get across to his disciples the meaning of what he was about to do. In , he is just desperately trying to explain to them what he was about to do. One of the things he says in order to explain what he is going to do when he dies is with the conception of friendship. In , he says to the disciples, “Tonight I no longer call you servants. A servant does not know his master’s business.” See? Letting in. “But tonight I call you friends. Now love one another as I love you. I am laying down my life for my friends.” When Jesus Christ said that, suddenly the whole history of the world can be understood in terms of friendship. God was a friendship. The Christian God, the biblical God, is a friendship: Father, Son, Holy Spirit knowing and loving one another. Therefore, he made us in his image, meaning we need friendship. You know, back in when it talks about how God came walking in the cool of the garden to talk to Adam and Eve? Walking with someone is the Hebrew metaphor for friendship. To walk with someone, to walk together through life, is a metaphor for friendship. What that means is God made us for friendship, made us for friendship with him, made us for friendship with one another.
But we turned from him. You know, when you betray a friend, what happens? Usually the friend turns on you. This is what Jesus Christ is telling us he did. He says, “I am the ultimate friend. I am the ultimate friend who loves at all times. I am the one born for adversity. I am the ultimate friend who is going to cleave to you at infinite cost to myself so you will not be ruined. Here’s how. I am the ultimate friend whose wounds are the wounds of love, because instead of inflicting them, I’m going to take them.” The Bible says blessed are the wounds of a friend. How much more blessed are they when they are not inflicted but received? Because Jesus Christ, on the cross, lost his friendship with God so we could have friendship with God. Jesus Christ, on the cross, experienced what we should have experienced so he could basically say … He was the perfect friend. He let you in. How much more emotional connection do you want? Look at his arms nailed open for you. How much more open do you want him to be? There’s the ultimate friend. He lets you in. Also, he never lets you down. Because in the garden of Gethsemane, as he saw his best friends falling asleep on him, denying him, betraying him, the Father comes and says, “You are going to have to go to hell, or you’re going to lose your friends.” Jesus said, “I’ll go to hell.” There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother so we’re not ruined. There is a friend who goes to hell so we’re not ruined. If you know that, that liberates you to be the friend you need to be. If I know Jesus Christ has let me all the way in, he trusts me, and he loves me no matter what, then I can move out not being afraid of rejection.
If I know Jesus Christ will never let me down, then I can move out not being afraid of being let down because all my eggs are not in the human friendship basket. When I am liberated to be the great friend I ought to be by the great friendship of Jesus Christ on the cross, then I will find myself paradoxically getting the great friends I need to have. So will you. One last thing. One very last thing. The gospel is not just a resource for friendship because of the friendship of Jesus Christ to us. Have you noticed how we said that on the one hand, you have to have affinity with your friends if you’re going to have friends who grow together? But you also have to have constructive clash. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” That’s why Ralph Waldo Emerson says the great paradox of the best friendships is this. You need friends who are deeply like you and really unlike you if you want to have friendships that are really going to make you into the great thing you could be. How are we going to get that? Don’t we tend to gravitate to friends who have the same passions, the same loves, the same affinities? Well, then we’re just going to be taken to people who are like us. Yeah, but in the gospel, here’s what’s going on. Jesus Christ is breaking into the lives of all kinds of people, corporate and creative, black and white, street kid and Valley girl, downtown and uptown. Suddenly, people who you would never give the time of day to, if you’ve experienced the grace of God through Jesus Christ, you find other people who otherwise are different in every other way, except the deepest passion of their life is to love Jesus Christ who saved them through an act of radical friendship.
Intro:
If I know Jesus Christ will never let me down, then I can move out not being afraid of being let down because all my eggs are not in the human friendship basket. When I am liberated to be the great friend I ought to be by the great friendship of Jesus Christ on the cross, then I will find myself paradoxically getting the great friends I need to have. So will you. One last thing. One very last thing. The gospel is not just a resource for friendship because of the friendship of Jesus Christ to us. Have you noticed how we said that on the one hand, you have to have affinity with your friends if you’re going to have friends who grow together? But you also have to have constructive clash. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” That’s why Ralph Waldo Emerson says the great paradox of the best friendships is this. You need friends who are deeply like you and really unlike you if you want to have friendships that are really going to make you into the great thing you could be. How are we going to get that? Don’t we tend to gravitate to friends who have the same passions, the same loves, the same affinities? Well, then we’re just going to be taken to people who are like us. Yeah, but in the gospel, here’s what’s going on. Jesus Christ is breaking into the lives of all kinds of people, corporate and creative, black and white, street kid and Valley girl, downtown and uptown. Suddenly, people who you would never give the time of day to, if you’ve experienced the grace of God through Jesus Christ, you find other people who otherwise are different in every other way, except the deepest passion of their life is to love Jesus Christ who saved them through an act of radical friendship.
In the Bible, wisdom is certainly not less than being moral and good, but it’s much more. It’s being so in touch with reality that you know what the right thing is to do in the vast majority of the situations the moral rules don’t apply to. The vast majority of your decisions, you’ll have a whole lot of different choices in front of you. In most cases, no matter what your understanding of morality is, no matter what your moral standards are, there will be many, many, many options that are all moral. They’re all allowable morally, but which is the wise one? Wisdom is the ability to know what the right thing is to do in the situations the moral rules don’t address. The theme today is a crucial one in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs says you’re not going to be a wise person, you will not lead a wise life, unless you are great at choosing, forging, and keeping terrific friendships. You will not make it in life unless you are really good at choosing, forging, and keeping terrific friendships.
When I find somebody whose deepest affinity is my deepest affinity yet in almost every other way is unlike me, think of the potential. Think of the potential! Christian friendships are so radical and so exhilarating and so enriching and don’t be afraid … You say, “Oh my gosh! How do I know if I’m going to choose the right one?” Just try. C.S. Lewis puts it like this: “… we think we have chosen our peers. […] But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ At this feast it is he who has spread the board and it is he who has chosen the guests. It is he … who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us not reckon without our Host.” Make him the friend your heart desires, and you will have all the friends your heart needs. Let us pray.
Show me friends: show you future:
Hang out with people better marriages, better leaders, better work ethic, healthier lifestyle, more self control
ILL: Write down your closest friends, not spouse, not family, not dog
Sociologists and leadership experts: you are the average of your five closest friends
New Phobia: weird: talking on the telephone, you laugh but many of you let your phone go to the voicemail
Why less friends: moves, technology, attached garage: pull right into the bat cave;
… felt like a “Mr. Rogers neighborhood” kind of sermon where we’d all “get in touch with our feelings” and “be vulnerable with each other” and close by hugging and holding hands and singing “friends are friends forever”… And I know that for some of you, that sounds appealing, but, for a lot of us
Think about how much more movies, music, and magazines talk about sex and romance than they do friendship. o Or, celebrity news… No one cares ‘who is friends with who’ in Hollywood, but they care ‘who is sleeping with who.’ “What? Ben Affleck is friends with George Clooney?” Give them combined names like “Beorge.” o Here’s why: sociologists for the last 30 years have talked about what they have called the commodification of relationships. A commodity is something that you buy and sell… when you do that, you enter into a relationship with the person called a “consumer-vendor relationship.” o That relationship is not based on your enjoyment to or commitment to each other, but on what you’re getting out of the relationship. For example, if you have a local grocery store you really like to go to—you like the people, and they like you—great, you may even know their names, but if the quality of the food goes down or if the prices go up or you see rats running around in the store, then you quit going; because ultimately the relationship is just a means to an end of getting something… and if you’re not getting that something, then you just walk away. o Sociologists have noted that for Americans, we have slipped the concept of commodity into somewhere it’s never been before: our social relationships. I enter into a relationship because of something I need to get from you, and if I don’t get it, then I walk—whether that’s marriage or church or friendship. People are just a means to an end. o Well, the more that happens, the less we talk about friendship. Because real friends are not really a means to anything. They are the end. You know and enjoy them just for themselves. o And, when that happens, we lose something important God has for our lives. • About 50 years ago C. S. Lewis said this in The Four Loves, Because we don’t really value friendship, friendship is the first relationship that is squeezed out of our lives. We continue family relationships, work relationships, but not friendships. Especially men. Over 30, no friends.
In fact, you remember the first time “not good” is used is in the Bible? It’s when God looks at man and says, “It is not good that man should be alone.” So God made a little naked friend for him. Man and wife were the first community, the first little nudist colony. We had community with each other and with God. But then, because of our sin, we were cursed and went back to being alone… living primarily for ourselves and protecting our own little interests. Not good. o So, one of the primary goals of Jesus’ work on the cross was restoration of the friendship we were supposed to have with each other and with God. • I want you to catch this, and not miss it: The essence of Christian love is expressed in friendship. o A lot of times we think “Christian love” and we think about giving money to little kids in Africa or whatever. But Christian love is best expressed, first, in loving our friends. o Jesus said, “By this will all men know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” This is the distinguishing characteristic of my people: they are great friends with each other. In the NT there are 58 “one another” commands… “love one another,” “care for one another,” “pray for one another,” “encourage one another,” “share with one another.” Jesus died to create a community of friends who would do these things with one another. That’s the vision of this church: not a huge audience, but a community of friends that do all 58 of these things with one another.
The Necessity
The Discovery
Go to the second proverb just briefly. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Notice it’s not a contrast between two equal groups of people. Companions, acquaintances, associates, associations. You can have many. One friend. This is getting across the idea that true friends aren’t that many. You can’t have that many. They’re relatively rare compared to your other relationships. They’re relatively rare. Let’s go two-thirds of the way down. Here’s the reason why. , says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” The pleasantness of one’s friend. This word pleasantness is a word for sweetness. It’s a word that always had to do with honey. Sweetness. This is saying real friendship is like sweet food, delectably sweet food. Here’s why that’s pretty interesting. One of the things that surprised me (and of course, what do I know about cooking anyway?) is all the commentators pointed out that, when the book of Proverbs was written, nobody had sugar yet. Nobody had sugar yet! People did not know how to sweeten food. Today you can make almost any food sweet. It all depends on what you want to do. You create sweetened food, but back then, you had to discover sweetened food. There were certain foods that were naturally sweet, and that was it. What does that point us to? Just this. Friendship requires a foundation, an affinity, a common love, a common vision that can’t be created, that can only be discovered.
The two essays I looked at in getting ready for this sermon were Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous essay on friendship (which you can find on the Internet) and C.S. Lewis’ famous essay on friendship (which is in his book The Four Loves). They both talk about this. Ralph Waldo Emerson says something like this: “Friendship does not ask, ‘Do you love me?’ so much as, ‘Do you see the same truth?’ Are you passionate about the same thing?” C.S. Lewis puts it like this. The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought that no one but myself …” That’s the beginning of a friendship. “You too? I thought I was the only one.” “… though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a friendship than a love affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; friends hardly ever talk about their friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each another; friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” Do you see what the point is there? What makes a friend is not, “Oh, do you want to be my friend?” but, “You too? You think that’s important too? You love that too?” That creates a friend.
That’s the reason why it’s a unique … It brings something unique into your life. Lewis goes on to really make it very, very plain. He says, “That is why those pathetic people who simply ‘want friends’ can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends.
Where the truthful answer to the question, ‘Do you see the same truth?’ would be, ‘I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a friend,’ no friendship can arise … There would be nothing for the friendship to be about … Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.”
The Building
The Building
The foundation is not enough. You have to build. The book of Proverbs says there are four things you must do to create a friend, a true friendship. You could read these four things as the four marks of a true friendship (sort of as an evaluative guide), or you could look at them as four building blocks for creating a friendship. It’s fine either way. Here’s what these four are. The four marks of true friendship are constancy, carefulness, candor, and counsel. Constancy, carefulness, candor, and counsel. Let’s spend a little time on them because they are so crucial. First of all, constancy. What do we mean by constancy? I guess let’s take a look at the first two verses one last time. “A friend loves at all times …” What does that mean? Does that mean if you’re friends, you spend all of your time together? No, because don’t forget the third of the proverbs. “… too much of you, and he will hate you.” You laughed when it was read. Of course! What does it mean when it says, “A friend loves at all times …”? It means all kinds of time: good times, bad times, ordinary time, routine. In other words, you can’t be a friend without availability. You cannot be a friend without availability … constant ability. That’s part of what constancy means. Constancy doesn’t just mean availability. It also means being there when the chips are down. That’s what 18:24 (the second verse), is really about. Look carefully. Look what the contrast is. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” A friend will not let you go to ruin. Most people know you and want to know you because you’re useful to them. Before you get all bent out of shape about that, I want you to realize most of the people you know you know because they’re useful to you. Most of your companions, your associates, most of the people you know … why do you know them? Why do you want to know them? Because they’re useful to you. Some of them are useful for having a good time. Some of them are useful for meeting other people. Some of them are useful for getting things done. You see, the people who only know you because you’re useful, when the chips are down, when you’re starting to collapse, and when it’s going to take a huge amount of involvement and expenditure to stay in a close relationship to you as your life is collapsing, that’s when your companions say, “Call me if you need anything,” but a friend is there, because a friend has deliberately made you not a means to an end but an end in yourself. A friend goes to the mat. A friend says, “I will do whatever it takes to keep you from falling into ruin. I won’t let you get to the bottom. I won’t. I’ll be there even when it costs me something.” Constancy. That’s a friend. Okay? A fair-weather friend, of course, isn’t a friend. Secondly, carefulness. The carefulness thing is pretty interesting. We have to ask ourselves a couple of questions. Why does a man deceive his neighbor and say, “I was only joking”? Why does a man loudly bless his neighbor early in the morning, and it will be taken as a curse? Here’s a man who is emotionally disconnected. “I don’t know your inner topography enough to know that this joke actually hurts you. I don’t know enough about what kind of morning person you are (or lack thereof) to know what I can do in the morning.” Most of all, look at the fourth proverb down. “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” What is a singing song to a heavy heart? By the way, the word song there means a song of joy. There’s emotional disconnection. I can be happy when you’re sad. If I can be happy when you’re sad, you’re not my friend. I’m not your friend. I’ll put it to you like this. Charlie Drew’s mother-in-law has a little saying Kathy and I try not to tell other parents, though it’s true. Charlie Drew’s mother-in-law says, “Here’s the essence of parenting. Once you start to have children, you realize for the rest of your life you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.” For the rest of your life, you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child. Why? Because automatically, whether you want to or not, you are emotionally connected. You are emotionally vulnerable. You can’t sing songs when their heart is heavy. It just can’t happen. It’s automatic! Here’s what’s so amazing and scary about friendship. In friendship, you give the gift of emotional connection voluntarily. See, here’s how you can tell whether you’ve really let that person become your friend or that person is really your friend. They can’t go about singing songs when you’re heavy hearted. They can’t go about their job when you’re collapsing. You see, for a friend to do that, that’s amazing, because that’s such a gift. It’s a voluntary gift. A friend is someone … That’s one of the reasons why you can’t have too many, because you just can’t survive with too many friends in some ways. A friend creates that emotional connection as a gift and, as a result, is unbelievably emotionally sensitive to you, knows how you’re feeling, and therefore, is not using you but rather is committed to your emotional flourishing because he or she can’t flourish without your emotional flourishing as well. First of all, constancy. Secondly, incredible sensitivity. Emotional connection. Emotional vulnerability. But third … I say but third because you’ll see in a minute, it’s a contrast. Constancy, carefulness. The third thing you have to do for true friendship is candor, truth telling. Look here in the middle. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Do you see what the metaphors are? They’re deliberately vivid. They’re deliberately paradoxical. Friendly wounds … wounding kisses. The old King James says it this way. Verse 6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend …” What is this? What are “friendly wounds”? The answer is a friendly wound is a metaphor for words that your friend needs that are going to be painful for that friend to hear, and yet they have to hear them. What if you’re afraid to say what really needs to be said? Then you’re not a friend. Look at the parallelism. This is the way to understand Hebrew poetry. Look at verses 5 and 6. The second clause of verse 5 talks about hidden love. Now that is another metaphor. What it’s trying to say is this is a person who thinks you’re loving by hiding the truth. You say, “I love that person too much to confront. I love that person too much to tell them the truth.” Look at what it’s parallel to in verse 6! Hiding, covering up the truth out of love in verse 5 is the same as the work of an enemy in verse 6. It’s parallel to the second clause of verse 6. It’s just as bad as Judas betraying with a kiss, because why? Because if you say, “Oh, I love the person too much to tell them the truth,” what you really mean is, “I love myself too much to have to go through that.” You’re not being a friend.
“Things in a secret garden almost always grow mutant.” David Powlison
: confess your sin; we can impress with our strengths but we connect in our weaknesses
Hebrews 3:13 ESV
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Look at the very last verse (). “Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.” What does that mean? Instead of telling your friend what’s wrong with him or her so the person gets an accurate view of both their strengths and weaknesses, if you don’t do that, you are setting them up for a disastrous life as much as if you were putting their foot in a bear trap. Why? Because they’re going to make their decisions on the basis of what they think they are, who they are, and they’re going to be making one disastrous decision after another because they’re out of touch with reality because of their so-called friends. By the way, you know the richer and the more powerful you are, the more likely your friends are doing this to you. They’re not really your friends. Go get some. Go get some real friends. By the way, do you notice how hard this is? Carefulness and candor. Candor is, “I’m telling the truth,” but carefulness is, “I am so emotionally connected that the painful words I’m going to tell you are going to create pain for me.” This is the reason why it’s so hard to be a friend. You can either be careful and just shut up, or you can be candid and not really care. Either of those ways isn’t painful, but to be a friend is constant pain because you have to be careful and candid and constant. Last of all, the fourth of the marks of a true friend and the fourth of the building blocks of a true friendship is counsel. Let’s go back to the verse I mentioned two-thirds of the way down before (). “… the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” The word earnest means from the heart. The word counsel means secrets. It means to tell someone a secret. It means to confide in somebody. What is this talking about? Very recently, a friend of mine called me up. We spent quite a long time talking. When he spoke to me, he was more emotionally vulnerable than he has ever been, telling me about this own weaknesses, telling me secrets about himself that he has never told me before, being more vulnerable than ever, and yet at the very same time, at the very same moment, reading me the riot act about the ways in which my life needed to change or I was going to be in a lot of trouble. When I started reflecting on that very probably life-changing conversation in light of what the Bible says here, I suddenly realized how unique that is. A therapist does need to give you advice, but if the therapist or the pastor or if anybody gets that self-revealing every time you get the advice, that’s not right. On the other hand, there’s a kind of person who just ventilates, just says, “I want to tell you my feelings. I’m going to tell you my feelings.” It’s not really counseling you. This is something only a really close friend can do, and you desperately need it. You’re never going to become the person you need to be, you can be, without it. There are two aspects to this counsel. Here it’s pleasant. It’s reassuring, but look down at the third proverb from the bottom. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” If you have a friendship in which there’s intimacy and there’s sharing from the heart and there’s transparency and you’re letting one another see to the bottom and you’re talking about one another’s things, but if the counsel is always reassuring and sweet or if it’s always challenging and clashing, there’s emotional exploitation going on. Somebody is using somebody. Maybe you’re both doing it for each other. Only if it goes back and forth and you’re getting that kind of counsel, only if there’s that kind of transparency, only if there’s that kind of concern, only if there’s that kind of wisdom, only if there’s that kind of balance will you have a real friend and will you become the person you can be. There it is. Look at the four: constancy, carefulness, candor, and counsel. Or if you want to summarize them into two, a friend always lets you in and never lets you down. Transparent, always lets you in. Candor and counsel. There for you. Never lets you down. Constancy and carefulness. Always lets you in. Never lets you down. If you find somebody who has that common affinity with you, the foundation, and you use those building blocks, you have a friend. Okay? Foundation plus blocks plus time, and you have one friend.
Ecclesiastes 4:9–11 ESV
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Look at the very last verse (). “Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.” What does that mean? Instead of telling your friend what’s wrong with him or her so the person gets an accurate view of both their strengths and weaknesses, if you don’t do that, you are setting them up for a disastrous life as much as if you were putting their foot in a bear trap. Why? Because they’re going to make their decisions on the basis of what they think they are, who they are, and they’re going to be making one disastrous decision after another because they’re out of touch with reality because of their so-called friends. By the way, you know the richer and the more powerful you are, the more likely your friends are doing this to you. They’re not really your friends. Go get some. Go get some real friends. By the way, do you notice how hard this is? Carefulness and candor. Candor is, “I’m telling the truth,” but carefulness is, “I am so emotionally connected that the painful words I’m going to tell you are going to create pain for me.” This is the reason why it’s so hard to be a friend. You can either be careful and just shut up, or you can be candid and not really care. Either of those ways isn’t painful, but to be a friend is constant pain because you have to be careful and candid and constant. Last of all, the fourth of the marks of a true friend and the fourth of the building blocks of a true friendship is counsel. Let’s go back to the verse I mentioned two-thirds of the way down before (). “… the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” The word earnest means from the heart. The word counsel means secrets. It means to tell someone a secret. It means to confide in somebody. What is this talking about? Very recently, a friend of mine called me up. We spent quite a long time talking. When he spoke to me, he was more emotionally vulnerable than he has ever been, telling me about this own weaknesses, telling me secrets about himself that he has never told me before, being more vulnerable than ever, and yet at the very same time, at the very same moment, reading me the riot act about the ways in which my life needed to change or I was going to be in a lot of trouble. When I started reflecting on that very probably life-changing conversation in light of what the Bible says here, I suddenly realized how unique that is. A therapist does need to give you advice, but if the therapist or the pastor or if anybody gets that self-revealing every time you get the advice, that’s not right. On the other hand, there’s a kind of person who just ventilates, just says, “I want to tell you my feelings. I’m going to tell you my feelings.” It’s not really counseling you. This is something only a really close friend can do, and you desperately need it. You’re never going to become the person you need to be, you can be, without it. There are two aspects to this counsel. Here it’s pleasant. It’s reassuring, but look down at the third proverb from the bottom. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” If you have a friendship in which there’s intimacy and there’s sharing from the heart and there’s transparency and you’re letting one another see to the bottom and you’re talking about one another’s things, but if the counsel is always reassuring and sweet or if it’s always challenging and clashing, there’s emotional exploitation going on. Somebody is using somebody. Maybe you’re both doing it for each other. Only if it goes back and forth and you’re getting that kind of counsel, only if there’s that kind of transparency, only if there’s that kind of concern, only if there’s that kind of wisdom, only if there’s that kind of balance will you have a real friend and will you become the person you can be. There it is. Look at the four: constancy, carefulness, candor, and counsel. Or if you want to summarize them into two, a friend always lets you in and never lets you down. Transparent, always lets you in. Candor and counsel. There for you. Never lets you down. Constancy and carefulness. Always lets you in. Never lets you down. If you find somebody who has that common affinity with you, the foundation, and you use those building blocks, you have a friend. Okay? Foundation plus blocks plus time, and you have one friend.
The Power
We could end there and say, “Go and do likewise.” But I want to tell you we have a bigger problem perhaps than maybe some of you recognize. If you don’t recognize, let me help you along. Actually, I could triple it with statements of what real friends are like from the book of Proverbs. If you read this page, you get a picture of the ideal friend: a friend who always gives you the truth even though the friend experiences pain in doing so, a friend who cleaves to you and is faithful to you so you’re never ruined, a friend who is emotionally connected and gets into your shoes. When you read the description of a perfect friend, you’ll find two things happen to you just like they happened to me as I was preparing. On the one hand, there’s a feeling of longing. One of the reasons why there’s such a feeling of longing is that we live in a culture in which our friends are taken away from us faster than we can forge them. It’s called mobility. I mean, not only do we have less time in which to stick friendship forging … We have less time. Our hours are longer. Also, they move away, or you move away. They’re taken away from us, or we’re taken away from them faster than we can re-forge them, forge new ones. When you read about a perfect friend, there’s a longing that comes. The reason it comes is that we live in a culture in which we do not have all the friends our hearts need. We do not have all the friends our hearts need! The second response to reading about this profile of a true friend is different. I don’t just find it filling me with longing. I also find the profile to be crushing. Do you know why it’s crushing? Because when you measure yourself according to this, you begin to realize something. Let us admit one of the reasons we do not have the friends our hearts need is not because of our terrible, mobile society but because we aren’t the friends we should be. The reason we don’t have enough great friends is because we’re not great friends. The reason we don’t have people who are giving us this stuff is we’re not giving it, because it’s hard. It’s so hard! Look. A friend always lets you in, never lets you down. How easy is it for you to be transparent, really open up, really let a person in? How easy is it for you to give the gift of emotional vulnerability and connection? It’s hard! We’re afraid. Because we’re not good at giving it, we’re not getting it. Always lets you in. Never lets you down. How are you at being there unconditionally for a person no matter what the cost? It’s hard. Where are we going to get the power to be the friends we need to be so we can have the friends we need to have? The answer is the night before Jesus Christ died, he was (if I can use this word of Jesus) desperately trying to get across to his disciples the meaning of what he was about to do. In John 14–17, he is just desperately trying to explain to them what he was about to do. One of the things he says in order to explain what he is going to do when he dies is with the conception of friendship. In John 15, he says to the disciples, “Tonight I no longer call you servants. A servant does not know his master’s business.” See? Letting in. “But tonight I call you friends. Now love one another as I love you. I am laying down my life for my friends.” When Jesus Christ said that, suddenly the whole history of the world can be understood in terms of friendship. God was a friendship. The Christian God, the biblical God, is a friendship: Father, Son, Holy Spirit knowing and loving one another. Therefore, he made us in his image, meaning we need friendship. You know, back in Genesis 3 when it talks about how God came walking in the cool of the garden to talk to Adam and Eve? Walking with someone is the Hebrew metaphor for friendship. To walk with someone, to walk together through life, is a metaphor for friendship. What that means is God made us for friendship, made us for friendship with him, made us for friendship with one another. But we turned from him. You know, when you betray a friend, what happens? Usually the friend turns on you. This is what Jesus Christ is telling us he did. He says, “I am the ultimate friend. I am the ultimate friend who loves at all times. I am the one born for adversity. I am the ultimate friend who is going to cleave to you at infinite cost to myself so you will not be ruined. Here’s how. I am the ultimate friend whose wounds are the wounds of love, because instead of inflicting them, I’m going to take them.” The Bible says blessed are the wounds of a friend. How much more blessed are they when they are not inflicted but received? Because Jesus Christ, on the cross, lost his friendship with God so we could have friendship with God. Jesus Christ, on the cross, experienced what we should have experienced so he could basically say … He was the perfect friend. He let you in. How much more emotional connection do you want? Look at his arms nailed open for you. How much more open do you want him to be? There’s the ultimate friend. He lets you in. Also, he never lets you down. Because in the garden of Gethsemane, as he saw his best friends falling asleep on him, denying him, betraying him, the Father comes and says, “You are going to have to go to hell, or you’re going to lose your friends.” Jesus said, “I’ll go to hell.” There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother so we’re not ruined. There is a friend who goes to hell so we’re not ruined. If you know that, that liberates you to be the friend you need to be. If I know Jesus Christ has let me all the way in, he trusts me, and he loves me no matter what, then I can move out not being afraid of rejection. If I know Jesus Christ will never let me down, then I can move out not being afraid of being let down because all my eggs are not in the human friendship basket. When I am liberated to be the great friend I ought to be by the great friendship of Jesus Christ on the cross, then I will find myself paradoxically getting the great friends I need to have. So will you. One last thing. One very last thing. The gospel is not just a resource for friendship because of the friendship of Jesus Christ to us. Have you noticed how we said that on the one hand, you have to have affinity with your friends if you’re going to have friends who grow together? But you also have to have constructive clash. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” That’s why Ralph Waldo Emerson says the great paradox of the best friendships is this. He says, “Friendship requires that rare mean betwixt likeness and unlikeness … Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo. […] There must be very two, before there can be very one. Let it be an alliance of two large, formidable natures, mutually beheld, mutually feared, before yet they recognize the deep identity which beneath these disparities unites them.” Here’s what he is saying. You need friends who are deeply like you and really unlike you if you want to have friendships that are really going to make you into the great thing you could be. How are we going to get that? Don’t we tend to gravitate to friends who have the same passions, the same loves, the same affinities? Well, then we’re just going to be taken to people who are like us. Yeah, but in the gospel, here’s what’s going on. Jesus Christ is breaking into the lives of all kinds of people, corporate and creative, black and white, street kid and Valley girl, downtown and uptown. Suddenly, people who you would never give the time of day to, if you’ve experienced the grace of God through Jesus Christ, you find other people who otherwise are different in every other way, except the deepest passion of their life is to love Jesus Christ who saved them through an act of radical friendship. When I find somebody whose deepest affinity is my deepest affinity yet in almost every other way is unlike me, think of the potential. Think of the potential! Christian friendships are so radical and so exhilarating and so enriching and don’t be afraid … You say, “Oh my gosh! How do I know if I’m going to choose the right one?” Just try. C.S. Lewis puts it like this: “… we think we have chosen our peers. […] But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ At this feast it is he who has spread the board and it is he who has chosen the guests. It is he … who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us not reckon without our Host.” Make him the friend your heart desires, and you will have all the friends your heart needs. Let us pray.
Notes: Groeschel:
Hang out with people better marriages, better leaders, better work ethic, healthier lifestyle, more self control
ILL: Write down your closest friends, not spouse, not family, not dog
Sociologists and leadership experts: you are the average of your five closest friends
Face to face not thumbs (texting):
Notes: Greear
n fact, you remember the first time “not good” is used is in the Bible? It’s when God looks at man and says, “It is not good that man should be alone.” So God made a little naked friend for him. Man and wife were the first community, the first little nudist colony. We had community with each other and with God. But then, because of our sin, we were cursed and went back to being alone… living primarily for ourselves and protecting our own little interests. Not good. o So, one of the primary goals of Jesus’ work on the cross was restoration of the friendship we were supposed to have with each other and with God. • I want you to catch this, and not miss it: The essence of Christian love is expressed in friendship. o A lot of times we think “Christian love” and we think about giving money to little kids in Africa or whatever. But Christian love is best expressed, first, in loving our friends. o Jesus said, “By this will all men know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” This is the distinguishing characteristic of my people: they are great friends with each other. In the NT there are 58 “one another” commands… “love one another,” “care for one another,” “pray for one another,” “encourage one another,” “share with one another.” Jesus died to create a community of friends who would do these things with one another. That’s the vision of this church: not a huge audience, but a community of friends that do all 58 of these things with one another
Think about how much more movies, music, and magazines talk about sex and romance than they do friendship. o Or, celebrity news… No one cares ‘who is friends with who’ in Hollywood, but they care ‘who is sleeping with who.’ “What? Ben Affleck is friends with George Clooney?” Give them combined names like “Beorge.” o Here’s why: sociologists for the last 30 years have talked about what they have called the commodification of relationships. A commodity is something that you buy and sell… when you do that, you enter into a relationship with the person called a “consumer-vendor relationship.” o That relationship is not based on your enjoyment to or commitment to each other, but on what you’re getting out of the relationship. For example, if you have a local grocery store you really like to go to—you like the people, and they like you—great, you may even know their names, but if the quality of the food goes down or if the prices go up or you see rats running around in the store, then you quit going; because ultimately the relationship is just a means to an end of getting something… and if you’re not getting that something, then you just walk away. o Sociologists have noted that for Americans, we have slipped the concept of commodity into somewhere it’s never been before: our social relationships. I enter into a relationship because of something I need to get from you, and if I don’t get it, then I walk—whether that’s marriage or church or friendship. People are just a means to an end. o Well, the more that happens, the less we talk about friendship. Because real friends are not really a means to anything. They are the end. You know and enjoy them just for themselves. o And, when that happens, we lose something important God has for our lives. • About 50 years ago C. S. Lewis said this in The Four Loves, Because we don’t really value friendship, friendship is the first relationship that is squeezed out of our lives. We continue family relationships, work relationships, but not friendships. Especially men. Over 30, no friends.
I was watching one of those “punk video” shows where they play pranks on people… one of the greatest shows I’d seen…but in one of these shows they filmed this unsuspecting guy as he gets onto an empty elevator. As it goes up, people get on one by one on different floors… but they all face the rear when they get on (they’re in on it). Well, after the fifth person faced the rear, the original guy also faces the rear. o In another one, an unsuspecting guy walks into a doctor’s office and one by one everybody in there does something strange. They get up and tear off a page from a calendar. The original man gets up and tears off a page as well. In the best one, everybody sits quietly for a while, then stand up and undress down to their underwear. Unbelievably, the guy who didn’t know what was going on did it, too. o One more: Years ago scientist were trying to decide why fish swam in schools. They had isolated the part of the brain that caused the fish to swim in schools so they took one of the fish and did a partial lobotomy on it. They put the fish back in the water. Sure enough, he could still swim but he swam all by himself and not in a school. Do you know what happened? The rest of the fish followed that fish. A BRAINLESS FISH leading the pack. I read that and I thought: that’s an explanation for how fads start in high school: one guy turns his hat around sideways and for a while everybody’s like “weirdo” and then one by one everyone does it because they want to be different like everybody else. Then somebody in France says, “The new cool thing is to put a safety pin through your nose.” All right…Why not? o The power of the need for acceptance over us. Now, you can do two things with that… You can say, “Don’t be influenced by peer pressure, don’t bend to your friends, you’re your own decisions…” and that is certainly important. Or, and this is just as important, you can get new friends around yourself so that the natural, internal gravity pulling you to be like the people around you is going the right direction. This is what Proverbs is saying… “He who walks with wise men will be wise; but the friend of fools shall be destroyed.”
Andy Stanley: 3 circles
APP: Your child’s circle
“Things in a secret garden almost always grow mutant.” David Powlison
If you see something in someone else’s life that is killing them and you think, “Oh, I care too much about them to hurt their feelings like that, what you are really saying is, ‘“I care too much about myself to put myself through the pain of telling them that.”
I would rather be chained in a dungeon, wrist to wrist with a Christian, than to live forever with the wicked in the sunshine of happiness.—Charles Haddon Spurgeon
We will think and talk like the person we listen to the most.
Friendship is a responsibility—not an opportunity.
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You, too? I thought I was the only one.” - C. S. Lewis
Out of the furnaces of war come many true stories of sacrificial friendship. One such story tells of two friends in World War I, who were inseparable. They had enlisted together, trained together, were shipped overseas together, and fought side-by-side in the trenches. During an attack, one of the men was critically wounded in a field filled with barbed wire obstacles, and he was unable to crawl back to his foxhole. The entire area was under a withering enemy crossfire, and it was suicidal to try to reach him. Yet his friend decided to try. Before he could get out of his own trench, his sergeant yanked him back inside and ordered him not to go. “It’s too late. You can’t do him any good, and you’ll only get yourself killed.” A few minutes later, the officer turned his back, and instantly the man was gone after his friend. A few minutes later, he staggered back, mortally wounded, with his friend, now dead, in his arms. The sergeant was both angry and deeply moved. “What a waste,” he blurted out. “He’s dead and you’re dying. It just wasn’t worth it.” With almost his last breath, the dying man replied, “Oh, yes, it was, Sarge. When I got to him, the only thing he said was, ‘I knew you’d come, Jim!’ ” One of the true marks of friend is that he is there when there is every reason for him not to be, when to be there is sacrificially costly. As Proverbs 17:17 puts it, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
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