friend

A Forgiving Friend

Pastor Dave's New Book, "A Forgiving Friend."

"Mark Twain writes, "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." Forgiveness is one of the most beautiful and powerful aspects of our human experience. Although forgiveness is so beautiful, it also is extremely hard. If you have ever been severely wounded by a close friend or spouse, you know how difficult it is to extend forgiveness. The pain of forgiveness sometimes outweighs the pain of the wound, but without struggling through the painful process of forgiveness we will never experience true peace. Forgiveness is hard, but necessary. And because it is hard, we need faithful friends and need to be a faithful friend to encourage forgiveness when the wounds seem too deep to overcome. The Apostle Paul provides a wonderful example of a forgiving friend. He steps into a very real conflict between two close friends with gracious words that encourage reconciliation. In the book of Philemon, God gives us a picture through the apostle Paul, of how real people should deal with real sin and work for real reconciliation in a community of real people. Pick up this book and be encouraged to become a forgiving friend for your good, the good of the others and the glory of God."

You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/1Mnrogo

The Friend’s Welcome (Philemon 1:1-7)

Have you ever forgiven someone? Have you ever hurt someone and needed forgiveness? Have you ever been hesitant to forgive someone? Is there someone in your life today that you haven’t forgiven? Is there someone today that you need forgiveness from? Have you ever encouraged a friend to forgive and/or help them see their need of forgiveness? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then Paul’s letter to Philemon is for you.  If you answered “no” to any of these questions, I would wonder if you know any actual people.  Philemon is a short letter written from a friend to a friend encouraging the forgiveness of another friend. The heart of this letter is about reconciliation to God and to each other which is at the very heart of the Christian life. In the book of Philemon, God gives us a picture through the apostle Paul, of how real people should deal with real sin and work for real reconciliation for the glory of God.

             I pray as we study this letter over the next several weeks you will desire to reconcile with those from whom you need forgiveness, extend forgiveness to those who need it, and, most importantly, you will experience the sweetness of your own forgiveness in Christ Jesus. And it all begins with a friend’s welcome, Philemon 1:1-7,

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Paul begins his letter to his beloved friend Philemon, reminding him of their common faith.

A Common Faith

            This is the only time in any of Paul’s letters where he begins with the title, “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus.” Paul may have wanted to remind Philemon of his chains and what he was risking for the gospel, but he also was writing more as a friend to a friend that his customary servant or apostle title. He was not writing to Philemon commanding his obedience, but as a friend encouraging his obedience. Paul wrote the letter from a Roman prison because one of Philemon’s slaves, Onesimus, ran away from Philemon’s house. Onesimus eventually ran into Paul, whether by accident or intentionally is unclear, and became a believer of Christ. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon so that they could be reconciled. We will look more at the relationship of Onesimus and Philemon next week, but for today we want to zero in on Paul’s relationship with Philemon.

            Philemon came to Christ under Paul’s ministry, most likely in nearby Ephesus. We do not know the specifics of his conversion, but know that he developed a close relationship with Paul, most likely as they labored together for the gospel. Philemon was probably from Colossae and a leader in the church, as the church met in his house. He was probably a successful business man having a house large enough for the church to meet in as well as the ability to own slaves. The impression from the letter was that Philemon was not only a patron of the Lord’s work, but also was actively involved in the mission himself, being labeled as a fellow worker.

Philemon was far more than just one of Paul’s colleagues, but a dear friend. Paul calls Philemon our beloved fellow worker. Beloved means dear one or dear friend. By using beloved Paul is showing his deep affection for Philemon. Philemon and Paul would have been dear friends. There is a great level of intimacy here. Paul also addresses Apphia, a feminine name, most likely Philemon’s wife. Paul is addressing a matter of the home so it would be natural to include her in the correspondence. Archippus is most likely Philemon’s and Apphia’s son. He is probably at least a teenager if not older as he was labeled a fellow soldier and is told in Colossians to fulfill his ministry. Paul is a family friend and addresses his letter to the family, but notice he doesn’t only address it to the family. The end of verse 2, Paul adds a 4

th

recipient of the letter “and the church in your house.” The implication of the church being addressed was that this personal letter dealing with Philemon and his family would have been read out loud in front of the entire church.

There are several applications that I would like to make from this implication. First, Philemon would have likely recognized the church’s right to take an interest in the affairs of his household and for the church give appropriate guidance. Philemon was probably a leader in the church so how he conducted the affairs of his home were important to the life of the body. The interconnectedness of the church strikes right at the heart of individualism. Philemon knew that how he conducted his personal life would reflect upon the church and the gospel of Christ. Do you view your personal life the same way? Do you invite the church into the important decisions of your life? Where to work, where to live, who to date, what ministries to participate in? Do you delight in the counsel and advice and the influence of the church, or would you rather the body to stay out of your affairs?

A few months ago a friend shared of a couple going through marital problems. I asked if they talked with their pastor and she said, “No. She said that she would never talk to her pastor about that.” Beloved, do not shield your lives from each other. God has designed, as this letter shows, that the church should be intimately involved in your life. We should not get angry when people step into our lives, but rejoice that someone loves us that much. Paul shows Philemon how much he needs the church in his life and in doing so shows us our need as well.

Friend, if you are not already, have you ever considered becoming a member of a local church? Do you realize how important the church is for your soul? God has created us for each other. He says that once we were not a people, but now we are a people. Jesus gave his life as a ransom to purify a people for himself who are zealous for good works. He purchased the church with his own blood. When people do not make the local church a vital part of their lives they may not fully understand what Jesus died for. He did not just die to save you from your sins, but so that you could be the righteousness of God. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we could live a new life as a part of his resurrected people, the church. Do you realize without connecting yourself to a church and willingly submitting to the teaching of the elders you are hurting yourself? And you are hurting the church. How much stronger would churches be if people laid down their individualism for the corporate community? American individualism may be great for career or image, but it flows against the interdependence of the Christian life. Christian, consider joining a local church, and if you want to talk more about that I would be happy to set up a meeting with you.

If you are not a Christian, I want you to pay particular attention how Paul finishes his customary greeting. It may appear like a simple greeting, but it is filled with two of the most precious words that shape a Christian’s life, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is a customary greeting for the day, but grace and peace are deeply profound theological words that shape the Christian life. Friend, if you are not a Christian, please understand why Christians love grace and peace. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. The Bible says we are sinners and have rebelled against God. We all know that we have not lived perfect lives. We have done or said things we regret. Our conscience condemns us. We know we are sinners and deserving of eternal hell because of our sin, a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. But here is the good news, while we are deserving of hell, God gives us grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. And after he was dead and buried, God raised him from the dead accepting his sacrifice for sinners. So we bring our sin, our shame, our guilt and regret to God and he gives us grace, unmerited favor. Jesus has made peace for us through his blood on the cross. God gives us grace by making peace. Non-Christian, please know that the grace and peace we have received is also offered to you. All you have to do is confess your sin and turn to Christ. Trust in Jesus as your only hope before God. Friend, the reason this letter is so important is because it speaks about forgiveness and we all need forgiveness. Before we can extend forgiveness, we first must receive forgiveness from God. Are you ready to receive forgiveness?

The former president of World Vision Bob Seiple shares a story of a woman named Mary as she visited in a Lebanon hospital. In the 1980’s, during civil war, Druze militia slaughtered 33 of her Christian relatives in a single day. A young man about 20 came up and said, “Renounce the cross of die.” And Mary said, “I was born a Christian and I will die a Christian.” And he shot her. The bullet passed through her jaw and neck. The soldier then carved a cross on her chest with a knife. The next day they came back and discovered her alive and miraculously brought her to a hospital. Seiple recalls her conversation with Mary who was a quadriplegic asking why would they shoot you one day and try to save your life the next. She said, “Sometimes bad people are taught to do good things.” Seiple responded by asking, “How do you feel about the person who pulled the trigger? Who made you strapped to a wheel chair? A ward of the state? How do you feel about the man?’ She said, “I have forgiven my enemies because Christ has forgiven me. And I am looking for the man who hurt me so I can tell him I forgive him.

[1]

” Beloved, when we understand that we have been forgiven by God, how can we not forgive those who sin against us? Forgiven people forgive.

Grace and peace might be a customary greeting, but to a believer they remind us of the common faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us from hell. Philemon and the church would have treasured those words as Christians do today.

A Common Mission

Paul was in a Roman prison because he was arrested for preaching the gospel. Philemon, a fellow worker, would have known the risks of partnering in the same mission. He opened up his home for the church to meet in his house. His wife and his son were intimately involved in the mission of Christ. It appears that Archippus may even have been given a unique task to be fulfilled separate from the work in Colossae. Paul reminded Philemon of their partnership in recalling how often Paul prays for him in his work. Paul writes, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers.” Paul often thanked God for how he was moving in churches. Paul’s focus was to give praise and thanks to God, because he knew that all good and perfect gifts come from above. Paul knew this in his own life for he said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

The credit for Philemon’s life and faithfulness goes to God. Thanksgiving should be a common part of the Christian life. Thankfulness is one way Christians keep their hearts focused on the gift of God’s salvation. Thankfulness creates humility in the life of the believer. If you struggle with pride, spend more time in prayer thanking God for his work. Your thanksgiving will cultivate humility in your heart. And this is what Paul is trying to get Philemon to remember. Paul is thanking God for how God has changed and transformed Philemon’s heart for the same God who changed him also changed Onesimus. Paul wisely helps Philemon remember that God is the one who desires all the praise and thanksgiving for his life. In a way this is preparing his heart to live on the basis of that thanksgiving.

When Paul prayed, he thanked God for Philemon’s life because Philemon loved the saints and his strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Philemon trusted Jesus Christ as His Savior and it was evident to everyone around him. His faith was manifested in love towards others. There is no such thing as faith without love. If people claim to have faith, but do not love the brothers then their faith is dead and futile. The Christian faith should always be expressed in love for others, which is one of the reasons why the church is so important. The natural life will always lend itself toward self-preservation. We naturally look out for our own interests and do things that serve ourselves and our families, but when we come to Christ that changes. Christians primary motivation is no longer self-survival and to care for ourselves, but to love others. The love we have for one another proves that we are disciples of Jesus.

When we are tethered to a specific people in a local church, we are forced to sacrifice our own desires for the body. We give our time every week to one another as we gather in worship. The simple fact of showing up to the gathering is a statement that we care more about each other than we do about ourselves. When we use our gifts to serve the body we show practically that the “us” is more important than the “I.” This was Philemon’s testimony and is the testimony of every faithful believer in Christ. I want people to be more heavily invested in the local church, not only because I want the local church to grow, which I do, but I want Christians to experience more of God.

The love that we experience from the saints in the body of Christ pales in comparison to the love we have experienced from God in Jesus Christ. We are fundamentally always forgiven sinners. Our rebellion and sin was so great that we deserved to pay for it for all eternity, but that great debt we owe was forgiven by God through Christ. When we understand how much we have been forgiven, we will gladly and happily give ourselves in love for others. Jesus gave himself for us so now we give ourselves to one another. Paul prays for Philemon that he will experience the full knowledge of every good thing when he shares his faith. Many Christians read verse 6 and interpret the sharing of faith as a reference to evangelism. And it is true that when we share the faith with non-Christians we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and grace given to us, but I think Paul is not referring to sharing one’s faith with non-Christians here. Paul is focusing on Philemon’s sharing of his faith with other Christians.

The Greek word for sharing here is koinonia, which means “fellowship”. Paul wants the sharing or the fellowship or the participation of his faith among the saints to become effective so that he will experience the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. Paul wants Philemon to experience more of God as he loves the church. Fellowship, koinonia, is a key word in this book. It appears at very specific points in this letter, because the issue Paul is addressing is not sharing of one’s faith with non-believers, but with believers. Paul is primarily concerned with how Philemon will share his faith with his brother Onesimus. He wants the church to have true fellowship so people within the church can more fully experience the love of God in Christ.

Beloved, do you realize how important is the fellowship of the saints? We have been called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ and one another. 1 John 1:6-7, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus is Son cleanses us from all sin.” Isn’t it interesting that living in an interdependent fellowship with one another helps us walk in the light and cleanses us from sin? I think most Christians underestimate the importance of the local church for their spiritual growth. Many are so focused on their own individual spiritual growth that they forsake the church, and in doing so cripple fellowship with God. When we are walking in the light, walking with Jesus, we have fellowship with God and with one another. This is what Paul wants for Philemon and I want for you.

How are you sharing your faith with the people of Park Baptist Church? How are you loving each other? Are you spending time in prayer together or the study of the word? Are you intentionally using your words to encourage one another? Are you using your gift to serve others? Are you regularly praying and thanking God for members’ faith in Jesus and their love for the saints? The fellowship of the church should not be first thing to cut out of your life when things get busy. The church should be central in your life because it is the primary way you will experience the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

A Comforting Joy

            Paul finishes his friendly welcome to Philemon with a personal note of what Philemon’s live has done for Paul in verse 7, “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Paul was filled with comfort and joy because how Philemon loved others. What a great example Paul gives for us. His primary cause for joy and comfort was not Philemon’s love for him, but in how he has refreshed the saints. You can hear how dear Philemon was to Paul even how he addressed him, as “my brother.”

            Paul encourages Philemon before he exhorts him. It is a great example in how we should look how God is moving and growing in someone’s life before we point out what they are lacking. Paul wants to show Philemon the cause for his joy so that Philemon will be spurred on to continue to refresh the hearts of the saints specifically in how he forgives and reconciles with Onesimus. Philemon’s relationship with Onesimus has far-reaching ramifications beyond their personal relationship, but will have an impact with the fellowship, koinonia, of the church and the witness of Christ lived out for the gospel. Paul was reminding Philemon to continue in love so his life would be marked by Christ’s forgiveness.

            Friend, do you realize how important forgiveness is? Forgiveness will have ramifications for eternity for yourself and for others. Friend, we will all one day stand before God and the reality of our forgiveness will be all that matters. We may want to pursue many things in this life, but are we pursuing that which will matter most at the end of life? D.A. Carson wrote a book about his dad, an Ordinary Pastor, who was not well known, but well loved by God. He finishes his book writing about his father’s death and the most important thing about his father. He writes,

When Tom Carson (he) died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on the television, no mention in Parliament, no attention paid by the nation. In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside. There was only the quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would never need it again.

But on the other side, all the trumpets sounded. Dad won entrance to the only throne-room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man—he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor—but because he was a forgiven man. And he heard the voice of him whom he longed to hear saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.

[2]

Friend, will you hear the same words? Our entrance into glory is not the basis of great works, but on the forgiveness of a great God. On the day judgement the most important thing will not be your accomplishments, but your forgiveness. Are you forgiven? And if you are forgiven, will you also forgive?

[1]

Bloomberg, Craig. Interpreting Parables. Pg 321-322

[2]

Caron, D.A. Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The life and reflections of Tom Carson. 

The Wisdom of Friendships (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24 Proverbs 27:6; 9)



Catholic Theologian Thomas Aquinas has said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” True friendship is a sweet gift, but it is indeed very rare. In our world of hyper-connectivity and a plethora of online friends and followers, many of us are starving for true friendship. We are always connected with one another, but rarely are truly connected to one another.

Friendship is one of the most important and most practical virtues that one can possess to obtain wisdom. The goal of the book of Proverbs is to help people get wisdom. Proverbs 4:5-9,

Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.

Solomon urges us to prize wisdom so highly that we should pursue her with all our might. And yet before we pursue wisdom, we have to see the value of wisdom. True friendship is one of tools that help people live in wisdom. Think of all the decisions that we face that require us to use wisdom: who should we marry, where should I live, should I move closer to my family, how many kids should I have, how often should I vacation, how many activities should I put my kids in, where should I go to church, etc. The list goes on and on. We need wisdom for all of life. And I believe that God in his sovereign, eternal wisdom has given us true friendship to guide us to pursue wisdom.

I remember having a conversation in college with one of my roommates. We were upperclassman and had recently met some freshman. We were astonished at how easy it was to identify which of the freshman had close friends growing up. There was a remarkable difference among those who had close friends. Looking back I would now say that we saw wisdom in people who possessed close friendships. I want to encourage you to be intentional in your friendships. Proverbs believes friendship is paramount to wisdom. We must choose wise friends and be wise friends. We first have to see the power of friendship.

The Wise Power of Friendship

Friendship is important. There is something very sweet about friendships. As Aquinas has said, “There is nothing on this earth to be more prized than true friendship.” We have to prize friendship because society desires to push it out. When life gets busy, the first thing that is often cut out of our lives is friendship. Our society highlights romantic love. I wonder how many friends have been lost when someone enters into a relationship. Someone starts dating someone new and they suddenly do not have time for their friends. Why? Well, our society has trained us to believe that all we really need to romantic love. In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes, “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few ‘friends.[1]’” Lewis goes on to say that one of the reasons people do not pursue friendships is because so few have experienced it.

Our society no longer promotes the value of true friendship because the desires of the individual reign supreme over the community.  It is easy to diminish the value and the importance of true friendship, but we were created for community by a God who values community. Our God has always existed in perfect community. The Father and the Son and the Spirit live in perfect community with one another which is why God has said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We have an innate longing to live in community with one another. We have a deep desire to live life together with others. We feel lonely when we are not connected to others. The millennial generation has tried to answer that loneliness with online connection, but God has given us bodies so that we would be physically present with one another. God shows how much he believes in face to face contact by coming to us in a body being clothed in flesh. God values face to face, body to body community. He wants us to be with one another.


We would have a lot more happy and content people if they follow some of God’s most basic commands to love one another and to gather together regularly to encourage one another in the faith. Our hyper individualistic society promotes self at the expense of the community. I just want you to be aware of how easy it is for us to push our friendships to the side. I believe one of the most undervalued and an under-utilized tools to create wisdom is friendship. You will see how the practical gifts of friendship, closeness, candor and commonality, are a powerful tool to promote wisdom. And because it is so powerful, the worldly system is against true friendship. The world wants people to be satisfied with superficial acquaintances because true friendship is the way to wisdom. The world promotes folly, and fools despise wisdom and instruction. So the world wants us to ignore that which can bring us wisdom. Be aware of the value of friendship and do not allow the world to lead you to ignore it.

The Wise Picking of Friendship

During our childhood years, the greatest influence on our lives is our parents. Our parents form and shape our direction. They instill our values and our morality. Although parents are the predominate ones who help to create the character of children, friends become the primary influence as we grow into our teenage and young adult years.  Solomon understood this concept. He was primarily addressing teenagers as they were coming of age, and he warns them repeatedly to be careful in choosing their friends. Proverbs 1:10, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason…my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold aback your foot from their paths.” Solomon warned youths about following in the path of sinners because it was going to bring them to destruction and evil.

Yet following after friends will do much more than merely bringing people in the path of evil, but it will help people become evil. Proverbs 22:24-25, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” Proverbs 24:21-22, “My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both? The danger of choosing wrong friends is that you will begin to emulate their way of life. Bad company corrupts good character. Friends have an incredible influence on the moral shaping of an individual. I look back at my life and see how my choosing of friends played an important role in shaping my character. Think of your friends. Do they lead you to righteousness or folly?

How many stories have you heard that begin this way? John was a good kid raised in a kid home. He started hanging out with some friends that introduced him to drinking. His drinking quickly turned to smoking marijuana which turned into cocaine. This is, of course, and extreme example, but there are countless more “good kids” who may not become drug addicts under the influence of their friends, but perhaps simply drift away from God. Your greatest danger may not be someone leading you into drug addiction, but subtly away from the Lord. Maybe friends that encourage you hang out late on Saturday night so you are not fresh on Sunday morning or friends whose conversations focus on trivial, earthly things lacking eternal substance. Friends have a powerful, powerful influence on one’s life. You must be careful in choosing your friends because you are going to emulate their ways and you may become entangled in a snare.

The entanglement could be things that are devastating like drugs or alcohol, or as equally devastating as anger or lust. Parents you should be praying right now for your children’s friends.  As they grow, their friends will continue to have a greater influence on their lives. Proverbs 13:20, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Choose your friends carefully, because they will have a greater impact on you than you can possibly imagine.

C.S. Lewis says that all, “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” Commonality is the very beginning of friendship. I remember walking into my old church. I was filling the pulpit for about six months prior to the new pastor coming. I walked into his office to let him know what I had been teaching and I asked him a question about theology and he smiled and replied, “Indeed.”  Our common love for the local church, sound theology, and good food was the beginning of a friendship. Sharing hobbies, interests and activities (jobs or recreation) may be the beginning of any friendship, but once a friendship starts it must be pursued.

The Wise Pursuit of Friendship

            We know that friendship is powerful for wisdom and our choice of friends will shape our character, but how does one build friendship? We build friendship by pursuing it. Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” A friend loves at all different kind of times. They love when things are going well and they love when things are going poorly. They love in prosperity and they love in poverty. They love in health and love in sickness.  A true friend loves at all times.  A true friend is one you can call at 3 o’clock in the morning because you got a flat tire on the side of the road. A true friend is one who will sit with you and cry after you put your dog to sleep.  A friend loves at all times. How do these kinds of friendships develop? These friendships develop because both friends pursued the relationship. 

            You cannot expect to have real, deep true friendship without spending a considerable amount of time together. It will not happen unless you intentionally spend time with each other. My greatest friends are those who I have spent the most considerable about of time with, and I bet the same could be said for you. Some of my greatest friends are the ones I developed in my childhood and in college. My closest friend growing up was Nick Scalabrino. We became friends in first grade. We were close until 4th grade when he was moved into the gifted and talented track at my elementary school. In God’s providence, we became locker partners again in 8th grade and we have been close ever since. Nick and I lived more like brothers during our high school years. I was either at his house or he was at mine. We live miles apart now, but we will always be close because of the amount of time we spent together during our childhood.

And even though we know each other so well, we still have to continue pursuing a relationship. Some of my greatest friends now are in this church. And this, in large part, is due to the amount of time we spend together. I am around a lot of lonely people. People are desperate for deep friendships, but they do not have them. One of the reasons for their lack of friendships is their lack of pursuit. How can people honestly expect to have deep meaningful friendship without time? I heard someone say this week that he and his wife have refused to use busyness as an excuse to not get together with people. He said claiming busyness was a sign that he believed that his time and activities were more important than people. How great would it be to have friends who believed that we were more important than their busyness? We do not have true friendships because we are too lazy. We fear rejection. And we simply do not put the time into building biblical friendships.

Tim Keller gives two important traits of friendship: closeness and candor. The idea of closeness is that a true friend knows your emotional needs. They have spent so much time with you that they know how to give you exactly the needs of a situation. Listen to these proverbs and see how important it is for someone to answer at the right time and in the right mood.

Proverbs 27:14, “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” (The right greeting, at the right time)
Proverbs 25:17, “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” (The right balance of presence and absence)
Proverbs 25:20, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”

A true friend knows how to meet your emotional needs. Do you have friends that know you that well? And do you try to be that kind of friend? This takes time as well as thoughtfulness. We need more Timothy’s in our world who the Apostle Paul says that, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20)

And yet friendship is not only about closeness, it is about candor. A friend is honest with you. Listen to the honest and candor encouraged in the Proverbs,

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:5-6)
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

A man with many companions may come to ruin, because he does not have friends close enough to him to let him know when he is facing ruin. A true friend will risk losing the friendship if it means saving their friend from disaster. I have met many people whose arrogance has led to their downfall simply because they did not have enough friends to give them an open rebuke. It is never a good thing to have friends that always agree with you. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” If you cannot trust a loving rebuke of those who love you, then who can you trust?

       And if you do not have the courage to tell your “friends” what they need to hear, you may not be the kind of “friend” you need to be? Silence can lead to disaster. A biblical friend speaks truth in love to their friends because they care more about their souls than their own happiness. We use the word friend very casually in our culture. We have friends on Facebook, friends at work, friends at the gym, and friends in the neighborhood. Could it be that the casual use of friendship has destroyed our understanding of biblical friendship? It is better to have 2-3 true friends than hundreds of “companions.” Can we resolve to build true friendships? Give people your time, your attention and your honesty, for true friendship cannot be built without it.

The Wise Perseverance of Friendship

The second half of the Proverbs 18:24 is also important. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The Hebrew word for sticks used here is same used for cleaving and clinging too. You should cling to your friends as tightly as you would cling to rope that held you over a cliff. Family is a blessing, but there are friends that become even closer than family. Families will typically be there for you when things are difficult, because they have to be there. A friend does not have to be there for you, but they chose to be there for you. And they chose to stick with you.

True friends will still close to you, but fake friends are only there for their own gain. Listen to how wealth brings fake friends,

 “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.” Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. All a poor man's brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them. (Proverbs 19:4; 6-7)

Be wary of fake friends, those who are only around you for gain.

You will come to know your true friends during times of your greatest difficulty. Our greatest difficulty will often be of our own doing, when we fall into sin.  A friend loves at all times and will keep loving at all times even when you are at your worst. The love may take different forms, but a true, biblical friend loves to the end. And we see this most clearly in friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ who demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners he died for us.

The Wise Picture of Friendship

The best picture of friendship can be seen in how Jesus loves us. Jesus is not a fair weather friend, but one who loves at all times until the very end. John 15:12-17,

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

At the end of Jesus’s life, he wanted to show how much he loved his disciples so he explained to them true friendship. Jesus loved his disciples at all times and loved them to the end. Jesus laid down his life for his friends. Jesus allowed the disciples inner access to his life.

Jesus is a friend to sinners. He laid down his life to rescue us from our sin and damnation. Jesus is our friend, but are we his? The Bible says in our natural state we are a friend of the world. James 4:4, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Just as many think they have true friends only to realize they were fake friends not sticking in love to the end. Jesus will have that same experience. There are many who claim they are friends with Jesus, but they may not be true friends. You cannot love the world as a friend and love Jesus as friend. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” You are his friend if you turn from your love of the world and walk with Him. “He who walks with wise, becomes wise.” Jesus laid down his life so you could walk with him and become wise. He invites you to walk with him. He invites you to choose wisdom. He invites you to be his friend.

Jesus is the true picture of friendship. If we want to be a true friend, we must first know what a true friend is. A true friend is one who lays down his life for his friends. If we want true friends, be a true friend. Greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends. And yet, our confidence should never be in our ability to be a true friend, but in the friendship God has given us in Christ. Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Even when we feel all our friends have abandoned us, we still have Jesus. Paul experienced this when he stood trial for his preaching of the gospel. He writes, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” Jesus Christ has given us the true picture of friendship. He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. This is the kind of friend God is calling you to be.

Our friends are God’s gift to us. They are tools to help us become wise. Our friends have been chosen for us by God. C.S. Lewis writes,

But in Friendship, being free of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. 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." The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good Friendship, increased by Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing.[2]

God has chosen your friends for you. Your friends are a gift to help make you wise. Do not forsake your friend for, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” Be a true friend by holding fast to the True Friend, Jesus Christ. He has showed us friendship, now let us go and do likewise.





[1] Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves. Harcourt Brace & Company, New York. 1960 pg 58
[2] Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves. Harcourt Brace & Company, New York. 1960 pg 94
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