Born for Friendship
November 22, 2009 | Andy Davis
Well, as you just heard, this is our last sermon in this series in Proverbs. It's been a delight, and we're gonna focus this morning on friendship. One of my favorite movies of all time is A Man for All Seasons. It's a movie that was made in 1966 based on the Robert Bolt play of the life of Sir Thomas More. And Thomas More lived during the time of King Henry VIII, during the time of the reformation. And I don't agree with his theology, but in the movie, he's portrayed as a very courageous and winsome figure. And there are many attributes that he shows in that movie that are very engaging and very appealing. Thomas More was executed by Henry, Henry VIII for opposing Henry's divorce from his wife and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and his break with the Roman Catholic Church and his taking of the, basically taking of the Pope's place, setting up his own really Catholic church there in London. And Thomas More opposed it. And the film covers that whole story.
Now, the film gets its title from Catholic scholar Erasmus's comments or statement about Thomas More. In a letter in 1521, he said this about Thomas More, "It would be hard to find anyone who is more truly a man for all seasons and for all men." And so what he was saying is he handled prosperity and adversity with equal dignity, carried himself well, in any and every situation. Now, Erasmus and Thomas More were very good friends. And actually, it was another statement by Erasmus about Thomas More that arrested my attention recently. Erasmus knew leaders from around the world, and he marveled at More's comfortable way with people, his affable and self-effacing manner, and More was, Erasmus wrote, "A man born for friendship." A person who delighted in conversation with others and who could deal with every type of person at any level. Born for friendship, what a phrase. I really believe that's true of every single human being that walks in the face of the earth. I think we are born for friendship, we are born for relationship. We were not born to be alone in this world, to be isolated, to be an island unto ourselves. We were born for relationship, and I go beyond that, not merely relationship, we were born for friendships.
Now, you can have a relationship with a hairdresser, you can have a relationship with a postal worker, you can have a relationship with a check out clerk at Kroger's. But none of these are friendships. You can have acquaintances at church or at work who ask about your weekend, and notice your new sweater after Christmas, and who inquire after your health. But even they are not necessarily friendships. Friendships go much deeper than any of that. At core, it's a matter of love. It's a matter of a shared love.
Now, CS Lewis wrote a book called "The Four Loves," and he identified four Greek words for love. Storge, which is affection. Philia, which is friendship, and eros, which is sexual attraction, and agape, which we translate generally unconditional love. He isolated the fourth, charity, the Greek word agape, as the highest and the most perfect form of Christian love. Because it most perfectly represents God's unconditional love for sinners like us. Now, it's been rightly pointed out by New Testament scholars that New Testament writers tend to use philia and agape interchangeably, and so I agree with that. I'm not gonna get into the linguistics of it.
But the difference between unconditional love and friendship is simply this: Unconditional love originates in the character of the one who does the loving, and it really to some degree, has almost nothing to do with the object of the affection. That's what unconditional love means. We're not looking for something in the individual, we're just loving because of who we are.
Friendship, however, is drawn from us by attributes we see in the other person. We see something worthy, or worthwhile in that individual, and we're attracted to it, we're drawn to it. And it's appealing. Now, we can love a homeless beggar who is reeking of alcohol unconditionally as God loved us when we were still sinners. That is the God-like spirit of unconditional love, but we wouldn't necessarily be friends with that individual. Friendship is based on something we see in the person, something attractive, something that draws out our admiration, something that pulls out our affection. That bases our friendship on that issue. I think that in heaven, dear friends, we will see friendship perfected. We will see very desirable attributes in others, and we will see them forever. And therefore, actually, I think unconditional love is temporary. I'll say more about that. You're going to be shocked. You're gonna go back and say, "Oh my goodness, what did he say? Unconditional love is... " Well, just in the way I've been talking about it this morning, that's what I mean.
I think we're going to see horizontally attributes in the brothers and sisters in Christ in heaven that will be perfected, and we will see those things forever and they will be worthy of our admiration. And they will draw from us great affection and we will love them for it. And therefore it will be very similar to what the Father said to the Son at the time of the Son's baptism, in which He spoke from heaven and said, "This is My Son, My only Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased."
Now, every love in the universe is but a dim reflection of the love that the father has for the son and that the son has for the Father. The Father from eternity passed, delighted in the Son, in His perfections, in His attributes, in His nature, His heart, and so what will be in heaven. We will truly delight in other Christians for what they are, not unconditionally. We will not love people in heaven, let's put it this way, in spite of what they are any longer. The days for that will be over. But rather because of who they are in Christ. And we will love them eternally, for what they will be in heaven, what they will be forever. A perfectly glorious display of the Son of God. We will be perfectly conformed to Jesus Christ, and in that sense then worthy of that kind of friendship that I'm celebrating today.
Today, I wanna meditate with you on the delights of friendship. A recent survey showed that people who have invested in deep friendships over a long period of time are likely to be the happiest people on earth. Friendship then is of the essence of happiness. Without friendships, life itself is lonely and isolated, and empty. As we meditate on friendships, I wanna do it in two distinct parts. I want to begin as I already have in this introduction, from an eternal kind of lofty God-centered way, looking at the eternal destiny of friendships and their role even now in our lives. And then in a very practical down-to-earth rubber meets the roadway from the Book of Proverbs. Frankly, that's been my consistent pattern in preaching on Proverbs anyway, and we're gonna do that again today.
So let's begin by looking at the ultimate friendship. We were, dear friends, created for friendship with God. We were created for friendship with Almighty God. Thomas More was born and framed for friendship, and so were we, but of the highest kind, I speak of friendship with God. We were created to delight in God and be delighted by God. Would you characterize the love you have for God as unconditional love? Do we ever love God in spite of what He's done? Well, we may be tempted to do it, but, you know, we soon come to ourselves and realize God never does anything but perfection toward us. And we love God because of who He is. We love God because of the greatness of His person, the perfection that's revealed in Scripture, and we were born for that. We were born to celebrate it.
Now, Abraham was called God's friend. What an amazing statement when you think about that. For a human being to be God's friend. It's incredible. Isaiah 41:8, "But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend." James restates this concept in James 2:21-23, "Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend." Now, Abraham's friendship with God consisted very much in his willingness to trust God no matter what, and to sacrifice whatever God asked of him. And I think that James' passage is just really drawing up the attributes that were in Abraham that were the basis of that friendship. Not the ultimate basis, I think the ultimate basis of that is the grace of God in Christ. But James is focusing on the human side of the effects of faith. And because he was willing to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac, he was called God's friend. I think that's what James is talking about here.
Also, God revealed himself to Abraham. He opened Himself up, He revealed His plans to Abraham. You remember when God appeared with two other, I believe, angels at Abraham and Sarah's place. Invited Himself over for dinner, I guess. Actually, he didn't really, but what could Abraham do? And it was just the nature of hospitality in those days that he was going to set a meal before these three individuals. I think this may be in part what the author to Hebrews is talking about, "Some have entertained angels unawares." I don't think they really knew who these figures were at first, but as it went on, it became clear to Abraham. But God was there for a reason, to reveal to Abraham and Sarah what their own future would hold, but also to investigate Sodom and Gomorrah, and to see what should be done with those wicked cities. And God deliberates concerning this, concerning Abraham, and it's interesting how Scripture brings us right into the mind of God, for the deliberations that He has over this issue. Genesis 18:16 and 17, "When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?'" In other words, "Abraham is my friend, I have a relationship with him. Abraham is gonna become a great father of many nations, and he's gonna command his children to walk in the ways of God. Shall I hide from this man, what I'm about to do?"
And in effect, God answered, "No, I'm not going to hide it. I'm gonna show him what I'm about to do." And then the intercession happens over Sodom and Gomorrah. Friendship with God is implied in many other cases, not just in this one, especially this phrase that, "So and so walks with God." Isn't that a delightful phrase, that so and so walked with God? Genesis 5:24, "Enoch walked with God, and then he was no more, because God took him away." And then in Genesis 6:9, "This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. I would love to walk with God today, wouldn't you? I'm gonna wanna just love to walk with Jesus today. How delightful would it be to walk with God? And that's what Enoch and Noah did. Abraham was commanded to walk with God, and he did. Genesis 17:1, "When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, 'I am God Almighty, walk before Me and be blameless.'" And so also God's general command to us in Micah 6:8, "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
So we were created for friendship with God, just as Abraham was. Now, in the New Testament, Jesus comes to make us His friends. That's what He came to do. Now, it's a beautiful thing in John chapter 1, one of the least celebrated parts of that glorious Gospel of John is the way that the Church began. This tiny little beginning, just the seed, like a mustard seed of how the church, the grand and glorious church of Jesus Christ began. It's in John 1:35-39. It says there, "The next day John, John the Baptist, was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God.' When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, 'What do you want?' And they said, 'Rabbi,' which means teacher, 'Where are you staying? 'Come,' He replied, 'And you will see.' So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with Him. It was about the tenth hour." You might think, I mean, "Why in the world would John include that?" I mean, John actually cuts out a lot of other things that appear in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, important things. John says, even the whole world couldn't carry all the books that would be written, and he's only chosen a few select things. Why would he choose this? This quiet little thing.
This quiet little incident, I believe is the origin of the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth. I'm not speaking of a discontinuity between the Old Covenant, New Covenant, any of that. I'm just saying, that's where the church of Jesus Christ as such, Jesus of Nazareth had its start. Right there. With some time hanging out, Jesus and a couple of guys. I mean, think about it, come and stay, and they went and ate with Him and they had some conversation, they talked, they just spend time with Jesus. And you might think, "Well, what's so important about that?" That's the heart of it all. That's what He wants. He wants to eat with us, sit at table with us, He wants a relationship with us, He wants a friendship with us, and that's how it all started. One scholar said, it's probably where John met Jesus, and so he includes it there 'cause it was special to him. He was the disciple whom Jesus loved, and that's when he first spent time with Jesus, they became friends, thus began the church, the union of friends with Jesus Christ. And so later in John's Gospel, we see the privilege of being Jesus's friend, "John 15:13-15, "Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down his life for his friends, and you are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you."
Again, that issue of self-revelation. Jesus opens His heart to us, He lets us know what He thinks. We have the mind of Christ, it says, He lets us know what He feels. We know what His purposes are. And after the resurrection, in John 21, it's amazing how John 1 has this quiet little kind of occasion with Jesus, and they kind of hang out with Him and spend time where He's staying. And the final chapter, after the glorious chapter 20, the resurrection chapter, and He reveals Himself to Thomas, "My Lord and my God." There's one more chapter and again, people have wondered, "What a kind of a strange end to John's gospel. Breakfast by the sea with Jesus." And Jesus is walking by the sea and He calls out and He says, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. And then Jesus then guides them, though they don't know it's Him, to a supernatural catch of fish, and He makes fish for them for breakfast. A marvelous picture of friendship with Jesus. I think we may underestimate this. I think we may underestimate this whole issue of sitting at table with Jesus and just spending time with Him, because it seems to be the point. Now, what does it mean then to be friends with God? I mean, friends with, friends with God. I wish I could say ‘God’ like Thabiti does. Thabiti Anyabwile. I mean what a man, ‘God' you know, like that.
But friends with the infinite Almighty Creator of the Universe. It obviously is a different kind of relationship than we would have with any other friend. Of the essence of friendship with God is daily, humble obedience to Him. "You are my friends, if you do what I command." God is God and always will be infinitely high above us. And therefore, we need to obey Jesus's commands if we wanna be His friends. Micah says we have to walk humbly with our God. Abraham obeyed the bitter command to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac, and was called God's friend. Abraham himself, in that exchange I talked about when interceding with Sodom and Gomorrah, he said, "I'm only dust and ashes. He was aware of his standing as a human being before God. And I think that's completely appropriate. I don't think it's going to end in heaven. I think we will always have that sense of the infinite greatness of God above us. The holy Seraphim cover their faces before God. They're not sinful, but they just recognize an infinite gap. And yet for all of that, God sits at table with us, walks with us, and talk with us in His resurrection body. In the new heavens and the new earth, we will dwell with God and see his face. And be with Him forever.
And the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ concerning this vertical relationship with God is that it transforms enemies to friends. The most amazing part of this world is that we, even we sinners, could somehow become God's friends. And why would God even want us as friends? If you really know yourself that's amazing, that's amazing. I think that's where the unconditional part comes, it's not that God sees something in you. Not at all, there's something in God, but He's not gonna leave you that way, and He's going to work in you what is pleasing to Him. And so there's that beautiful consummation of that through sanctification and glorification. But the fact of the matter is, the power to transform enemies to friends of God is in the blood of Jesus. It's in the blood of Jesus Christ and no other place.
Colossians 1: 21 and 22, "Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies in your minds, because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." Can I just ask you if you're here today, does that characterize you? Without blemish, free from accusation, are you still living like an enemy of God, violating His commands, lusting in your hearts, sexual lust, covetousness and greed? Does this characterize the way you're living your life? Are you afraid to die? Well, you ought to be. Are you afraid of judgment day? You ought to be. You're not afraid enough. But you've come here today, and you know what there is here today? The gospel, which is the power of God for salvation, and it says here of the Colossian Christians, once they were like that. They were enemies of God, characterized by their evil behavior, but they were rescued, they were transferred from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of the beloved son. And so can you be.
All you have to do is look to Jesus. I'm gonna say something shocking, you don't have to walk the aisle. You don't. You do have to obey Jesus. You do have to obey Jesus. And if while you're sitting there, something is sparked in your heart, Jesus is God in the flesh and died for me. He shed his blood for me and I can be forgiven, and I want that, and there's this yearning for that and looking to Jesus and a hatred of sin, you're already justified, friend, before you even speak a word. Faith has arisen in your heart, God has saved you, and then there's gonna be all kinds of good works that'll flow after that, and you will be called God's friend like Abraham was. The Gospel has that kind of power, to transform enemies and make them friends.
And the friendship we have is eternal with God, it's not temporary, it's something we will have forever and ever. John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Eternal friendship. Eternal knowledge, eternal relationship. 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." I'm gonna be in this incredible face-to-face relationship with God who loved me in Jesus. How sweet is that? Revelation 22: 3 and 4, "No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads." So with the unshakable foundation of a reconciled vertical friendship with God. We are then lead horizontally into friendships with others.
The Gospel makes friendships. We have the power through the Gospel to be completely reconciled with other believers in Jesus Christ. We are brought into a marvelous fellowship, aren't we? A fellowship that extends the world around with friends we haven't even met yet. People who love Jesus like us, and we're gonna be in those relationship from here to eternity. So the common word for brothers in Christ is friends. Acts 4:23, when Peter and John were released from the Sanhedrin, they went to their friends and reported everything that the chief priests and elders had said to them. They went to their friends. It was the church. It was their friends. 3 John 15 says peace be to you, that friends greet you. Now greet the friends, every one of them. And many New Testament passages use the word beloved to address brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the word for friendship, these are friends. Dear friends is a way to put it. We are the beloved in Christ. And that's the way horizontally we speak to each other, beloved.
I love listening to John MacArthur use that term in his sermons, and so beloved, he says, that kinda thing. It's wonderful, it's friendship, the friendship that we have for one another and that God has for us. We're commanded to love one another. 1 John 4:7, "Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." 1 Peter 3:8, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." Love as brothers. Be compassionate and humble.
We are also partners in worship, aren't we? Come together here every week to worship the living God. Psalm 95: 6 and 7, "Come, let us bow down and worship. Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker, for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care." Have you ever noticed how many commands, horizontal the commands there are concerning worship? Worship the Lord with me, magnify the Lord with me, together, let us exalt His name. There's a lot of horizontal stuff, even the seraphim do that. They were calling to one another, Isaiah 6, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord almighty. It's going out horizontally, saying let's worship together.
And in the ages to come, there's gonna be a multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation, standing before the throne in front of the Lamb and they're all wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. And they're crying out in a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God." That's really a horizontal statement. Really, isn't it? Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb who sits on the throne. And so we are worship partners together, we're also co-laborers in the Gospel. Romans 16:21, Timothy, my fellow worker sends his greetings to you. 2 Corinthians 8:23, as for Titus, he is my partner, says Paul, and my fellow worker among you. Paul says this in Philippians 4, "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yoke fellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are written in the book of life."
In other words, Paul didn't walk alone down that road of apostleship and church planning and all that, he always had a group of friends around him, that horizontal co-laborer relationship he had with so many. And so it is with us. Here we are in this church, can I say honestly, there's nowhere else I'd rather be? There's no other group of people on the face of the earth that I'd rather fulfill the great commission with than you. My affection for you grows and grows with every passing year. And I'm grateful to you, and I'm grateful to God for you, and I enjoy doing the great commission with you, it's a wonderful thing to share, and I don't care who leads so and so to Christ, you or me, it doesn't matter, I'll celebrate either way. It's a joyful thing, isn't it? To be partners in the gospel together.
And we also get to be partners in each other's discipleship and growth, in each other's sanctification, we get to disciple one another. Many times, we've talked about that Paul relationship and that Barnabas relationship and that Timothy relationship, those are all flourishing in healthy churches. You have relationship with a mentor. A man for a man, a woman for a woman who's older in the faith, somebody who can help you along, who's been there and is experienced and can help you. A Paul in your life, a Barnabas, who's a peer and who holds you accountable, who loves you, or walks with you, who journeys with you, or travels with you, going through the same things as you, and then there's a Timothy, somebody who maybe you even led to Christ and you can build them up in their faith, and all of these are based on friendship, all of them. Friendships in the gospel. And it's the beauty of the church. The unity of the church is the beauty of the church.
Jesus said in John 17, verse 22 and 23, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity, so that the world may know that you sent me." John 13:35, "By this will all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another." Can I just say that unbelievers, outsiders who come in here, they're gonna quickly judge Christ and the Gospel and this church by the level of friendships that they experience here. They didn't even have to be involved, they just can observe them. 'Cause they might not be involved, they're strangers, nobody knows them, somebody should reach out quickly and draw them in, but they'll be able to observe even before that happens, whether we love one another or not, and whether we are each other's friends. And in this way, we adorn the gospel and make the gospel attractive 'cause people yearn for it, they really do. It's what they want.
Now, perfect horizontal friendship won't happen here on earth. It's only for heaven. Unconditional love is needed now. Oh, do we need it? Oh, does my wife need it. We need it. I mean, we are sinners and we need to cover each other's sins. And God brings interesting people into His family, people you might not have chosen to bring into the family, they stretch you a bit. The church is filled with interesting people. I'm an interesting person in that way that I mean right now, and we all have warts and blemishes and edges and personality flaws and troubles, and we are not easy to befriend. And so if this is going to be a pattern here on earth, we've got to have that unconditional love for each other. We've got to accept each other in Christ Jesus, and bear with each other as the Lord has commanded us and forgive one another.
Unconditional love in this sense, I think really just means secure love, it's secure. We're secure here. You're not gonna send your way out of my heart, I'm gonna love you. We're brothers and sisters in Christ, we're gonna be together. You're not gonna be kicked out of the family. You're secure, you're safe here, it is a permanent relationship. And we are called frequently to call to love one another in spite of such and such, right? That's what bear with one another means. Praise God you're not gonna be “bearing” with anything in heaven, alright? But we do bear here on earth and people are bearing with you. I know we all tend to think of it as a one-way street, how much I'm bearing in this relationship, but you know it's not. I mean, moments, little flashes of humility come across to you from time to time, and you'll say, "You know, they may need to bear with me too."
And so we've got to have that love, that horizontal, unconditional love with one another, but I'm telling you it's temporary. Praise God, it's temporary. We won't need it in heaven. There won't be anything to bear with in heaven, we'll be celebrating the brother or the sister, and what God has done. Jesus said it this way, then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. And we'll love what we're seeing from them and we'll be attracted to it because it's gonna be Jesus' glory shining in them. Oh, how beautiful is that. The Father doesn't love the son in spite of anything, he loves the son because of things. And so it will be with us horizontally, we're going to love one another because of what God has done in each other's lives, and I can't wait for that. I just can't wait. It's a beautiful thing now when we see it, but it's gonna be perfected up there in heaven.
Now you're saying to yourself, I thought this was a sermon on Proverbs. Well, we have a few more minutes. Alright, so yes, it is in fact a sermon on Proverbs. How does Proverbs help us now horizontally, live this out? I mean, we've been up in the heavenlies, we've been talking about heavenly relationship, friendship with God. Well, what about now? I mean, it's hard to have friendships, relationships are challenging. What does Proverbs have to say? How can I be helped by the book of Proverbs? Well, Proverbs begins in its advice on friendships by warning us about friendship, actually. Right from the start, in Proverbs, it warns us about being friends with criminals, I'm gonna come back to that in a minute, but right from the start, it gives us a cautionary tale about friendships. And so, in Proverbs, it talks about friendships that are based on false motives. Like, the friends that rich people have that others don't. You know what I'm talking about.
It says in Proverbs 14:20, the poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends. Okay, that's not what I'm talking about here when I'm talking about friendship. That's not it. Or Proverbs 19:4, “wealth brings many friends, but a poor man's friends desert him.” Lavish gifts makes friendships, right? Proverbs 19:6, "Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of a man who gives gifts." It's just a true statement, he's not advocating, "Hey, if you want lots of friends, give gifts to people, then you'll have lots of friends." The prodigal son tried that, how well did that work for him? When the money ran out, the friends ran out. It's just a warning. That's all. When trouble comes such false friends abandon.
Proverbs 19:7, "A poor man is shunned by all his relatives, how much more do his friends 'avoid him.' Though he pursues them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found." That is not what we're talking about here, one to another. And as I said, Proverbs warns us not to befriend bad people, criminals. Proverbs 1: 10 through 16, the father says to the son, don't fall in with highway robbers, basically, with those who entice you and say, "Hey, let's lay and wait and let's kill somebody and take... We'll share a common purse. Let's get together and do this and we'll be friends together." That is wickedness. That's not friendship. Or don't befriend an angry man, be careful to befriend somebody who is corrupt in their character in this regard. Proverbs 22: 24 and 25, do not make friends with a hot-tempered man. Do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. So be careful in friendship, be discerning.
Proverbs teaches the basic lesson, in 1 Corinthians 15:33, which says do not be misled, bad company corrupts good character. So I wanna urge you, young people, college students, be careful who your friends are. I wanna urge you in the workplace, you who are out in the workplace, be careful who you are becoming intimate with. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers isn't just about marriage. Don't get into close friendships with people that can corrupt you. I don't know what to say about friendship evangelism, I think we ought to befriend people and show them the love of Christ. But I'm talking about something different, a deeper level of, almost covenant relationship, we can't do it with unbelievers.
Alright. Well then, what are the attributes of a true friend according to Proverbs? Well, let's start then with selectivity. Selectivity, Proverbs 12:26, a righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. This proverb is notoriously difficult to translate, but the Hebrew implies that a righteous man carefully investigates his friends. Now I'm not talking about background checks, there's a website in North Carolina where you can find out if a perspective friend had committed a crime, something like that. That's not what I'm talking about. It just means we're discerning, we're discerning in friendship. Proverbs 18:24 says a man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there's a friend that sits closer than a brother. So we're not looking for a multitude of shallow relationships, there are people that have friendships like that. A mile wide and just an inch deep, nobody really knows that person. Nobody really knows them. And that's not good enough. We need bands of friendship that go deep and tie us together.
So selectivity. Secondly, sacrifice. I tell you, it's impossible to be in a love relationship of any kind without sacrifice, and frankly the love, the love is measured by willingness to sacrifice. Greater love is no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. That's what love is all about. Walter Winchell put it this way, "A true friend is someone who walks in when everyone else is walking out." And you've had times in your life when it seemed like everybody's walking out, that's when the true friend walks in. Lou Wein put it this way, "A friend is someone who is there for you when he'd rather be anywhere else." Oh, there are times like that, a true friend is there saying, the circumstances are horrible, but I'm here for you. So it has to do with sacrifice.
And so Proverbs 17:17 says, a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. That's what we're talking about and it's what Jesus says for us, all times, judgment day and beyond Jesus will be there for us. What a friend we have in Jesus. But in the same way, we should be that way for each other, loving in times of adversity.
Thirdly, loyalty. A man of many companions may come to ruin, we've heard, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. That's got to do with loyalty. Proverbs 27:10, "Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you, better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away." What he's saying there is a true friend is loyal, he sticks by you, he upholds your cause. Jesus' friends all deserted Him when He was arrested, he said it would happen. But they weren't perfected in friendship. But Jesus has made us this promise, Hebrews 13, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you."
And so also a true friend who makes a similar promise to his friend, perhaps the friend is sick, perhaps the friend is unpopular after saying something stupid in a public setting, perhaps even there's some gross sin involved. We don't throw people out, we don't fire friends, we stick with them, we remain loyal. A true friend then is someone who knows the deepest parts of you and likes you anyway, this is the place I think of unconditional love here on earth.
Fourthly, forgiveness. In this world where we still battle the sin nature, every single human relationship is based on the willingness to give and receive forgiveness, and if we don't do it, we won't have friendships, we just can't. We won't have a marriage, we can't have a good marriage. Without forgiveness, you can't have friendship.
And so it says in Proverbs 10:12, "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." That's what Jesus did. He covered our sins in his blood. The Old Testament word for atonement, Kippur is covering, it's a covering over of sin. And so we do that for each other. Love covers a multitude of sins, Peter tells us. Gotta have that in a friendship. Just overlook it. Proverbs 17:9, he who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter, separates close friends. That's such a temptation, isn't it? To bring it up again. Remember that time when you... Yeah, we know, we know what happened. But it says in 1 Corinthians 13, love keeps no record of wrongs. To have a friendship, you make a determination to forget something. Just as God has made a determination to forget your sins, and so He has. It doesn't mean he doesn't know about your sin, he's omniscient. But he has chosen in the relationship in relational language to forget that sin as though it never happened. And so it must be for us.
Trustworthiness. A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends. Alright, a gossip, at least some kinds of gossip happens when a friend entrusts something precious and dear to another friend, entrusts them with that. And then that friend betrays the trust and spreads it around. And it separates that close friendship. It's not the same after that. That friend did not prove reliable, they were not faithful to the intimacy of the friendship. If you entrust something to a true friend, he's gonna keep that trust faithfully till the day he dies.
Sixthly, we see honesty. Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” This verse refers to the willingness that true friends have to tell you the truth about yourself. Now, it's easy for us Christians to deceive ourselves about how it's going in our sanctification. Sin is a great deceiver. Romans 7:11, sin deceived me and put me to death. Hebrews 3:13 says we ought to encourage one another daily so that no one's hardened by sin's deceitfulness, so we need to help each other with this, with those blind spots. Blind spots.
It's funny how we Christians will assent readily to the general presence of sin in our lives. I, like all seven billion other people, am a sinner. I mean, there's nothing to that, it's when you get real specific, the thing that the pride starts to kick up, if you noticed. Yes, we know you're a general sinner, well, I knew that, but what I didn't know this about you, was that you do such and such, and this is a problem in your life. I'm not saying you ought to do it that way, we'll get to that in a moment. But I'm just saying, it's when it gets specific and really connects with you in ways that aren't universally common to everyone, that's where it gets painful. And I think that's where friendships in the Lord can mean so much.
C. J. Mahaney in his book "Humility" talks about how he has cultivated these kinds of relationships, he has a memorable passage which I quoted before here about a well-dressed man with a blob of cream cheese on his face, I won't go through the details again, but he sees this man, and wonders should he get up and say something. He's not a friend, he's not even an acquaintance, and he's still wondering that just out of common courtesy. But how would a friend that walks with him, as that man goes into the important meeting and never says anything. Well, he's an enemy, really, who's multiplying kisses. "Oh, you look fantastic. I love your well-groomed moustache." I mean, if we get real specific, I won't say you have a big blob of cream cheese on it, I'm not gonna a word. Well, that's a kiss that's multiplied by somebody who really doesn't love you. We have got to cultivate relationships in which there's this kind of honesty, but can I give you a warning about that, please, from personal experience? Can it please be done biblically, and that means gently and with humility.
Galatians 6:1, if someone is in sin, you who are spiritual, restore him gently looking to yourself, lest you also may become tempted. These are the two qualities that you must have if you're gonna go horizontally to somebody and point out the cream cheese in their lives. Go gently and go with humility. An enemy multiplies kisses, but the wounds of a friend can be trusted. I had an experience, I will never forget some years ago, with someone who came to my office and he said, "It is my purpose to wound you tonight." And then read a five-page letter of flaws in my person in my ministry. There happened to be another Christian brother in the room at the time, and I understand the verse that was the basis of that statement, but I don't think he met the qualifications. If you're gonna do something like that, do it gently, please? I felt like I'd been in a car wreck. There is a way to do it.
So I don't wanna go too far one way or the other. Too many of us don't ever do it at all, and so sin is never getting addressed, and there's no intimacy in that regard, but there's a way to do it and there's a way not to do it. And then finally, Proverbs says wise counsel is of the essence of friendship. Proverbs 27:9, perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend speaks from his earnest counsel. How sweet it is to have friends who really, really care about you and give you wise advice from the heart, the Hebrew implies it's from the soul. Earnest counsel 'cause they love you. So Proverbs has all of these things to say about our horizontal relationships. Selectivity, being cautious in friendship, sacrifice, being willing to love at all times, even in adversity, loyalty, forgiveness, trustworthiness, honesty and wise counsel.
So applications. Are you first and foremost friends with God? I made a direct appeal to unbelievers some time ago, "Well, you've had some time to think about it now. How's it going? Is the Gospel making progress now in your life? Have you come to faith in Christ?" I beg you not to leave this place an enemy of God, but rather a friend. But I would say to you who are already justified, develop your friendship with God. There are some things that hurt that relationship, they block that friendship. The idolatries in our lives diminish our experience of friendship with God here on earth. Let's walk with God.
And then horizontally, let's develop close relationships. Men especially, we're just not great at it. Look, I don't think there's anything wrong with talking about sports and the weather and all that sort of stuff, but let's get real with each other, men, shall we? Let's develop some friendships, some accountability relationships. And women, make sure that your friendships that you do have are based on the gospel, make them spiritual, make them discipleship, make them purposeful, make them blessed, eternally blessed. And make it a goal to develop more and more friendships here at FBC and reaching out. Let's not be the kind of fellowship that's a superficial surface-y entertainment fun and food church, which keeps people at arm's length. Let's not be that way. Let's be a real loving church that develops deep-seated spiritual relationships with accountability and humility.
And finally make it a matter of prayer, to be that kind of a friend. Say, Lord, maybe I'm not a great friend right now, I'm not the kind of person I need to be to be a friend, change me. Make me willing to reveal myself, make me willing to have someone reveal themselves to me, make me willing to love deeper than I've ever loved before. Change me, O Lord, and get me ready for heaven. I pray in Jesus' name. Let's close together in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the fact that we can take even our own hearts and characters right to you in prayer, we can ask that you would change us. And Father, I do pray that for myself right now. Fit me for friendship, O Lord. I pray that you would be working also in the people of this church, fit us all for this kind of intimacy and just real gospel-based friendships. But ultimately, Lord, my heart is one of thankfulness today that you have called me and all of us friends through Jesus Christ. Father, I pray that we would have deep, rich thankfulness in our hearts with you as a result of that. I look forward to the day when all friendships will be perfected and consummated in heaven. And to give you thanks, not just on Thursday at Thanksgiving, but throughout our lives for what you've done for us in Christ, we pray in Jesus' name, amen.