Doubting Disciples Duped by Demonic Distractions

April 25, 2017 at 11:53 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Mark | 1 Comment
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And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Mark 8:27

Most of us are self-conscious enough to think that it would probably sound prideful and arrogant to others if we went around asking, “What are people saying about me?” So we don’t overtly ask it, but the truth is that there are many people who are dying to know what others are saying about them. As parents we tell kids, “It doesn’t matter what people say about you,” and there is some truth to this, but it does matter what we THINK and what we SAY about Jesus.

And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 8:29-31

Jesus had summoned the Disciples to tell them secrets.

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

John 15:14-15

Servants of the King do as they’re told; friends of the King get to know the King’s secrets because they have a PATTERN of doing what they’re told.

And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

Mark 8:30

The Jewish leaders would not have allowed this confession (“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”) to go unpunished, and it was not yet the appointed time for the Crucifixion. The common people were showing unbelief and false faith, and most of them just wanted to see more miracles. Now the Disciples were confused. Peter believed Jesus was the Son of God, so how could He allow sinful men to crucify Him?

And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

Mark 8:31-32

Jesus responded:

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

Mark 8:33

Peter knew the Truth, but he thought he could question the Truth just a little and still be dealing in “Truth.” That’s not how it works. The minute we question the Truth, we start speaking for Satan. Peter was not possessed by the devil, but his words were the influence of Satanic-type thinking. They were the seeds of lies dressed as doubt. Satan will often disguise a lie as a question (or an excuse, which is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie).

Jesus did not say, “I bind you, Satan. I cast you out of this city. I issue you a warrant of spiritual eviction…” He did not say, “I hate you, Devil. The blood of Jesus is against you, Devil. You can’t have Peter, you old Devil.” No, Jesus dealt in Truth, not diatribes against Satan. He simply told Satan to get behind Him because Satan was causing Peter to talk about the philosophy of man, not the Truth of God.

The Gospel of Mark stresses Jesus in His role as Servant – staying busy – moving forward – no time for a “side battle” with the devil. Many Christians enjoy fighting devils so much that they don’t know how – or don’t want – to go forward in their Christian lives. They turn around and try to fight some demons. They don’t say “get behind me, Satan” because they don’t have enough faith to turn their back on him. Some don’t say “get behind me, Satan” because if they had a victory over Satan, they would have to look inside their own hearts to deal with the sin there.

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mark 8:34-36

Satan promises you glory, but in the end you receive suffering. God promises you suffering, but in the end suffering is transformed into glory.

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The Blessings and Hazards of Companionship

April 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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“Don’t cave in to peer pressure.”
“Don’t run with the wrong crowd.”
“Be a leader, not a follower.”
“If your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

Such are some of the worldly cautions about carefully and wisely choosing your friends. The Bible says it like this:

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20

The Lord tells us to “walk with” wise men. This is obviously not a reference to the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other. It is a reference to those with whom we spend time on a daily basis, and with whom we form bonds of friendship. We are to join ourselves to friends who are “wise,” and those who are truly wise are those who follow the teachings of God found in the Bible.

The flip side of this advice to walk with wise men is the warning to avoid the companionship of fools. Fools are those who refuse to acknowledge God.

The consequences of ignoring Proverbs 13:20 are dire. Those who fall in with a company of fools are not promised a period of trial-and-error, or even a second chance. The outcome of making a wrong decision about our friends is “destruction,” and destruction, in the Bible, is a thing that may come suddenly, without warning. Destruction speaks of finality and utter obliteration. It is a serious warning.

For those of us with junior high or high school aged children, we need to be especially careful of modern Christendom’s “youth group” or “teen ministry” mentality, which says that children (characterized in the Bible as “simple” or “foolish”) need to find their primary sense of belonging with others of their own age. The children which God has entrusted to our care need to “walk with” and learn from men and women of “wisdom:” those who have reached a level of Christian maturity that causes them to base their attitudes and actions on Scriptural principles and precepts.

Faithful Wounds Part 2

October 6, 2014 at 11:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In response to my post called “Faithful Wounds,” which you can read by clicking here, I received the following comments on another forum, and gave the following responses:

Commenter: If the ignorant boy knows the man, and has an ongoing trusting relationship, it’s more likely that he will heed the warning without much incident. What I think you have argued is the fallacy of incongruent analogy.

And, would not God be the one doing the chasing, or “tackling”, anyway? If the Spirit is not working in the heart of that person, it matters not what variety of message we use. It will be to no avail. So, why not build a bridge?

Me: The boy in the analogy wasn’t just ignorant – he was dangerously ignorant. And, being completely oblivious to the danger and running out of space before he met an ugly end, there wasn’t time to build a bridge of relationship. We could argue, I suppose, that the man should have built a relationship with the boy a long time ago, but the (made-up-for analogy) “fact” that he didn’t build one before, doesn’t make the analogy incongruent.

I agree that God’s Spirit does the chasing and the tackling in one sense, but I also believe He uses loving Christians as His instruments many times. God is powerful enough to supernaturally implant the Gospel message into a person’s brain, and He is powerful enough drop a blockade from the sky that would keep everyone from racing into traffic, but the fact is, for some reason, it pleases Him to use redeemed sinners to declare His Gospel, and to form relationships, and even to, once in while, roughly shake someone we love into his senses before he hurts himself.

Commenter: You are saying that God’s Kingdom is built by hateful and rash behavior.

Me: That’s not what I said. I said the man who tackled the boy “appeared” hateful and rash, but that he actually acted out of true active love. I do not believe the Bible condones rash hatred, and did not mean to imply it.

Commenter: You are crazy. Someone needs to tackle you, mate.

Me: I’m sorry you think I’m “crazy.” Hopefully you are just joking and not being mean-spirited. Name calling is purportedly not helpful to building a bridge of relationship.

If you truly do think I’m crazy though, I guess I’ll have to live with the label. They said the same thing about Jesus (Mark 3:21) and the Apostle Paul (Acts 26:24). Anyway, “crazy” can be pretty subjective. Older Christian men will tell you that, several decades ago, it was pretty common for people to tell people right to their face that they God loved them, and that they could be saved from the consequences of their sin by trusting Jesus. They say that these people weren’t considered “crazy” at all. However, I admit that the standard has changed. These days, forcefully confronting someone with the Gospel when they don’t want to hear it is often described as “crazy,” while it is considered not only sane, but worthy of adoration, to wear a “meat dress” or to dance around in underwear on a stage while people scream out that they would die for you. “Crazy” can be sort of a relative term.

As far as someone tackling me, you’re a little too late – it’s already happened both in the literal (when I tried to stop a bigger person from beating up a smaller person, and his friends didn’t like it!) and in the figurative sense – many years ago – when a stranger who loved me enough to tell me the truth told me that, according to the Bible, I had sinned against God and needed His loving Son to save me. The Holy Spirit also “tackled” me at that point, opened my willfully blind and oblivious eyes, and showed me it was true. That Truth is something wonderful that I want everyone to know – even the ones who think they don’t want to hear it. That might appear hateful and rash, but it is not being hateful or rash.

Commenter: The primary flaw with your analogy is that anyone can by force save the boy from his path of destruction – in fact against his own will. Your analogy seems very similar to the comedian-magician Penn Gillette’s words, that “If you see someone about to get hit by a truck, there comes a point when you tackle them.” But what we are dealing with here is a soul’s choice to accept or reject the Gospel. It would be more accurate to say that one man prayed and pleaded and begged the boy to turn aside, and that the second, more forceful man, shouted and harangued and yelled at the boy to turn aside. But neither of them could do anything other than speak to the boy. The path of his own life or destruction – of any soul’s – is ultimately their own decision.

Me: You might believe that the analogy makes a point that you do not happen to like, believe, or agree with, but I respectfully submit that, in the scenario of the analogy itself, the point was not that anyone could stop the boy by force – the point was that only one person was willing to stop the boy by force. Someone had already tried more polite methods and they didn’t appear to be working.

I don’t know much about Penn Gillette, and I can’t really tell if you are agreeing with his statement or not, but on the surface (without knowing the context and without agreeing with him on other things) it appears to make sense. If I’m about to get hit by a truck, I would like someone (even someone who doesn’t particularly like me) to tackle me. As stated above, someone did that to me, spiritually speaking, several years ago, and I love him for it. Even more, I love the God Who I believe authorized and empowered him to do it. I have done it to others, and they have testified that they are grateful for it, too. I would argue that there is evidence in the Bible of evangelistic “tackling in love” and that it is portrayed in Scripture as the God-ordained thing to do in certain circumstances.

You state, “It would be more accurate to say that one man prayed and pleaded and begged the boy to turn aside, and that the second, more forceful man, shouted and harangued and yelled at the boy to turn aside. But neither of them could do anything other than speak to the boy.” Well, you are free to make up your own analogy I suppose, but to say that mine is less “accurate” kind of misses the point. The boy and his tackler landed just shy of the path of a speeding truck! Are you suggesting that the haranguing and yelling would have been worth the risk considering the magnitude of the harm averted? Everyone is free to dislike the analogy, but I would hope it wouldn’t be judged internally inconsistent, just like I would hope the tackler’s motives wouldn’t be mischaracterized as hateful and rash, when they are clearly stated to be otherwise.

You state: “The path of his own life or destruction – of any soul’s – is ultimately their own decision.” I want to give you credit (and I’m not being sarcastic) for the boldness of your convictions on this point. I would agree that each soul’s decision plays a part, but I would also argue (I think I can support it from Scripture) that other people who encounter a person also play a part in determining that person’s path, and that certainly God Himself plays a part in determining our path. To say that the person himself is the “ultimate” determiner, instead of God, is where we disagree.

Why We’re so Difficult

June 18, 2014 at 10:08 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.

Proverbs 13:10

Contention is fussing and fighting. It’s squabbling and not getting along. It usually breeds things like gossip and revenge and unforgiveness and pettiness and loss of friendships and a bad testimony and wasting time. It complicates our lives in areas where they should be simple. Instead of helping us to love and serve others, it forces us to try to one-up them, or to show them that we don’t have to put up with something from them, or to manipulate them, or to try to get the last word, or to break off friendships and relationships, and to waste and end opportunities to glorify God in those relationships.

From where does contention come? From pride, of course. The “only” in Proverbs 13:10 can be read in two ways:

(1) Contention only comes by pride in the sense that it doesn’t come from anything else. Pride is the ultimate cause or source of all contention.

(2) “Only” a little bit of pride will bring contention. In other words, the least little influence of pride makes a big stink.

Your friendship is going good, and all of a sudden you perceive yourself as being slighted. “So what?” you ask. Then you think, “What do I mean ‘so what?’ This is me we’re talking about. I don’t have to take that. Nobody does that to me.” And – boom! – you’ve got contention where there used to be peace and blessings and love and friendship.

Here is the contrast (which is a common device in Proverbs): “But…” with the well-advised there is wisdom – meaning that it’s smart to not be contentious. So how do we short-circuit the pride that brings it? By being well-advised. By taking advice from the Bible (the best) or from someone who is well-versed (pun intended) in Biblical knowledge (second best).

This also works in a two-fold way:

(1) The Bible will destroy your pride.

(2) The mere act of seeking advice is humbling and therefore pride-crippling, because it means admitting you need help from someone else.

When we get that stinging feeling which comes from our perception that someone has hurt our pride, we have options. We can do what we were taught to do in the past, but this is usually a mistake. We can do whatever just seems best in our own minds, but this is almost always a bad idea. We can just do what everyone else (the world) is doing, but that is really the worst thing we could do. Or we can be teachable and humble and get ourselves well-advised before we decide how we’re going to think, act, and treat that other person when they go off-script and don’t treat us how we think we deserve to be treated.

Let’s be wise, not contentious. Let’s be humble, not proud.

(By the way, I can’t technically prove it, but I personally believe that James 3:13 – 4:10 is a New Testament exposition of Proverbs 13:10.)

Opportunities / Obstacles

June 16, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Two Sides to Every Comfort | 5 Comments
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Opportunities

Opportunities are a great comfort. Many of us would like to get get a call from someone who says, “Hey, I’ve a got this great opportunity for you!” (Unless it turns out to be Amway.) Advertisers use the enticement, “Stayed tuned for an exciting opportunity!” America has even been called “the land of opportunity.” Opportunities are openings or events where, if you take advantage of a situation, you can really benefit.

God comforts us by giving opportunities. He gave you the opportunity to trust Him and be saved; the opportunity to obey Him in baptism; the opportunity to join a great church; the opportunity for free Bible instruction on Sunday mornings (we call it Sunday School at my church). Life is full of wonderful opportunities given to us by God.

The Bible says that no temptation has taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful in that – with every temptation – He has made a way to escape – an opportunity to do what’s right – so that you may be able to bear it and to get the victory over the temptation. That’s very comforting!

But there is a flip side to opportunity:

Obstacles

You’ve probably been there: You get stuck in a traffic jam. You’ve got three choices. You can turn around and go back. You can cheat and drive on the shoulder to the next exit. Or you can wait. I don’t have any advice for you when it comes to traffic jams (the older I get, the more I just decide to stay home), but I do have some advice concerning spiritual obstacles: Wait on the Lord.

The good [man] is perished out of the earth: and [there is] none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.

Micah 7:2

Micah prophesied in a time when nobody was doing what was right. It seemed like everything was working against God’s people. Everywhere they turned, there were obstacles.

That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge [asketh] for a reward; and the great [man], he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.

Micah 7:3

Sometimes this is how it seems to us. We look to the government for help, but we meet an obstacle. We don’t qualify or we’re left waiting on hold. We go to court, but we find out the law isn’t just. We appeal to wealthy or influential individuals, but they are unwilling to help.

The best of them [is] as a brier: the most upright [is sharper] than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen [and] thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.

Micah 7:4

We remind ourselves that God will make sure the wicked get what they deserve, and we turn to our close friends.

Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.

Micah 7:5

But even they are no help.

For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies [are] the men of his own house.

Micah 7:6

Even your family tuns out to be unreliable! So what do you do? Do you say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?” Do you cheat? Go around the obstacles unlawfully? Do you go back? Give up? Do you say, “This can’t be the opportunity I thought God was giving me, because it has turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle?” No.

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

Instead, you wait on the Lord to turn your obstacle into an opportunity. If we are willing to wait upon the Lord, obstacles make great opportunities. When you are prosperous and healthy and well-loved by men, people in general don’t give God glory for that. They think you’re lucky or smart or strong. So, how are we going to give God glory? We are going to praise Him in our obstacles, and treat them like opportunities.

“I know God will deliver me when I’m poor, when I’m sick, when I’ve been betrayed.” That’s what we tell people when they ask us why or how we can be so happy just waiting. Then:

Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD [shall be] a light unto me.

Micah 7:8

New lights don’t shine bright in already-existing light. New lights shine bright in the darkness. Now when you are delivered, the heathen and the pagans will know Who gets the credit.

Beware the Feeble Fortress

March 26, 2014 at 11:02 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, The Fives | 3 Comments
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When we talk about Job’s “friends” we have to put quotation marks around “friends” because it’s questionable just what kind of friends they were. Job had suffered, and was suffering greatly in Chapter 5 of the book that bears his name, when his “friend,” Eliphaz, went on the offensive.

Eliphaz’s (wrong) assumption was that Job’s suffering must have been caused by Job’s sin. Eliphaz’s support for this argument was partly his own experience, because he claimed to have seen men who were prosperous and well-established for a long while in their sin, when suddenly and without warning judgment befell them.

I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation. His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.

Job 5:3-4

This not-so-oblique reference to his children must have cut Job to the quick, since all his children has recently perished in a devastating catastrophe. (Unbeknownst to Job, his children had actually been killed through the machinations of Satan, with God’s permission, but not in any way as a consequence of Job’s alleged sin.)

However, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and Eliphaz stumbled upon a valuable nugget of truth when he pointed out the futility of trying to protect our earthly possessions and wealth to the exclusion of our spiritual well-being.

Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.

Job 5:5

In ancient times landowners would sometimes intentionally grow hedges of thorns or briars around their crops, fields, and property to keep out trespassers and to discourage thieves. However, those who are truly hungry or who are bent on taking what does not belong to them will not be deterred by such security measures. This is a good reminder to us today that whatever dominion we think we exercise over our earthly possessions is ultimately subject to the will of God. Therefore, we are better off investing in the spiritual and the eternal than in the material and the temporal.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 2)

November 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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The is the second part of a lesson on Christian friendship. In Part 1 I wrote that Christian friends should be:

F.orgiving
R.esponsive
I.insighful

They should also be:

E.arnest

Being earnest means telling the truth – being honest – being real. This can be one of the hardest parts of friendship, because sometimes the truth hurts. “How do I look?” I ask my friend (with ketchup on my face, mustard on my tie, and my pants unzipped). “Oh, you look fine,” he replies (immediately calling into question whether he is really my friend after all). Friends don’t enjoy hurting each other’s feelings, but:

Faithful [are] the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy [are] deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A fake friend stabs you in the back; a true friend stabs you in the front. Remember the “F” of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip – forgiveness – when you are on the receiving end of “earnest” friendship.

N.ice

This is a funny verse:

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

One of the easiest things to forget about friendship, especially when you have a really, really good friend – someone to whom you can say anything – someone who knows all your secrets – someone with whom you’re comfortable joking around – is to be nice. In other words, it’s easy to become presumptuous. Christian friendship is about serving, not being served. You can joke around and be relaxed, and yet still be polite. The Bible says evil communication corrupts good manners. Don’t make the mistake of being a funny friend who turns into an obnoxious friend. People act like giving compliments and building up other people with words is corny, but don’t you be deceived. People still like and respond to kindness, so be as nice (or nicer) to your friends as you are to strangers.

D.ependable

How do you gain someone’s trust? By being trustworthy. By being loyal. A good friend is there through thick and thin.

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man [is] a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Plenty of people will want to be your friend when you can do things for them, or give them things.

All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth [them with] words, [yet] they [are] wanting [to him].

Proverbs 19:7

But fake friends hit the road when you are having a hard time.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Adversity is when everything is going wrong – when you are not popular – when it’s not considered cool to be around you. That’s when you find out who your real friend is – the one who’s there for you at all times.

S.acrificing

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

How does iron sharpen iron? By scraping against it – by friction. It costs the iron something to sharpen another piece of iron. Sacrifice is when you give up something for your friend, when you do what is hard, or what is costly to yourself, for the sake of your friend. It’s when you give up your own comfort and go the extra mile. The things that are valuable in this world are things that are costly. If you have a friend, ask yourself, “What is this friendship costing me?” If it’s costing you nothing, it may be because you’re not being the best friend you can be.

Ultimately, Jesus is by far the best friend you will ever have.

F.orgiving: Apart from the forgiveness of your sins you could have no part with God, no place in Heaven, no pardon from hell. Jesus arranged your forgiveness on the Cross.

R.esponsive: Jesus left Heaven and came to seek and to save the lost (you and me) in response to our greatest need – salvation – and He still responds to every prayer we pray.

I.nsightful: There is nothing about you that Jesus does not know, so there is nothing about which you cannot talk to Him. And there is nothing you need to know that is not written down in His Bible.

E.arnest: Jesus cannot lie. “Verily verily” was one of His favorite expressions. He said you can believe in Heaven because if it were not so, He would have told you. He tells the truth about Himself and the truth about us.

N.ice: Can you think of anything kinder, more loving, more giving than Jesus coming to our world to lay down His life for us? People can say many things about Jesus, but no one could ever say He wasn’t nice.

D.ependable: He will never leave you nor forsake you. When young people use the expression “BFF” (best friends forever) the “forever” is a youthful exaggeration. But not with Jesus. He keeps His promises completely.

S.acrificing: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 1)

November 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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The Bible has much to say about friends, and friendship is encouraged in Scripture, but choosing the wrong friend can be dangerous.

But Amnon had a friend, whose name [was] Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab [was] a very subtil man.

II Samuel 13:3 (emphasis added)

Christians are supposed to have friends and we are supposed to be friends. Did you know there is a difference between being friends with someone and being a friend to someone?

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

II Corinthians 6:14

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

James 4:4

As Christians, we are not supposed to get involved in the sinful activities of non-Christians, which means you really shouldn’t be friends with non-Christians, but you definitely should be a friend to all sorts of non-Christians. Therefore, we serve and love them, but we shouldn’t compromise our stand for Jesus, and we should make sure they know that our loyalty to Christ comes before our loyalty to them. So, if a lost person falls down, you help him up – that’s being a friend to him; but if he fell down because he was doing something wrong, you don’t start doing it too, because that would make you friends with him.

Let’s look at what it takes to be friends with another Christian.

F.orgiving

One of the most important things to remember about being a Christian is that you are a forgiven sinner. You can’t be a Christian without acknowledging your sinfulness. Therefore, when two Christians are friends, that means two sinners have become friends. And sinners sometimes sin against each other. Friends make mistakes, they hurt each other’s feelings, they say the wrong thing, they let each other down sometimes. But if they are truly friends they respond to the sin of their friend the way that Jesus responds to our sins.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

If your friend is a Christian, then that means God punished Jesus on the Cross for what your friend has done wrong to you. Would it be right for you to punish your friend for something for which God has already punished Jesus? No. Be a good friend. Be forgiving. Be gracious. Be merciful.

R.esponsive

Being a good friend doesn’t mean you always do what your friend wants you to do, but it does mean that you respond when your friend has a real need.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

Luke 11:5-8

A good friend listens; he doesn’t just wait for his turn to talk. Even though listening is important, “doing” is usually the most significant part of service in Christian friendship, but not just “doing something.” They key is in doing what’s right for your friend in each situation – which means listening closely when your friend has something to say. Anybody can talk; it takes skill and patience to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth – some of us need to take the hint.

I.nsightful

A good friend is someone who gives good advice. That means he evaluates what’s going on, and then finds out what the Bible has to say about something before he just blurts out whatever comes to mind.

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so [doth] the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Things that smell good are attractive – and they make people happy. The insight of a friend is the same way. “Hearty counsel” means insight or advice that turns out to be right. A good friend will pray about it, seek God’s will about it, look in the Bible, talk to someone wise about it, then carefully give good counsel. A bad friend says let’s just do the first thing that seems right, or let’s just do what everyone else does in this situation.

You can probably tell by now that I’m using an acrostic – F.R.I.E.N.D.S. – to list some qualifications of Christian friendship. Next time, we will look at the E.N.D.S.

Be a Friend to Your S.P.O.U.S.E.

September 13, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Biblical Marriage | 3 Comments
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The very first human friendship in the history of the world also happens to have been the very first marriage.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

We tend to think of “friendship” and “love” as being in two different, although overlapping, spheres, but friendship is one of the most important ingredients in “love.”

Listen to how the wife in Song of Solomon talks about her husband:

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

Song of Solomon 5:10

She says, “My husband is awesome – I would not want anybody else.”

His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

Song of Solomon 5:11

My wife has a slight variation on this when she talks about me: “He is very handsome – his bald spot shines like a diamond.”

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

Song of Solomon 5:12

“He doesn’t have beady eyes.” (Always a plus!)

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

Song of Solomon 5:13

“I like his aftershave and even his breath smells good!”

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

Song of Solomon 5:14

“He has strong hands and six-pack abs.”

His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

Song of Solomon 5:15

“He has nice legs and his profile is stunning.”

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 5:16

She is really carried away with this dude’s looks, and she’s telling this to the other women, but she is referring to him as her beloved and her friend.

I have devised an acrostic from the word S.P.O.U.S.E. to remind us of the importance of friendship between husbands and wives.

S.olace

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Be a friend to your spouse by loving her or him at all times – especially in adversity. That’s what solace is: comfort in times of distress.

P.roximity

Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.

Proverbs 27:10

Friendship means staying close by – being there to help when a need arises. The relationship of marriage is less meaningful without the proximity of friendship.

O.penness

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Be a friend to your spouse by communicating openly, honestly, and frankly. Your spouse needs to be the friend you confide in – and the one whose confidences you keep.

U.sefulness

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Friends give each other gifts. It might just be time and attention or it might be material gifts, but being at your spouse’s disposal is the gift of usefulness. There are few things more discouraging than having a useless spouse.

S.upport and S.anctification

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

Proverbs 22:11

Kind words are supportive and helpful words are the marks of true friendship, but true love is always love in truth.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Friends sometimes fight, but they fight to the glory of God, and they fight with a purpose. They fight in love, and God puts them together to make each other stronger – like iron.

E.ncouragment and E.xhortation

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A good spouse has to batter the other spouse occasionally (figuratively, not literally!), but then we have a duty to bandage the wound in love.

Four-Dimensional Love (Part 2)

July 3, 2013 at 9:40 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (emphasis added)

In Part One I mentioned the height, the breadth, and the length of Christ’s love, but now I want you to see the depth – the “roots.”

Rooted love is not complacent about its depth. “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge…” (Ephesians 3:19) In the love of Christ we have the potential to know the unknowable! To know what can only be known in Christ – and can never be known apart from Christ. How deep is the love of Christ? It is eternally deep – we will never get to the bottom of it. My relationship with other human beings who I love – even my relationship with my wife – when it comes to its depths, its richness – is dependent on my knowledge of God.

They say that loving human relationships (especially marriage) are hard work, but the real “work” of love should not be “toil.” It is joyous and exciting work. It is going down deep, but it is like digging for buried treasure, not digging a grave. If you have only a superficial experience of the love of God in Christ, let me plead with you to spend time alone – late at night if you have to – early in the morning if you have to – missing a meal or a nap if you have to – deep in the Bible – in Bible study and in prayer – getting to know God, and bringing up the treasures you find in His depths. Roots press down hard and deep, but they bring up sweet water and nutrients from the earth – up the trunk and down the branches – to strengthen the tree and make the fruit bountiful.

Most good Bible lessons contain warnings and comforts. The comforting part of this one is supposed to be that you now realize that the love of Christ is four-dimensional and that you can be rooted and grounded in it and it’s wonderful. But here is the warning part: Do not make the mistake of thinking that the reason to love your spouse or your friends is so that they will love you in return. The love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts, but it is not given to us to be used as a manipulation technique. Its purpose is not to teach you to give so you can get. That’s probably the major error in many otherwise good books on marriage, love, and relationships. The theory is that your “love tank” is empty. You feel empty because the special someone in your life doesn’t speak your love language or you haven’t learned to speak his or hers. You are from Mars, and your spouse is from Venus, so you need to learn to be a good alien, so your spouse will treat you right in return. Therefore, you can transform your spouse by serving him or her.

No! Jesus talked about this all the time and it always made people mad. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts…” “Even the sinners and the publicans and the unbelievers can do this…” These teachings of Jesus, which argue from the lesser to the greater, and contrast true love with superficial manipulation, have been adopted as principles for running businesses and winning friends and influencing people. “Be nice to others so they will be nice to you.” “Serve them and they’ll let you lead them.” When Jesus says that even the wicked understand the principle of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” He’s making a comparison, not setting the standard. You and I will get into big trouble if we take something good – service, self-sacrifice, selfless giving – and we use it as a means to get our needs met. News flash: You do have needs – but your spouse – or the person you care about – is not there to be manipulated into meeting those needs. Even if you are using very soft hands and very kind words in your manipulation, it is still selfish manipulation.

Your spouse or your loved one – by the grace of God – will one day make a very good spouse or best friend – and maybe they already do – but they are going to make a terrible Jesus. Your idols (the things or people you expect to meet your needs apart from God) will always let you down – and what you have idolized, you will eventually demonize.

As Christians, all our needs are met where?

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Jesus showed the height of love on the Cross: He was “lifted up” so that He might draw all men to Himself. He showed the breadth: His arms were stretched out wide – open, inviting, welcoming. He spoke forth, showing the length of love: “Father, forgive them;” “Son, behold thy mother;” “It is finished.” He was nailed to a “tree” which was rooted to the Earth. He was both human and divine, and He wasn’t there suffering in order to evoke sympathy so they would come and take Him down. He was there to sacrifice, to love unconditionally, to love those of us who were not just undeserving but ill-deserving of God’s love.

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Peter 2:24

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