I want to talk with you about a type of relationship that doesn’t get a lot of air time in church sermons – we talk a lot about god’s love – agape love – and we talk about eros love – a love for a man and woman.
And usually on Mother’s day we talk about the love of parent – the love of a mother. And as important as that is – today I’m talking about a different kind of love than that. But today I want to talk with us about the love of a friend. Today we’re talking about the importance of spiritual friendships.
Because we are in a series about this beautiful mess we call the church – and we’re asking, in a way – what is it good for? Well, among all the reasons we’ll cover – the big idea for this morning is the church is the place to find and forge spiritual friendships.
Who do you talk to about your faith? You are not created to walk on your faith journey alone.
Now a quick word about the word Place. I understand the church is a people. Not a building. But wherever the people of God congregate – that place is the church – and it can be in a gymnasium – or it can be in a building designated as a church – it doesn’t matter – we bring the church with us.
So when I say that the church is he place to find and forge and foster spiritual relationships – please understand that I mean any place where two or more are gathered together- according to Matthew 18 – the Lord is there in their midst.
But the reality is that – although we are thankful for the internet and technology giving us a sense of togetherness in these weird days – it’s not the same as meeting together – praying together – singing together – learning together. This is not the same thing.
Forever forward Journey will be broadcasting our services over the internet for people unable to meet – but it’s not the same – not equal to actually being near other people who love the Lord.
And here’s why I say that …
More than 100 times in the New Testament we read the term One Another in the Bible.
- Bear one another’s burdens. (Gal 6:2)
- Encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thess. 5:11)
- Be hospitable to one another – (1 Peter 4:9)
- Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
- Love one another (Dozen places)
- Accept One another (Romans 15:7)
- Forgive one another (Col 3:13)
Know what it takes to do these one anothers? Another. One another.
But – going back to that passage in Matthew 18:20 – where Jesus says where two or three are gathered in my name – there I am in their midst.
Why does Jesus puts a number on the minimum size of a church. Two, three or more. Why not one? And the answer is simply- You weren’t created to go it alone.
The “with God” life is wildly available to us through faith in Jesus – but here’s the deal… we were never created to live the “with God” life on our own.
It’s not just me and God – We were built to walk with friends by our side as well.
Now I imagine there are some people out there who are squirming a little bit listening to me exhort you to find a godly friend – because you have a little bit of an independent spirit and you might be thinking – I’d rather go it alone, thank you.
But here’s the deal. You weren’t created to be that way. It’s not sign of weakness to seek out a spiritual friendship. It’s not a sign of weakness or neediness or high maintenance.
Let me prove it to you – first – let’s examine for a moment the nature of God himself. We find spiritual friendship is fundamental to the nature of a Triune God.
God is not alone. He is a triune God. Three in one. Three equal friends. there is no subordination in the trinity. They wouldn’t stand for it. No – the Trinity shows us the beauty and importance of spiritual friendship.
You see the nature of their loving friendship they have with each other by the way they constantly shift the spotlight away from themselves and onto the other persons of the Trinity.
I mean – at the Jordan river – when Jesus is baptized – according to Matthew 3:16 – what do you hear – The Father saying – this is my son – in whom I am well pleased – look at Him! What do you see?
When Jesus goes to the Desert to be tempted he is strengthening and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
And then you have Jesus – saying what? I’m not here to do my will but the Father will. You have Jesus saying – I have to leave so the Spirit can come.
And the Spirit comes to shine light on Jesus. He reminds us of all the words Jesus spoke.
Three friends – all working to make the other persons of the trinity shine.
They bring the best out of each other – as a good godly friend will do.
And here’s the kicker – don’t miss what Jesus offers us – for all who are willing to step through the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven through faith – Jesus tells us – friendship with God awaits.
John 15:12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
The triune God has made room in their relationship to widen their circle of friends and invite us in! That’s what Jesus says – in John 15:15 – I’m not here to recruit servants – I’m here to offer a friendship.
It’s interesting – in America we really tend to elevate romantic love to this really high position – almost idolizing it itself. And in many ways we really have elevated family love for one another.
But it often feels we ignore the power of the love of a friend. But the Bible doesn’t. Jesus brings the love of a friend right up to equal standing.
The Bible elevates friendship to a beautiful place really – we here in America devalues I – we can’t imagine – for instance – we read about David and Jonathon’s incredible friendship in the old Testament and people say – they must have been lovers! Why? How about we let friendship have it’s moment.
Jesus is friends with Mary Magdalene! Oh they must have been lovers! Why? Because you can’t imagine having a friend of the opposite sex? How about we let Friendship have it’s moment to shine without us distorting it to something else?
It’s interesting to remember Jesus – there was this awkward moment in Jesus ministry – when Jesus is with his disciples in Matthew 12 – when some people come to Jesus and say – your mother and brothers are outside – and they want to speak to you.
And Jesus says, and it feels awkward, doesn’t it? Jesus says, Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? And he points to his group of disciples and says – here are my mother and brothers.
Now that might not be a good look on a Mother’s day card – I don’t suggest using that line – but why did Jesus use it? He was getting a point across – and this is it – your faith – the bonds of a godly friend – the friendship with another believer – may very well be stronger than even your familial ties.
It is God’s desire that we forge strong spiritual friendships within the church.
Why? Let’s talk about why spiritual friendships are so important…
God uses our spiritual friends to shape us into the image of Jesus. Friends are used by God to shape us.
Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
Hey kids – here’s a life hack for you. If you choose friends who love the Lord – you are setting yourself up for a great life. Get yourself some friends who love the Lord.
Students – up to a certain point as you grow up – your parents are the most influential people in your life – but when you get into the teen years – friends play a huge role in shaping us.
Find friends who love the Lord. If you are listening with your mom today because your mom asked you to go to church with her – then ask your mom today who were the people who influenced her n her own spiritual journey.
If your mom is walking with the Lord today it’s likely she had friends who helped her along the way.
I personally am SO thankful for the list of God loving friends I’ve had in my life – since the day I started my faith Journey – guys like Steve and Rob Volstad – Steve Turner – Steve Davey – in college – Rob Jacobs and Stacy Sublett – people like Kevin Campbell and Bill Dudley and Art Warner – Joe Darago – and many people since we’ve moved to Gretna who have sharpened me as a human being.
Now what does it look like to sharpen one another? Two primary ways come to mind.
The first is – we need friends who will encourage us on the journey. Friends who will cheer us on!
I remember the one time in my life I ran a road race – kind of a bucket checklist – run a road race – and I drove to South Dakota so as hopefully not to run into anyone I knew. These good people in Sioux Falls – they lined the road cheering me on! You got this. Wow!
Sometimes we need people in our life saying things like – I noticed you are growing. You are doing great. Keep it up!
Sometimes the best way to sharpen someone is to encourage them to continue doing the right thing. Don’t give up! I know it’s hard – but you’re doing good. Don’t grow tired of doing the right thing!
There’s tremendous power in being an encourager. One of the most influential leaders in the early church was a man named Barnabas. Who was called the son of encouragement. And without Barnabas – there would have been no Paul.
When was the last time you intentionally set out to encourage someone? Obviously – I hope you take time to cheer your mother on today! But at some point in the week – maybe take a moment to ask God – who in your life could use an encouragement – ask the Spirit of God to bring a person to mind.
Secondly – as iron sharpens iron – a friend sharpens a friend. One way is by encouraging them.
But sometimes we need a friend who is willing to challenge us!
Listen – we are all capable at times of making bad decisions. And what we need is a friend who is willing to call us out on it.
I remember reading about a marathon in 2017 were the lead pack of runners went the wrong way- and they are like how did I end up running on the freeway and why are there cars passing me at 70 miles na hour? a mar
Because no one stood in their way to say – you are going the wrong way!
As important as it is to have someone on the side of the road cheering you on your race – it’s just as important to have a friend who is willing to jump in the path if you make a wrong turn! Go back – this isn’t the right way! You made a wrong turn man!
Do you have anyone in your life who is willing to lovingly challenge you – who will speak truth in love to you should you start straying? Are you willing to be that person in another’s life?
Wide is the path that leads to destruction and unfortunately it’s often lined with ‘friends’ who are applauding them all the way to ruin. “Good for you” So proud of you. You do you!
Listen – in the NT – the very early days of the church – Paul does this for Peter. He calls Peter out and says – what you are doing here – the way you are thinking is not right, Peter!
Oh man, Peter must have been mad! No – it’s all good – they loved one another – and all of us at times deserve the privilege of being challenged up in our walk with God. Iron sharpening iron.
Sometimes a friend challenges – sometimes a friend cheers. Both are instances of iron sharpening iron.
And by the way – when it comes to challenging someone – it sure helps if you’ve a history of cheering them along first.
Lastly – a friend walks with us through the dark valleys.
One of the oldest books ever written is the book of Job – it deals with the issue of why do bad things happen to good people, as Job goes from the kind of guy that has everything going for him to a guy who cannot catch a break – loses everything – his health and his wealth and his kids – But the book is also about friends.
See Job’s wife is still alive but she isn’t exactly a wellspring of encouragement – she tells her husband to curse God and die. But Job’s friends are another story.
Job 2:11 When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.
13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.
Those are some good friends. Now – as in any friendship – sometimes there are missteps along the way – and so Job’s friends didn’t end as well as they started – but it was all coming from a heart that wanted to help.
We need spiritual friends. We need to be encouraged. We need to be challenged. We need friends there in times of trouble.
And – just as importantly – our friends need US to encourage them – to challenge them and to comfort them in times of trials and tribulation.
As we close our talk – let me make a suggestion – as to how to make spiritual friendships at Journey.
First – tend to your present friendships.
Because of these weird days we are living through – our friendships will require a little extra work. A little Extra intentionality. Some extra thoughtfulness – maybe even a touch more grace and patience than normally is required.
Thy will need extra attention in these kinds of days. A phone call or text or whatever – yesterday our friends dropped off a pie – no reason other than to say – we love you guys. That’s pretty nice gesture.
Second – be determined. Don’t ever give up on trying to find like minded spiritually minded friends. Sometimes it takes tenacity – but it’s worth it.
Friends who I met with recently newer to Journey – they said we are determined to find a group of people to walk our faith journey with… We’ve had it before and we know how important it is…
I love that!
Third – take a risk and get involved. Women’s prayer time on Friday. Women’s facebook page – small groups – women’s get together. Men’s poker night. Even the newcomers meals. Choose a team to serve on…
It’s not always easy to find a godly friend – but it’s worth it!