How to Get and Win Good Friends

friendsThe relationship between David and Jonathan inspires our modern psyches which yearn for real friendship. We resonate with the story of A crown prince impulsively and sincerely handing over his future throne to a no-name shepherd boy who killed the mighty warrior Goliath with a rock. We long to be knit to the soul of another human being and to experience the non-sexual friendship that Jonathan and David shared.

To achieve such a quick and satisfying bond, we do not need to major in interpreting non-verbal communication, asking good questions, or being open. We need to major in the gospel. David and Jonathan are friends united in soul and purpose because they both have the same love, concern, and goal: the glory of God.

When Israel was afflicted by the Philistines at the beginning of King Saul’s reign, Jonathan went out to fight the Philistines, facing ridiculously bad odds. He knew that “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few (1 Sam 14:6).” Then as he led the men to battle, Jonathan boldly asserted, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel (1 Sam 14:12.)”

When David encountered Goliath, he expressed the same conviction boldly declaring “The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the Battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” David risked his life for the glory of God, trusting in the power of God. Jonatan risked his life for the glory of God, trusting in the power of God. Both David and Jonathan love the Lord to the point of risking death. There is no doubt about their faith. And this faith unites them to one another. As one old theologian noted,

Sincerity in religion and true fear of the Lord are the best bands of friendship.

The story of Jonathan and David also reveals the proper response to salvation. David is not a type of us conquering his own personal fears. He is a type of Christ saving others from their giants. Saul initially misses the point of David’s victory over Goliath and tries to coopt David (1 Sam 18:2,5). He tries to use David to further his own kingdom.

Many times people in the modern church use Jesus the same way. They want Jesus to save them from loneliness so they attend church to convince some sappy girl to marry them. They want to be healthy so they attend a Bible study hoping that Jesus will heal them. Or they go to counseling because they want Jesus to give them a peaceful home. But they do not want to follow Jesus. They simply want Jesus to make their life better. Such self-centered people make really bad friends. Those who will willing use Jesus and then spit him out when they get what they want will happy spit out their human connections once they stop scratching an itch. Selfishness never leads to friendship.

In contrast to his father, Jonathan sells out for David. He does not make David serve him but offers to serve David. This is the heart of the believer. He does not get baptized to make God do whatever the convert desires. No, he surrenders all to Christ because he or she realizes that one greater than him or her has come, conquering the giant of sin and death. The believer sells out for Christ because he or she knows that Christ is the one true savior. He or she knows that life is not found in relationships, money, or health but in eternity with God the father. And because Jonathan understands what it means to love God with his heart, soul, mind and strength, he is able to cross social, political, and legal paradigms and build an incredible friendship with the son of Jessie. He gives up all to honor God and to be David’s friend.

Such is true friendship. Jesus told us in John 15:13-14, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Jesus was the one greater than David. He conquered death not with a stone but with his life and resurrection. He gave up all so that we might live full lives of obedience which leads to joy. Jesus model friendship based upon sacrifice. Jonathan exemplified such friendship.

To be knit to another soul, we must sell out for Jesus and then sell out for those who love Jesus.

Have you sold out for Christ?

Don’t Trust These Christians

ask-more-questionsOur true friends are those who love Jesus. They are those who do great and small deeds to advance the kingdom of God. They are those who love God. For the Christian, friendship is always based on the gospel. We should never limit our friendships to our denomination, to our race, to our musical preferences, or to any other human definition. Godly friendship extends beyond all of our cultural boundaries. True friendship is based on shared experience of Christ’s work.

But true friendship and true acceptances is not blind. We are not called to accept and to befriend all who claim the name of Christ. In Mark 9:42, Christ says,

Whoever cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Jesus wants false teachers to die. While we should befriend all who follow Christ, we must not befriend all who claim Christ. We must not entrust our souls to those who malign the Word of God. We must not trust those who do great works for the poor while looking the other way when men have affairs and when homosexuals ask to be church members. We must not befriend those who paint houses but deny the deity of Christ. We must not entrust ourselves to the pastor who tells great stories but proclaims that all roads lead to heaven. God is unified. God never approves of sin. And the one who claims Christ while simultaneous denying the power of the gospel should not be our friend even if she looks like us, goes to our church, and loves our denomination.  God does not look lightly on errors. He does not excuse sin or condone some lawless. No, God wishes such people dead, laying on the bottom of the ocean.

And when David was confronted with the choice of whether or not he should trust the soldier who claimed to have killed Saul, he thought about this exact thing. Back in 2 Samuel 26:9-11, David and one of his trusted soldiers had a chance to kill Saul. They had a chance to take the throne of Israel, and to take who God had promised David. But notice what David said and did.

But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.

David knew and understood that those who love the Lord obey the Lord. Those who are trustworthy never sin to attempt to get good things for themselves or for others. God has no place in his kingdom for situational ethics. The end does not justify the means. All who love God understand this axiom and obey God. David knew what he had to do. He killed the dishonorable soldier. David knew that the soldier should not be trusted because he boasted in his sin. In the same way, we must not partner with those who excuse and embrace sin in the name of Christ. God is unified. Those who love God will obey him.

Moreover, we must check our hearts. We must be sure that we are not one who causes other people to stumble. We must guard against leading others to sin sexually, against encouraging our kids to curse angrily, and against minimizing our pride. If we share blogs, send text, or have conversations that lead God’s people away from God, we are in danger. God doesn’t want your influence to grow. He wants you at the bottom of the lake. God will not tolerate those who cause others to walk away from truth. Do not be such a person.

Be a good friend. Workout your faith with fear and trembling and befriend those who are doing the same. Our friendships will shape us and influences us. What kind of friends do you have? What kind of friend are you?

How Do We Find Godly Friends?

who-is-our-friend-blogWho is your friend? With whom can you do ministry together, with whom can you tell your deepest secrets and with whom can you find guidance? Who is our friend? And how do we know?

The way we answer these questions will have a profound influence upon our own lives and the lives of our kids.

And we are not alone. If you flip the calendar back a few thousand years, we see David in his camp. A young solider has just brought news of Saul’s death. And to sweeten the deal with the soon-to-be king, the soldier tells David, “I stood beside him [Saul] and killed him….And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my Lord” (2 Sam 1:1-16). In this time of crisis and geopolitical uncertainty, David had to quickly decide whether or not he could trust the soldier.

Fast-forward a couple of thousand years, and we will happen upon the disciples telling Jesus about how they tried to stop someone from casting out a demon “because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38). So who are friends? Who should we partner with in life and ministry? How do we know that someone is really on our side? How can will tell?

And those these questions originated long before we arrived on this planet, they are still vitally important to us and our souls. Who is our friend and how do we know?

In Mark 9:38-41, Jesus answers this question. He reveals that the true friend is the one who loves Jesus and who hates sin. We are to befriend, entrust ourselves to, and embrace those who follow Christ. We are to befriend those who pursue holiness and reject those who cherish evil.

To embrace those who love holiness, we must realize that God is unified. We tend (and often very naturally so) to put people in categories. These are the Baptist; these are the Methodist; these are the baseball fans; these are the sportsmen, and these are the young married couples and on and on. Once we make these designations, we tend to befriend, reach out to, and entrust ourselves to those who are like us. Those who like classical music drift towards other classical music lovers. Baptists tend to like to partner with other Baptists. And again while there is nothing wrong with this natural human phenomena, it is not the manner by which God’s people are to select their truest companions.

Admittedly this is exactly what the disciples are doing in Mark. They are drawing lines based on familiarity and even perhaps jealousy. The disciples see a man casting out demons in verse 38 and tell the man who has done what disciples recently failed to do “to stop.” They are attempting to shut down someone who has had more success in the ministry than them because the man was not following “us.” The man was not one of the twelve. He was not fishing, eating, and working alongside the disciples. And so, they decided that the man needed to be stopped. He was not one of them he was an outsider.

We too are prone to make similar distinctions. We attack and belittle the ministries of over people and other churches because they do not sing our style of songs or because they are more casual or formal than us, or because they are reformed or free will.  We create little human tribes based on our preferences ranging from our Bible translation to the color of the carpet. And when we run up against other people from other tribes who are reaching more people, witnessing more, praying more, showing hospitality more people than us to stop. We tell them they are wrong. For surely someone outside of our tribe cannot be right about their music preference.

But Jesus does not see people this way. Jesus sees only two kinds of people. He divides people not based on their musical style or dress, or secondary doctrines. He divides people based on their relationship too him. There are those that love God and those that do not. We are to embrace all those who love God even if they look, sound and do almost everything differently than you and I do. Notice Jesus words in verse 39 and 40.

But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.”

All those who are being used by God to transform lives are of God. Do not miss this. Everyone who is preaching the gospel who is reaching the lost who is helping the demon possessed with the gospel is on the same team. Though we are broken into all kinds of little tribes, God is unified. And all who follow him are on the same team. All who follow, Jesus regardless of whether or not the come to our church are serving the Lord. And they are not to be discouraged. We are not supposed to try and shut them down. Rather, we should join with them. We should embrace and trust all who live out the gospel. We should look past race, worship preferences, and Bible translations and look at what really matters: Are they following Jesus? And when we run across those who share are faith, we should not silence them. We should join with them.

And even if there ministry seems insignificant or meaningless in the grand scheme of evangelical life, we should still encourage them. Our partnership is based on Christ and not on how he uses us. As Jesus says in verse 41 “For truly, I say to you whoever give you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” We are to work together side by side with all people who love the Lord.

God is unified. As the people of God, we should be unified around the gospel. We should pursue friends who are pursuing holiness.

So what did David do? Well more on that in a future blog.