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"One True Friend"

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"A friend loves at all times…"

Proverbs 17:17


The last couple of weeks I have done a lot of praying and reading and contemplating friendship and in doing so I have spent longer than I would like needing to repent of not being the kind of friend I know the Lord desires and that I myself want to be. Reading in Matthews Gospel the Lord brought me to the story of Peter's infamous interaction with Jesus that serves as a great illustration of what true friendship is and what it is not. To understand what happened in its proper context pick up the story in Matthew 16 verse 13,

"When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." 

Ouch! At first glance and without knowing Jesus love or comprehending His will for our lives one might think Jesus was cold hearted and insensitive to the feelings of others. That is until we understand that one of the proofs of true friendship is the willingness to wound one's friend for the sake of God's glory. Proverbs 27:6 puts it like this, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." In other words, (no pun inteneded) worldly friendships tickle our ears telling us what we want to hear, where as our true friends will tell us what we need to hear, like it or not.  

If you study the Bible long enough you learn that the world has its own definitions of friendship and God has His. A true friend in the biblical sense is someone who as Proverbs 18:24 points out, "sticks closer than a brother." Translated, "A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." A true friend is someone who puts your spiritual well being over their own as Moses and Paul did when they told God they were willing to be cut off from Him forever if only He would not give up on the children of Israel. Oh that God would help us all to be that kind of friend. Obviously the best example of true friendship is the Lord Himself. Jesus both taught and displayed by His death on the Cross that true friendship is 100% sacrificial. Jesus said it best in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." Worldly friendships are measured by what they receive where as true friendship is measured only by what it gives.

In Matthew 16 Peter's actions serve as a reminder of what a true friendship is not. Though you could say Peters intentions were well meaning they were also misguided and anything but helpful. To be honest, at that moment Peter was a hindrance in Jesus life to say the least. True friends don't seek to detour our faith from God's will but rather they come along side us to assist us in obeying God's will regardless of the personal sacrifice. In Matthew 16, Peter took Jesus aside seeking to convince Him that the Cross was not necessary. Worldly friends are often times, even without their knowledge instruments of the enemy of our soul when they come between us and God's will for our lives. That's what Peter was doing.

God's design for friendships was never to be an end to themselves but rather the means to an end. "Two are better than one" the book of Ecclesiastes teaches us. God's desire for our friendships are to help us learn to enjoy God more, to seek Him first, to obey Him in all things and to find our satisfaction and worth in Him. True friends are to be there to remind us that Jesus is not just the Bread of Life but that He is our Bread of Life. Jesus isn't just Living Water, but He is our Living Water! Its personal with God! That's what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Colossians 3:4, "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." Jesus isn't just life, He is our life and our true friends want nothing more than to see us experiencing life to the fullest so they seek to point us to Jesus as our source.

And because our true friends know us, our true friends tell us the truth about ourselves even when it hurts. Just ask Peter. Worldly friendships focus on externals and what makes us feel good, where as our godly friends know that sin is the thief of joy and that true joy in this life is found in Jesus and walking with Him in obedience to His Word. True friends understand confronting sin in another persons life is never easy but necessary because friends don't let friends miss heaven. True friends stand as blockades on the road to hell. True friends know the risk of personal offense far outweighs the consequences of an unrepentant heart.

Because true friends know their limitations in God's transforming work, our true friends will seek God in prayer consistently for us. Interceding and asking God to do in our lives what they are unable themselves to do for us is the truest mark of friendship. We cant save people but we can lift up our friends to the God who can and does! Nothing is more effective nor as powerful than having a praying friend. Jesus great earthly prayer that we read about in John 17 reveals the heart of our best friend! Nobody knows you like Jesus and no one comes close to loving you like He does. Oh what a friend we have in Jesus! What a model of what true friendship is. I don't know about you, loved one, but I'm making it my prayer today, Lord make me like You! Know too, friends, I am praying for you!

"My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other."

1 John 4:11 (MSG)

 
I LOVE YOU!

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