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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 30, 2020
Friends & Friendship
David preached a sermon back on May 24 that examined social media from a Biblical perspective. The danger of me preaching that sermon is that I would have sounded like an old guy making a rant against newer technology. Well, I freely admit that some of the newer technology I do not understand and I am no longer interested in trying to do so. Many, many years ago, Jonathan had set up a facebook account for Diane in my name, so I ended up with a facebook account. I love maps, so I spent hours working on a facebook map application that existed back then on which you could post the places you have been. About a year later that disappeared and a new program replaced it. I spent hours posting once again the places I had been. About a year later that application also disappeared. As time went on and more changes were made to facebook, I found it difficult to post material or find it. About all I do now is follow the links to it that are sent to me by email. I don’t like working with programs that are unstable or keep changing the way in which they work. So there is my rant which explains why David preached the sermon on that topic, and he did a great job (See:https://gracebibleny.org/a-theology-of-social-media).
He pointed out both the positive and negative aspects to social media. On the positive side, social media increases avenues for proclaiming the gospel in a variety of ways to people who might not otherwise hear it. It can foster Bible study and encouragement toward godly living. That is why we use some social media platforms for our own ministries. It also is very good at doing what it was first designed to do which is to maintain social contact with people that might otherwise be lost. It can also be effectively used to start new relationships with other people.
There are also some negative aspects to social media. David pointed out several of the most dangerous. These include the creation of a self-curated world of selfish interests, lusts and self-gratifications. This is compounded by the ability of tech companies to target you for advertisements and material to influence you based on material you have looked at or posted. There is a real question of whether you are controlling the social media you use or if it is controlling you. Two related severe negatives to this is how social media can quickly foster vanity and envy. This is a greater problem for the younger age groups who lack maturity to handle it, but a lot of older people also fall prey to these vices and prove they are still immature.
David also pointed out the grave danger of tech addiction. This is also of much greater danger to the younger generations since it is the world they have grown up in so that they think it is normal to always be checking your smart phone or looking at the next youtube video or instagram image that pops up. Older people can also easily succumb to tech addition because these programs are designed to keep you looking.
David gave three main Biblical responses to these dangers. The first was from Ephesians 5:15-16, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Life is short and opportunities pass quickly. The wise man makes the most of both. The foolish waste the time allotted to their life span and neglect the opportunities presented to them.
The second principle for responding to social media was from 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 and that was to look for the way of escape that God provides when you encounter temptation. To that you can add the principles I gave last week on dealing with lust in a sex saturated society. (See https://gracebibleny.org/defeating-lust-in-a-sex-saturated-society). Set your heart to love God so that His desires become your desires. Set your will to pursue godliness and you mind to pursue truth. Bring your emotions into subjection to your mind, will and heart. Avoid sinful situations and flee when you find yourself in one. Develop godly friends that can hold you accountable so that you do not stumble into sin, and if you do, they will help pull you out of it.
The last principle David gave was from Luke 5:15-16 in seeking a quite place to withdraw to think and pray. Get away from the constant barrage of text, picture and video stimulation that comes from social media and a find a place of refuge to quiet your soul before God and mediate on Him and His will for you and your life. That will give you a very different perspective on life so that you can pursue what is actually important instead of what is hyped on social media.
My subject today is related to the topic of social media only in that it compounds the normal problems of friends and friendship for all the reasons David pointed out in his sermon plus making friendship trivial. A friend is redefined as someone who clicked the button and was added to a list of people you do not actually know. My sermon today will not be a rant about social media. It will be a challenge to you to make sure that you develop true friendship with true friends for it is in those relationships that true ministry happens.
Levels of Friendship
I gave four messages on friendship in my sermon series on Proverbs back in 2011 (See: https://gracebibleny.org/category/sermons/proverbs). I pointed out in that series that there are different levels of friendship. That is obvious, yet something usually ignored or forgotten. The largest group are the multitudes (Matthew 4:25) consisting of all the people you meet. That could be hundreds to thousands per year because it would include those that might pop up on a social media feed. Their names may be on your list of social media “friends,” but you don’t really even recognize them because you have not had any personal interaction with them.
The next level is acquaintances. These are people you know slightly because you have had some interaction with them and would recognize them. The woman at the well (John 4) was glad she made an acquaintance with Jesus. Gregarious people with good memories can have thousands of acquaintances, but most of us limit out in the 300-500 range because we can’t recall the name.
You will know more personal information about a casual friend including such things as general hopes and desires. Some level of trust is also developing. The 70 disciples that Jesus sent out to minister were casual friends of Jesus (Luke 10). Most people can handle 20-100+ active casual friends depending on their breadth of social contacts and gregariousness.
Close friends know specific personal information and have a mutual trust that allows more vulnerability. They help one another achieve goals and desires and overcome weaknesses. There is regular communication which can include all levels including thoughts and emotions. There are several types of close friends. Close associates would arise from situations such as work, fellowship groups, hobby clubs and such. Close personal friends are those relationships you have maintained over the years by mutual choice. Mentor relationships are between a teacher and a disciple. Jesus had close associates through His family and community, close personal friends such as Lazarus, Mary & Martha (John 11 & 12) and a mentoring relationship with the twelve disciples (Matthew 10). Most people can handle 10–30 active close friends with an additional 30+ in which there is not regular contact, but are picked up again at that level again when there is contact.
Finally there are intimate or “best” friends. These are the people you desire to be with more than all others. It is a quality friendship developed over months and years which has been tested and proven true. These are the people to whom you can safely pour out your soul and be accepted, but yet will also lovingly rebuke as needed. This is the friend that will sacrifice for you and you can count on when in need. Peter, James and John formed an inner circle of intimate friendship with Jesus. Your spouse should fit into this category, if not, then you need to work on your marriage. Most people have a capacity of 1 – 6 intimate friends with the average being four.
Please note that people can move up and down in their levels of friendship due to many factors with time being a key component. Someone you spend a lot of time with becomes a causal friend, then a close friend, and then an intimate friend. In a similar manner, someone who was a best friend could diminish to a close friend or even a casual friend when you are not able to spend time together. However, as long as the friendship did not diminish due to conflict, you can usually pick up the friendship at the same level once you can spend time with them again. Diane and I have that with many people we knew when living in California and among those that have moved away from here.
Dangers of Isolation or Inundation
God designed humans to have social relationships at many levels and it is foolish to isolate yourself so that you do not have intimate and close friends. That is foolish as stated in Proverbs 18:1, “He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” Yet, there are many people that do just that. They may have a lot of acquaintances and casual friends, but they do not allow anyone to get too close. They may be trying to avoid the pain of being disappointed or even rejected by a friend, and lets face it, even great friends will fail each other at times. Proverbs 20:6 asks rhetorically, “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?” We live in a sin cursed world so pain in friendship is to be expected, but such pain will drive the godly to be better people themselves while seeking to help their friend also become better. Isolation is foolish because it cuts off a major means by which God matures us. This is critical for Christians since body life within the church family is part of the process of becoming mature (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Another common reason people isolate themselves and avoid developing close and intimate friends is simply pride which is the common condition of man regardless of wealth, status, education or IQ. Pride keeps people from becoming friends with others who are not like them. Pride leads to exaggerating offenses that should be easily forgiven into causes to end the friendship, for “how dare they treat me that way.” Pride blocks the humility necessary for deeper friendships in which friends help each other overcome weaknesses.
The opposite problem of isolation is inundation. This is having so many friends that you are overwhelmed. This is a problem for those who are overly gregarious, and it is a major danger of social media. Deep relationships are developed over time by experiencing life together including going through difficult things together in which trust is built, and the more difficult the circumstances, the deeper the friendship. Having an overwhelming number of acquaintances and casual friends blocks the development of close and intimate friends. There simply is not enough time. Communication becomes dominated by the exchange of factoids – bits and pieces of information that are often random and without significance – which become the substitute for meaningful friendship. Knowledge of one another remains shallow and so does the friendship.
Illusions of Friendship
A related danger in having a plethora of acquaintances and casual friends is the illusion of friendship it can give. Proverbs 18:24 states, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (NASB). Why? Because when trouble comes and you need a friend, they prove to have little or no commitment to you and you are broken for lack of support. Proverbs 19:6–7 is similar in exposing the selfishness of the many that would claim to be a friend but are not so in reality stating, 6 “Many will seek the favor of a generous man, And every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. 7 All the brothers of a poor man hate him; How much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone.” How many people are in your personal address book or the number of facebook “friends” you have may indicate your popularity, but it does not reveal anything about whether you have true friends or not. Those are illusions of friendship.
Then add in the fact that people naturally want to hide the negative and accent the positive to make more favorable impressions on others and the problem gets worse. Getting past the facades that are put up requires either enough trust built up to let the other person in, or enough investigation to get around it, or a combination of the two. It was reported to me that Paul Washer described this problem in his straightforward and blunt style saying, “Some of you are mad about wearing a mask to church, but you’ve been doing it for years.” That is a problem when people can meet in physical proximity, but it is a lot worse in social media where it is easier to control the narrative. It is good to have many acquaintances and casual friends, but they are not people you actually know or who know you. True friends can be developed from out of those groups, but they are not people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy to you yet. Until that happens, they give an illusion of friendship that may or may not be true. Take a stand for something that is righteous and true but is neither popular nor politically correct and see how many of these “friends” back you up and how many attack or “defriend” you.
Now add to this mix those who have selfish or ulterior motives that purposely portray themselves to be something they are not. They act like a friend when you are useful to them, and they may even flatter you, but it is spreading a trap (Proverbs 29:5). Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” They are friendly and supportive when you are an asset to their desires and plans, but when you become a liability, they are quick to turn their backs and may even join in with your enemies. David experienced these things many times. He laments in both Psalm 31 and Psalm 38 about friends, kinsmen, neighbors and acquaintances that turn away from him when He was in trouble. He laments in Psalm 55 that it was his companion and familiar friend who had been his counselor that had turned and become his adversary (See 2 Samuel 15-17). Most of us have experienced similar tragedies. That has happened here several times with people who became leaders under the illusion they were co-laborers, but in the end they proved to be those who loved and served themselves instead of Christ. That happens too often in personal relationships, it is worse in social media. When my son Jonathan was attacked by media trolls who slandered him because of the stands he takes on his blog and podcast, he had several people who he thought were like-minded friends prove to be men of lower integrity as they abandoned him or even supported the attacks. John MacArthur stated at the 2019 Shepherds Conference that he would not attack his friends, but they have not returned the favor. They have demonstrated that they are not men who match the character of Psalm 15 of walking with integrity, working righteousness, speaking truth win his heart, not slandering with his tongue, nor doing evil to his neighbor, nor taking up a reproach against his friend.
This also happens on a very personal level. I have seen it in dating relationships when love is not returned at the same level as desired and someone that said, “I love you,” quickly turns to, “I hate you,” a few minutes later. Honesty would have been, “I love me, so give me what I want, and if you don’t, I will hate you.” It is much worse when this occurs in marriage and the hatred far exceeds any pretense of love that may have once existed. Beware of illusions of friendship.
Avoid Ungodly Influences
The Scriptures give many warnings about people you do not want to have as friends in anything above the casual level. They can consider you to be a friend on a deeper level, but you must be very cautious. You want to be in a position in which you influence them and not in one in which they influence you. Jesus was a friend of sinners, but the influence was only in one direction – Jesus to them.
Psalm 1 gives a general warning and instruction that the blessed man “does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!”2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” The godly neither let the wicked influence them, nor self-identify with sinners, nor repeat the teachings of scoffers. The godly are influenced by the word of God and are blessed for it. The wicked follow the opposite path and are cursed for it.
Many of the warnings in the Scriptures are about people with specific characteristics. In Proverbs 1:8-19 a father warns his son about the enticements of sinners and the dangers they pose. Do not become envious of any short term gain they achieve, for their end will be loss and destruction (Psalm 73; Proverbs 13:21-22; 23:17). Similar warnings and descriptions are given in Proverbs 4:14-19 and 6:12-15 about wicked and evil men. Unless the wicked repent, there is little temporal hope and no eternal hope. Proverbs 5:22-23 summarizes, “22 His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin. 23 He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.”
Proverbs chapters 5, 6 and 7 all give extensive warnings about the immoral woman since this is a father speaking to his son. The same warnings are fitting to tell a daughter about immoral men. Stay away from such people for they bring upon those caught in their webs heartache, broken relationships, financial ruin, diseases and death.
Next, beware of fools. A very appropriate warning as school starts back up. Proverbs 14:7 states, “Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge.” Stay away from those who are dull and obstinate with a proclivity to make wrong choices. If your friendship hinders you from being able to discern wisdom, then you have entered the path of folly and the “companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). Parents, this includes having your children taught by such fools. Be actively engaged in your child’s education. You may find you will have to have them removed from classes or even schools in order for them to learn wisdom instead of foolishness from fools.
Proverbs 22:24-25 and 29:2 warn about association with a hot-tempered man lest you learn his ways. The same is true about gossips – whisperers and slanderers – with the added warning that gossips will also reveal your secrets (Proverbs 20:19).
Finding and Being a Godly Friend
It is not enough to warn about what kind of people to avoid as close and intimate friends. You also need to know the qualities that you should be looking for in a friend. These are the same qualities you should be developing in your own life in order for you to be a good and true friend to others. Again, you can and should have people of low character as acquaintances and casual friends so that you can influence them toward godliness, but they are not to be people who you allow to influence you. Here are some key characteristics of the good and godly friend that you would want as your close and intimate friend and that you would want to be to others.
Godly friendship begins with humility and selflessness. Or to put it another way, godly friendship begins by being more focused on being a friend than having a friend. That was the example of our Lord. Jesus had every attribute of what it means to be a godly friend, and it began with a love that sacrificed itself for the best interest of others. Paul describes this in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Paul continues in verses 5-8 to explain that this is the example Jesus gave to us. Jesus is God, and yet He set aside the glory that is due Him to become a man. That in itself is humble beyond our comprehension, but Jesus went further and took the form of a bond-slave instead of the royalty that was His right. Then He went further and died as the substitute payment for our sin. That is the eternal demonstration of God’s love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). There is no greater love than that. Jesus is the ultimate example of humility and selflessness, and He did it for us while we were still His enemies. There can be no better friend.
With that said, humility then is the first characteristic of a good friend. Humility goes the opposite direction of pride which is a blockage to good friendship. The humble recognize they are but creatures made by God and so seek to submit to and honor their Creator, and they value others because they are also created by God for the purposes of His own glory. This leads to selflessness, generosity and love because there is something more important than personal power, glory and comfort.
Humble people think rightly about themselves as stated in Romans 12:3 because they seek to understand things from God’s perspective. They do not think either too highly or too lowly of themselves because they recognize that all they have and all they do comes from the Lord. Any accomplishment is recognized as God working through them so all praise is directed to Him instead of self. This also enables them to step out in faith to strive to do anything God asks of them for they trust Him and leave the results in His hands.
Humility is the grease that keeps the gears of friendship operating smoothly for it allows for greater mercy and grace toward others. In recognizing their own weaknesses, the humble are able to properly help restore those who have stumbled into sin by helping to bear their burdens (Galatians 6:1-4). The humble are slower to anger and faster to forgive and overlook a transgression (Proverbs 19:11). The proud are the opposite (Proverbs 12:16). And when humility is joined with the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7), there are rewards of riches, honor and life (Proverbs 22:4). Proverbs 11:2 connects humility as a necessary component of wisdom.
Love is another characteristic of a true friend. Certainly friends have fond feelings of affection for one another because they enjoy one another’s company, but I am referring to ajgaphv / agape love which sacrifices itself for the best interest of the other person. It is selfless expressed in Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” That is the love Jesus commanded us to have not only for fellow believers (John 13:34-45), but also for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
Loyalty is another aspect of close and intimate friends. A true friend is not fickle but will instead be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. This kind of loyalty even extends generationally as stated in Proverbs 27:10, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend.”
Confidentiality is related to loyalty and is another character quality of a true friend. Friends are not gossips that reveal the secrets of friends. Proverbs 16:28, “A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.” It is a matter of integrity as already mentioned from Psalm 15. The godly man speaks truth and does not slander, nor does evil, nor takes up a reproach against a friend. If a friend needs to rebuke a friend, it is always done privately first. If it escalates from there, it will only because of sinful stubbornness in need of more people to be involved to overcome it.
The last quality I will mention this morning is honesty. Candor is crucial for true friendship. It is easy to gather friends who will tell you what you want to hear as long as they are getting what they want. That is why a rich man gets surrounded by such shallow friends (Proverbs 19:6-7). Pity the man that has such friends and not true friends that will tell him the truth. Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
We all enjoy pleasant relationships, but that is not to be the goal of our friendships. We are here to help one another become godly people. The relationship becomes more pleasant only as each walks in greater spiritual maturity. The process of producing maturity can be unpleasant. And while we would like the wounds we receive from a friend to be like those of a surgeon operating on us while we are under anesthesia, the reality is that would be the rare exception. Usually there is some bruising and at times the sparks may fly as Proverbs 27:17 explains, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” A godly friend cannot compromise holiness and truth and be an offense to God in order to maintain a relationship with another human. We must always remember that the purpose of life for every Christian is the glory of God. That includes friendships.
There are many relationships you will have throughout your life. Many will be the result of unplanned circumstances of simply being in the same place at the same time. Many others will be the result of planned effort to interact with people with the same interest or even particular people. Some relationships will be forced and endured while others will be sought after and enjoyed.
These relationships will be experienced at many different levels ranging from the nameless masses of people you meet in the course of events of living life, to acquaintances you begin to recognize, to casual friends that develop from being with the same people frequently due to work, school and personal interests, to close friends you purposely develop and share your life with, to intimate or best friends you can share your heart with.
Worldly friendship center around self interest. You become friends with those who like what you like and fulfill some need or desire in your life. The friendship will continue as long as that is happening, but will diminish or end, even abruptly, if that ceases or something else more desired replaces it.
True friendship follows the pattern that Jesus set for us in His own life. It is loving and sacrificial in seeking the best interest of the other person as defined by God, not self interest, and that makes all the difference in the world. The godly seek to develop acquaintances and casual friendships with the unsaved in order to influence them to know Jesus Christ. At the same time, they avoid allowing the ungodly to become their close or intimate friends who would influence them. The godly seek to build close and intimate relationships with the godly in order to grow in Christ and become more mature. That is part of discipleship and body life in the church. It is the purpose of true fellowship among believers.
My challenge to you is to make sure that this is what you are doing in your own life. Avoid the influences of the ungodly while instead building close and intimate friendships with the godly. That may require you to make changes in your friendships or lifestyle such as spending less time on social media and more time building personal friendships with godly people. If so, now is the time to do it instead of later, and you can start by inviting someone you would like to develop a friendship with to join you for a meal or activity today.
Sermon Notes – 8/30/2020
Friends and Friendship – Selected Scriptures
Pros & Cons of Social Media
Redeeming the time – Eph. 5:15-16
Looking for the way of escape – 1 Cor. 10:1-13
Solitude – Luke 5:15-16
Levels of Friendship
Intimate / Best Friends
Dangers of Isolation or Inundation
Illusions of Friendship –
Proverbs 18:24; 19:6-7
Selfish and Ulterior Motives – Proverbs 27:6; 29:5
Flipping from love to hate
Avoid Ungodly Influences
Seek to influence the ungodly without being influenced by them
Beware of Sinners – Proverbs 1:8-19
Beware of the Immoral – Proverbs 5,6 & 7
Beware of Fools – Proverbs 13:20; 14:7
Avoid the Hot-Tempered & Gossips – Proverbs 22:24-25; 29:2; 20:19
Finding and Being a Godly Friend
The Importance of Humility – Phil. 2:3-8
Characteristics of Humility
Love – Proverbs 17:17; John 13:34-45
Confidentiality – Proverbs 16:28;
Honesty – Proverbs 27:6
The Goal of Life & Friendship
Levels of Friendship
KIDS KORNER – Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following:1) Count how many times friend or friendship is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents the qualities that you want in a good friend
THINK ABOUT IT – Questions to consider in understanding the sermon and its application. What are some of the positives and negatives about social media? What principles can you gain from the following passages that would help you overcome the dangers and respond properly to social media: Eph. 5:15-16; 1 Cor. 10:1-13; Luke 5:15-16. Describe what characterizes each of these levels of friendship: acquaintances, casual, close, mentor, intimate / best. What is the danger of living in social isolation from others? What are some of the reasons people isolate themselves from others? What is the danger of being inundated with friends? What are some things that give the illusion of having friends, but not actually having close or intimate friends? What influence should the godly have on the unsaved? What influence should the unsaved have on Christians? What are some of the characteristics that are needed to be a good close or intimate friend? Do your close & intimate friends have those characteristics? If not, you will need to change the nature of those friendships and develop new friends. Evaluate yourself on having these qualities in your own life? What needs to improve? Make a plan for developing those characteristics.
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