(If you would like to download the PowerPoint presentation for this sermon, Click here)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
March 25, 2012
Proverbs on Friendship, Part 2
I have received quite a few positive comments about the sermon last week. I am thankful the Lord has been able to use it in the lives of others and pray that it will continue to do so through the posting of the notes and audio file on the church website. That response has confirmed what I suspected about the importance of friendships. There are many things we experience in life on this earth, but there are none more important than our friends, the most important being the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows will involve our friends. All of us have been places or done things which were absolutely wonderful, yet because we did not have a friend with us at the time to share it, the joy was not as great. We multiply our joy by being able to share it with friends either by having them with us to also experience it or by being able to tell them about it later. (Though, be careful about showing your vacation photos – the mark of true friendship is editing your slide show so that your friends are still awake and interested at the end, and the mark of being a true friend is still being awake and interested at the end of your friends slide show). It is also true that sorrows are diminished by being able to share them with a friend who will help you bear them.
Review (See: Proverbs on Friendship, Part 1)
Let me first quickly review my major points from last week as background to examining some cautions concerning friendship and the qualities that mark a good friend. The qualities that you want to develop within yourself so that you can be a good friend are the same qualities that you will want to look for in finding a good friend. However, there are also some character qualities that will mark those you will either want to avoid or at least be extremely cautious about.
Levels of Friendship. First, remember that there are various levels of friendship and that individuals can move up and down those levels over time. Remember also that every person is limited to various degrees in the number and depth of friendships due to physical, mental and emotional factors. Some people are able to handle more friendships than others.
The multitudes are those people you do not know but you encounter in the course of life. You may meet hundreds to thousands of people at this level in a year. Acquaintances are people you know a few things about such as perhaps their name and some general information. Gregarious people with good memories can have thousands of acquaintances, but most of us limit out in the 300-500 range because we have a hard time recalling even names beyond that.
We know more personal information about casual friends including things such as general strengths and weaknesses, hopes and desires. An increased level of trust allows you to talk about some personal issues with them. Most people can handle 20-100+ active casual friends depending on their breadth of social contacts and gregariousness.
Close friends are people about which you know specific personal information and have a mutual trust that allows more vulnerability. Close friends have regular communication and will help one another achieve goals and desires and overcome weaknesses. Types of close friendships include associates from various groups such as church, work, hobby clubs and such. There are personal friends which you have maintained over the years by mutual choice. There are also mentor relationships between a teacher and a disciple. 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 quality friendships developed over months and years which have been tested and proven true. You can safely pour out your soul to them and be accepted, yet they will also lovingly rebuke as needed. They will sacrifice for you and you can trust them to be there for you when needed. Most people have a capacity of 1 – 6 intimate friends with the average being four.
Isolation. Proverbs 18:1 exposes the problem and wrong motivation that makes most cases of isolation foolish. “He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” Those who have few or no close or intimate friends place themselves in a very dangerous position contrary to all sound wisdom. Whether the reason is hurt from the past, fear pain in the future, expedience or pride, those who isolate themselves are acting from selfishness. Suffering, hurt and pain are real, but they are to be expected for we live among sinners in a cursed world. Even other Christians are saved sinners who will hurt us at some point and not glorified saints who will only bless us. Isolation is a strategy motivated by fear which removes you from much of the means by which God comforts us, corrects us and changes us into mature adults.
At the heart of expediency is the claim that your way is better than God’s way. It may seem wise to you, but if it is contrary to the principles and precepts of God’s word, then it is foolish. Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Remember, also Proverbs 16:9 states, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” God is in charge, not you.
Pride causes all sorts of problems including intentional and unintentional isolation. Proverbs 11:2 warns, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.” The proud separate themselves from that wisdom and will suffer for it.
God wants us to have close and intimate friends in our lives because that is His design for the church. God uses you to minister to others and uses others to minister to you. Even evangelism demands we go out and proclaim the gospel to the multitudes, explain it to our acquaintances and casual friends, and maintain its witness to our close and intimate friends. Isolation, whether physical or just emotional, blocks the blessings in all directions.
Inundation – Proverbs 18:24 . This is having what is seemingly an opposite problem, yet results in the same problem as isolation. Proverbs 18:24 warns, “A man of [many] friends [comes] to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (NASB). As I warned last week, this problem has increased in the facebook generation. While it may seem counterintuitive, the development of internet social networking and multitudes of ways of instant communication over long distances has resulted in a generation that is more lonely than previous generations. The main reason is that the number of acquaintances and casual friends increases to the point that it overwhelms the ability to properly develop close and intimate friends. This results in the same problems as isolation while claiming to have an abundance of friends.
You should neither isolate yourself nor inundate yourself with friends.
Seek to develop true friends whom you can trust and will help you walk with God. And especially develop your friendship with the only true friend that is closer than a brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But now we come to the question of how to know with whom we should develop such close and intimate friendships? Some potential friendships are dangerous and we should flee from them or at least be very cautious. What are some of those danger signs? Other potential friends will be great blessings. What are some of the characteristics that would indicate that a person might be such a friend?
Blessed or Cursed?
Proverbs gives many warnings about people who have certain characteristics that pose a danger. Some are so dangerous that we need to flee from them, but most we just need to be very cautious that we are influencing them and not them influencing us. Psalm 1 gives a good explanation of this. (See: The Blessed Man)
“How blessed is the man who 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. 3 And he will be like a tree [firmly] planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.
There is quite a contrast in this Psalm between the blessed man and the wicked man in both what influences them, what happens to them in this life, and what will happen to them in eternity. Yet the Psalm does not begin as we might think by talking about the positive impact of those who are godly on the blessed man. Instead, the Psalmist states it from the negative. You are blessed if you avoid the ungodly influences. This not only gives reference to the curse upon those who are influenced by the wicked, sinners and scoffers, but it also makes clear another very important point. It is not enough to just have godly influence. You must avoid the influence of the ungodly.
Verse one shows a progression of influence. It began with listening to and then following the counsel of the wicked. It is hard to avoid such counsel in this society because it is proclaimed in the media, by those at work or school and within nearly all social groups. Wicked people abound though often they are disguised by holding respectable positions – employer, manager, teacher, government official, leaders in society and even church leaders. We also hear such counsel from acquaintances and casual friends. If we are faithful in knowing and following the word of God, we will resist such counsel for the two are mutually exclusive. Friendships with the wicked will remain at a distance. However, if you do walk in their counsel, not only will you pay less attention to what God says, but you will also deepen your relationship with the wicked until you “stand in the path of sinners.” They become your close and intimate friends who encourage you even more in the ways of wickedness. Eventually, you “sit in the seat of scoffers.” You become one of them and teach others the wicked counsel you learned from them. Do not let the wicked be your close and best friends or you will be influenced by them to become scoffers.
Influencing, not Influenced
Now with this in mind we need to consider how Jesus was able to be a “friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Matthew 9:10,11; 11:19) without them being friends who influenced him.
While most friendships will tend to be mutual and exist at the same level, everyone will also have friendships that will be somewhat lopsided with one considering it to be at a higher level than the other. For example, someone may trust you and consider you to be one of their best friends so that they pour out their soul to you. At the same time, you recognize their spiritual immaturity so that you are more cautious. You may talk to them about what you think and feel concerning many things, but you will not bare your soul to them. You consider them to be a close friend but not an intimate friend.
This kind of lopsided friendship would be expected in a mentor relationship. The disciple is gaining a lot from the teacher and can quickly consider the teacher to be a closer friend than the teacher considers the student. That is how Jesus could be a friend to sinners and influence them. It is also how we can be a friend to the wicked without walking in their counsel. Those will be lopsided relationships in which you give much more than you receive. As Christians, we should expect to give a lot more than we receive in friendships anyway for that is the nature of God’s love being extended through us. We are to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love and give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10). We are to even love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), so giving in a lopsided friendship should not be a problem for us at all.
Let me take a bit of a rabbit trail on this point of unequal friendships. Some friendships may never become equal for various reasons. Some friendships will quickly adjust to the same level out of mutual desire. Others can develop to the same level though it could take considerable time. Such would be the case for a disciple as he matures and becomes a peer with his mentor. It is actually fairly normal for friendships to develop somewhat unevenly for unless one of the friends takes the risk to be more open and vulnerable, you can’t deepen the level of intimacy and friendship. That is part of the relationship dance between single men and women interested in finding a potential spouse.
There is a risk of getting hurt when you find out the person you are interested in having a deeper friendship with does not share the same desire. A humble person will still be thankful for the friendship that is there and maintain it. They will also grow in maturity because of it. There may or may not be a hope of the friendship deepening in the future, but what is already present is valuable enough.
A proud person will nurse their hurt and end up turning away from the friendship and may even disparage it. If this was a potential romance, then for the proud, there can be a fine line between their supposed love and hate. Such a response only demonstrates their poor character, lack of true love and good reason for not letting a closer friendship develop. If you have a friend turn on you, be sure to continue to walk in godliness and not follow their example. While you suffer the hurt and may mourn the loss, be thankful you found out the truth before they became an ungodly influence upon you.
King Solomon’s life is an example of the negative influence of ungodly friends. Deuteronomy 17 specifically warned future Jewish kings, “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away. . .”. Solomon did not heed that advice. 1 Kings 11:1-8 recounts his turning away from God for he “loved many foreign women” including those from nations God had prohibited them to associate with much less take wives from them. Verse 4 then says, “when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart way after other gods. . .” with verse 6 adding, “and Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
The point here is simple. You need to be careful about whom you allow to be your close and intimate friends because they will influence your life, and none will be more important than who becomes your spouse. As one person stated it succinctly, “you will become like those whom you like.” Proverbs gives strong warning to keep your distance from people who have one or more of several specific characteristics. We will start with the most obvious.
Sinners – Proverbs 1:8-19
This passage is a plea and a warning from a father to his son. 8 “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; 9 Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, And ornaments about your neck. 10 My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood, Let us ambush the innocent without cause; 12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, Even whole, as those who go down to the pit; 13 We shall find all [kinds] of precious wealth, We shall fill our houses with spoil; 14 Throw in your lot with us, We shall all have one purse, ” 15 My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, 16 For their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed blood. 17 Indeed, it is useless to spread the net In the eyes of any bird; 18 But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives.”
We should always be cautious about our relationship with sinners for they will entice us to join them in their sin (vs. 10) and we must stand firm against such influence. However, there are particular types of sinners from whom we should flee. Solomon specifically points out those sinners whose feet run to evil and hasten to shed innocent blood (vs. 11, 16) which Proverbs 6:16-19 states are two of the things which God hates and are an abomination to Him. We are to keep our feet from their path and not walk in their way (vs. 15). In the short term they may gain things and live a life of luxury and ease as Asaph observed in Psalm 73. However, Proverbs 23:17 warns us to not let our heart envy them, for as Proverbs 13:21-22 states, “adversity pursues sinners” and the “wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” We do not want to suffer the consequences of sin as will surely befall them in God’s judgment. We are to reach out to proclaim the gospel to such people in hope they will repent, but we must exclude them from being friends who influence us.
The Wicked and the Evil – Proverbs 4:14-19
We also exclude the wicked and those who are evil from being close or intimate friends. There are many Proverbs that speak about the wicked including Proverbs 6:16-19 which includes them in the things the Lord hates and which are an abomination to Him. Wickedness and acts of evil go together and Proverbs 4:14-19 warns us to turn away from those who are marked by such a character. “Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not proceed in the way of evil men. 15 Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on. 16 For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make [someone] stumble. 17 For they eat the bread of wickedness, And drink the wine of violence. 18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. 19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.”
Proverbs 6:12-15 gives a further description of the wicked person along with a warning of what will come upon him. “A worthless person, a wicked man, Is the one who walks with a false mouth, 13 Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, Who points with his fingers; 14 Who [with] perversity in his heart devises evil continually, Who spreads strife. 15 Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; Instantly he will be broken, and there will be no healing.”
The wicked and the evil are further described in Proverbs 12:10, 12; 13:5; 16:17; 17:23; 18:3; 21:10 and 29:7 as cruel, covetous, disgusting, shameful, worthless, unjust, contemptuous, desirous of evil and without compassion. Stay away from such people! The mouths of the wicked are described in Proverbs 8:7; 10:11, 32; 11:11; 12:5,6; 15:28; and 19:28 as concealing violence, bringing forth perversion, deceitful, tearing down the city and pouring out evil. “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips. . .” – Proverbs 12:13. Don’t listen to such people!
Unless the wicked person repents, he has little temporal hope and no eternal hope. Proverbs 5:22-23 warns, “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.” According to Proverbs 10:16; 11:21; 12:21; 13:17, 25; 14:11 and 24:16, the income of the wicked is punishment and they will be filled with trouble, fall into adversity, have their house destroyed, and stumble in calamity. No wonder that “when the wicked rise, men hide themselves,” and “when a wicked man rules, the people groan” – Proverbs 28:12 and 29:2.
The end of the wicked will also be terrible for Proverbs 3:33 states, “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked” and Proverbs 12:2 adds that the Lord will “condemn a man who devises evil.” Proverbs 10:27 says their years will be shortened and Proverbs 24:20 declares their lamp will go out. Even the name of the wicked will rot – Proverbs 10:17.
The Immoral Woman – Proverbs 5, 6, 7
Proverbs also gives additional strong warning to keep away from a particular type of evil person, the immoral woman. I will focus one entire sermon on this danger in the future, so I will only cite the warnings themselves here this morning. Proverbs 5:8 – “Keep your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house.” Proverbs 6:23-25 – “For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life, 24 To keep you from the evil woman, From the smooth tongue of the adulteress. 25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, Nor let her catch you with her eyelids.” Proverbs 7:4-5 – “Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” And call understanding [your] intimate friend; 5 That they may keep you from an adulteress, From the foreigner who flatters with her words.” We live in a society that now flaunts and advocates sexual immorality while being blind to the destruction it is causing to society, the family, children and the individuals themselves. Proverbs 7:25-27 warns, “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths. 26 For many are the victims she has cast down, And numerous are all her slain. 27 Her house is the way to Sheol, Descending to the chambers of death.”
The fool – Proverbs 14:7
Proverbs 14:7 states, “Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge.” The consequences of having a fool as a friend are not as immediate as having the sinners, the wicked and the evil as friends, but it could easily end up there. The particular type of fool here is kesil (kes-eel’) which is the quality of being dull and obstinate with a proclivity to make wrong choices for they do not like knowledge that goes against what they want to do. Their bent is toward sin and so they mock at it and doing wickedness is like a sport to them (Proverbs 10:23 & 14:9). 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.
Hot tempered man – Proverbs 22:24-25
Proverbs 22:24-25 proclaims a similar warning about those given to outbursts of anger. “Do not associate with a man [given] to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, 25 Lest you learn his ways, And find a snare for yourself.” Those who are characterized by such behavior are proud and lack self-control. They do not get want they want so they explode in rage. Such a quick temper exalts folly (Proverbs 14:29). There is actually a double danger in being friends with such a man. First, you will be the recipient of their wrath at some point and embroiled in their troubles. Proverbs 29:2 – “An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.” Second, you may learn his ways and become ensnared in fol
ly yourself. This is really just the same principle that you will become like those that influence you, so you need to be careful about who are your close and intimate friends.
Gossip – Proverbs 20:19
The gossip and slanderer are the last in this list of people to avoid. Here are several Proverbs dealing with this issue starting with Proverbs 20:19 which specifically warns us to stay away from them – “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.” There are multiple dangers posed by the gossip, the whisperer who says things behind people’s backs. First, we may believe their lies and innuendo – Proverbs 26:20, “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” This causes harm in our relationships with others – Proverbs 16:28, “A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.” They are a constant source of strife – Proverbs 26:20, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” And keep in mind that those that reveal the secrets of others cannot be trusted to keep your confidence – Proverbs 11:13, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”
We need to be very careful about our friendships in general, but there are certain kinds of people you must exclude from being in any kind of position to influence you towards their sin and foolishness. Sinners whose feet run to evil and who hasten to shed innocent blood, the wicked and the evil, the immoral woman, fools, those who are hot-tempered and gossips – do not have them as your close or intimate friends or you are in grave danger of suffering your own ruin. We desire to reach out to even these kinds of people with the gospel, so you may have an acquaintance of even a casual friendship with them, but do not allow them into a position in which they will influence you. Reserve your close and intimate friendships to those that have a character that will help you become more like Christ and love Him more.
We will continue on this topic of friendship at a latter date to examine the qualities that mark a good friend.
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) Write down the scripture references and look them up later 2) Count how many times “friend”is said. 3) Discuss with your parents the kinds of people you need to avoid having as friends.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What are some of the benefits of having good friends? What are the various levels of friendship? Why is isolation – not having intimate friends – wrong and what are its dangers? What are some of its major causes and how are they overcome? When does having too many friends become a danger? Why is it necessary for the blessed man to avoid the counsel of the wicked (Psalm 1)? What is the progression of negative influence in Psalm 1:1? Explain. How can we influence others without being influenced by them? What is a “lopsided” friendship? How can it beneficial? What is the difference in the response of a humble, godly person and a proud person to someone who is not as interested in the friendship as they are? How does King Solomon’s life demonstrate the power of ungodly influence? Explain the dangers of close friendship with each of the following: Sinners, the wicked & the evil, immoral women, fools, hot-tempered people and gossips?
Sermon Notes – 3/25/2012
Proverbs on Friendship, Part 2
Introduction & Review
We multiply our ___________ and divide our sorrows by sharing them with friends
Levels of Friendship
There are different _____________ of friendship in which people can move up or down
Some people can handle more friendships at various levels, but everyone has _________________
The _________________ are those you encounter in the course of life
Acquaintances are those you know a ___________ about
Casual friends are those you know _________information about and can talk about some personal issues
Close friends are those you _____enough to help you achieve goal and desires and overcome weaknesses
Intimate (best) friends are those you trust enough to share your ___________ thoughts & emotions
Isolation – Proverbs 18:1
Those with few or no intimate friends are in a _____________position living contrary to sound wisdom
__________ is to be expected living in a cursed world – we must follow God’s plan for dealing with it
Your plans seem wise to you (Proverbs 12:15), and we should plan, but let ______direct the steps (16:9)
____________ causes all sorts of problems including separation from God’s sources of wisdom
Godly friendships are God’s ____________ for His people to help one another spiritually mature
Inundation – Proverbs 18:24
Too __________acquaintances and casual friends hinder you from developing close and intimate friends
Seek to develop true friends you can ___________ and that will help you walk with Christ.
Blessed or Cursed? – Psalm 1
Blessing requires ______________ ungodly influence, not just having godly influence
Ungodly progression walk in ________of ungodly stand in way of sinners sit in seat of scoffers
Influencing, not Influenced
Jesus was a “friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” yet not _________________ by them
A ____________friendship – they consider you a closer friend than you consider them – you give, not get
Lopsided relationships are common and _________________ for various reasons
A humble person remains a true ______________ even if desire to deepen a friendship is not mutual
A proud person nurses hurt and _________ & may even disparage an unreturned advance of friendship
Sinners – Proverbs 1:8-19
Sinners whose feet run to evil and hasten to shed innocent blood are ____by and an abomination to God
_________________ pursues sinners and their wealth is stored up for the righteous (Prov. 23:21-17)
The Wicked and the Evil – Proverbs 4:14-19
People marked by this character are also hated by and an ___________________ to God (Prov. 6:16-19)
Proverbs 6:12-15 gives further description of the wicked person along with a ___________of their future
The ___________are further described in Proverbs 12:10,
12; 13:5; 16:17; 17:23; 18:3; 21:10 and 29:7
Their___________ are described in Proverbs 8:7; 10:11, 32; 11:11; 12:5,6; 15:28; and 19:28
Without _________the wicked have little temporal hope – Prov. 5:22-23; 10:16; 11:21; 12:21; 13:17, etc
The _________of the Lord is upon them and they will be condemned – Prov. 3:33; 12:2; 10:17,27: 24:20
The Immoral Woman – Proverbs 5, 6 & 7
Keep your way _______________ her and do not desire her – Proverbs 5:8; 6:23-25, 7:4-5
Her way leads to destruction and _____________ – Proverbs 7:25-27
The Fool – Proverbs 14:7
This is the person who is dull and obstinate with a proclivity to make ______choices (Prov. 10:23; 14:9)
If a friendship hinders discernment of _________, you are on the path of folly & will suffer – Prov. 13:20
Hot tempered man – Proverbs 22:24-25
Such a quick temper exalts _____________ – Proverbs 14:29
You will be the recipient of their folly and become embroiled in their ______________ – Prov. 29:2
You may learn his ways and be _______________ in folly yourself
Gossips – Proverbs 20:19
Believing their lies and innuendo can cause ______________ of intimate friends – Prov. 26:20, 16:28
They are a constant source of ______________ and cannot be trusted – Prov. 26:20; 11:13
We desire to reach even kinds of people with the gospel, but we must not let them _______________ us
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