Does It Matter Who Our Friends Are?

friends1Introduction: When a person begins to follow Jesus, our Lord God wants his narrow road followers to take responsibility by making major life changes. No longer can you be a selfish individual, following your dreams and living your life, but instead you are required to enlarge your perspective and live in the counterculture of Jesus.

Acts 2 illustrates the immediate change God wants as this historical account reveals how 3000 STRANGERS turned from their sin and followed Jesus. It was not an individual and personal religious experience. It was a total transformation to a community of life involving all of Christ’s followers becoming BEST FRIENDS. It was an immediate alteration of thinking and living.

Their new life was based on four major changes of their lifestyle. “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 (NLT) By immediately making these four commitments to Jesus and His followers, they quickly became best friends together.

First off, these strangers from all over the Roman Empire took a risk and immediately joined the church, the rest of all the local followers of Jesus, and gathered with them to learn from the church leaders the teachings and mind of God. They did not go home for a private Bible study to decide for themselves what they would follow or not follow. They did not start a private family worship time as they preferred it with their children. They did not start a new small group that fit their fancy.

No they submitted to the leadership and humbly listened and learned how to follow the Lord Jesus. The apostles’ doctrine was the teaching of Jesus’ commands. See Matthew 28. They joined the Christian life and became important parts of the ministry. They immediately joined in fellowship with their new community of friends.

This is the second important life change that they fully committed themselves to on the very day they followed Jesus, not months or years later when they got around to it. Fellowship is the real response of love to one another as commanded throughout the New Testament. God expects immediate action on your part to become good friends. Love is not a feeling but a choice of fellowship in action.

And in Acts the new believers did not just join the Christian crowd and learn the teachings and commands of Jesus. They did not just involve themselves in fellowship, they also embraced the community by gathering in the homes of their fellow disciples of Jesus to eat together and celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a church.

They dug deep into the new culture of heaven. And also, they gathered with the large groups and prayed for God to continue His mighty work of salvation so their neighbors and families would come to know the truth. They quickly learned to put their faith upon God to miraculously change others.

But for this talk we need to look closer at the responsibility of fellowship. You must participate in fellowship because this what true Christian friendship is! And this is not an option, but the will of God for your life.

Our fellowship together is defined from the Greek word koinoônia. It means strong partnership, close social union, deep communication, and common sharing. Like a piece of plywood, God wants our local church families to be glued together in such a union that the pulling apart of any one Christian will hurt and scar the group.

Honestly, isn’t this what being best friends is all about?

1/ Christ commands us to become best friends with his disciples immediately when we follow Him

So first let’s look at the words of Jesus. In John 13:34-35 (NLT) “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

  • We are to love each other just like Jesus loves us.
  • We want Jesus to be our BEST FRIEND don’t we?

2/ Jesus commands this because He wants the world to marvel and desire Him also

This is why fellowship is essential and commanded: I want you to see how comprehensive the Bible is in its’ Love One Another Commands. First the Lord clearly demands that we, His followers are to LOVE EACH OTHER. This is not an option or suggestion, but His orders to us. And He explains how far this is to go in our lives.

John 15:12-14 (NLT)

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.

14  You are my friends if you do what I command.

So the foundation of friendship is fellowship which is based on the fact that Jesus commands us, does not ask us to be friends.

“Love one another” [John 13:34,35; 15:12,17] And as we understand that “God is love” [I John 4:8], we then have our standard or measuring rod to give us specific instruction of what this means.

He does not mean to just be nice or friendly. God is the truth of love. If you want to understand love you look at God and how He expresses love and friendship. If you are practicing love you must measure yourself to the absolute truth of love which is God and what He instructs in the Bible. What the Lord God does, says, and illustrates is love. And Jesus makes it clear, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Self sacrificing love is God’s standard.

“Agape” is the Greek term which explains this type of love, which is caring and giving with no strings attached or selfish demands for returned favors. No, only selfless giving. Love is given without trade or need of a return gesture or pat on the back.

This is the foundation of how to measure genuine love. Therefore, His intent is that church people, His true followers that are miraculously born again members of His family, are expressing His love to one another in such an extreme way that it it impacts the world so deeply that they become jealous of what all those Christians have. Deep, everlasting FRIENDSHIP!

And one more thing about this concept. Genuine love is defined as providing for and protecting the people you love [see Ephesians 5:25-32] . Again understand this, it is a measurable and visible action, not something hiding deep inside people’s imaginations. Fellowship is the Biblical opportunity for the expression of God’s love to fellow believers, your BEST FRIENDS.

To be concise, God commands his people to love one another, and then breaks down how to do it with many descriptive “one another” commands. These actions are the actions of BEST FRIENDS!

So let’s start with what is to take place when the church gathers together. For example, Paul instructed the new local church in the city of Corinth, Greece [1 Cor 12-14] that all prophecy [public speaking and preaching the word of God] is for all of them to fellowship together by encouraging, building up, and comforting each other when they gather together on Sunday.

Is this not what best friends do?

The rest of the “one another commands” are actions practiced, mostly without public speaking, but with “agape” attitudes and actions cemented together, and practiced no matter when and where Christian friends are together – and whether all or part of the church family is in one place.

And this is why this is the completely new way of life, or new counter-culture created by God for His followers that sets us apart from the world under Satan’s control. God intends to have a new society on earth, His called out ones, just like He has in heaven. This is the local church!

Today we are scattered in local churches all over the world in the same way our country puts ambassadors in other countries. God established the local church as the embassy of the Lord Jesus, allowing the foreigners and enemies of God to see what they are missing.

So if you understand this teaching of Jesus, then let’s focus on the Lord’s commands for the weekly worship gathering for the rest of this article.

What is your responsibility when you gather with your friends to worship the Lord?

1/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE GIVE A WARM WELCOME TO OUR FELLOW CHRISTIAN

“Greet (embrace, hug) one another” [Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14] Obviously this means to care as much for a Christian as your own family member and show it by the genuine warmth of CLOSE FRIENDSHIP. We easily show our care to our family, but it takes a risk to do this at “church.” You must choose to love your fellow Christ follower the way Jesus loves that same Christian.

And there is no exceptions in God’s command. The person you do not like is the first one you must warmly reach out to and greet. In obedience, you choose to love as Christ tells you to.

If you have a problem with someone, the way it is cured is “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This means you choose them to be your friend, and you choose to do whatever is necessary to sacrifice for them until they know you love them. “The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” [Proverbs 18:24 (AMP)]

2/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE HUMBLY BEND TO THE PASTOR’S LEADERSHIP

“Submit to one another” is voiced in (Ephesians 5:21) and the context clarifies it by telling wives to submit to husbands and children to obey their parents. In other words, God has established family roles and an order of authority delegated in His wisdom and by His divine commands. Humility and servant attitudes are greatly valued by God, not the ungodly. So intentionally subordinate yourself under your authorities by helping and pleasing them.

Here’s what Jesus said, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26  But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” [Luke 22:25-26 (NLT)] So obey your pastor’s leadership and follow and submit to your ministry team leader’s directions.

Jesus taught it this way. “He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, ‘Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.’” [Mark 9:35 (NLT)] Christ is looking for those who are driven to serve, not take control; help a friend, not bully someone.

Peter adds, “In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for ‘God opposes the proud but favors the humble.’” [1 Peter 5:5 (NLT)]

True fellowship involves submission to God’s ordained authorities, and Americans have a a lot of pride, so work hard at this. Also, friendship is to be real between the young and the elders. “I am a friend to anyone who fears you— anyone who obeys your commandments.” [Psalm 119:63 (NLT)]

3/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE LOVE OTHER BELIEVERS ENOUGH TO WARN THEM OF SPIRITUAL DANGER

“Admonish (caution and warn) one another” [Romans 15:14; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16] Just like any member of your immediate family [children, brothers and sisters, etc.] Christ expects you to caution and warn other Christians when you see them doing wrong or erring in judgment.

This is clearly explained, in Hebrews 3:13 (NLT) “You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” This will take real love to risk a backlash or rejection, but this type of fellowship is expanding your love into deep friendship, not with the intent of condemning or taking control over others. Loving care will drive you to say something when you see a Christian friend in real danger.

4/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE LOVE OTHER BELIEVERS ENOUGH TO BE HONEST LIKE CHRIST IS TO US

“Tell the truth to one another” [Colossians 3:9] Be completely truthful to each other and do not try to deceive or hide the facts. Truth mingled with grace and mercy allows transparency in your friendships.

“Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.” [Psalm 15:1-3 (NLT)]

Every word must be given through love, not revenge or fear.

5/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE LOVE OUR FELLOW CHRISTIANS BY ENCOURAGING THEM TO KEEP ON KEEPING ON THROUGH EVERY SITUATION AND NOT GIVE UP

“So encourage each other” [1 Thessalonians 4:18; 10:25] The Holy Spirit indwells all true believers. His presence releases grace, which is the divine influence on the Christian’s heart causing new holy desires to obey and please God.

The same Greek term used of the Holy Spirit is used in this “one another” command, but speaking of the Christian. So this makes it clear that we must come alongside each other to invite, invoke and cause each other to desire God’s will and the hope of heaven. We must be the vessel the Holy Spirit uses to hold up our friends in the faith.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) commands, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” the only way Christians encourage each other is to gather together and serve each other. This is what the church does as it gathers together!

We must motivate all believers to obey and trust Christ through the everyday struggles. We must become like individual coaches and come alongside them and help them achieve victory over sins, problems, etc. We must be the true friend that encourages, again and again, so that our friends know that through it all, we can and will be overcomers!

6/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE LOVE EACH OTHER ENOUGH TO HELP OUR FRIENDS GROW AND MATURE

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” [1 Thessalonians 5:11] Like a house builder we must help construct each others spiritual faith.

We must lean into each others lives, and help build each other up in the faith. We are to confirm the truth of what God teaches and strengthen them, by giving testimony of answered prayer, by affirming the changes God has made in our lives by His grace, and by reminding others of His Word. Yes We are called to build our brothers into spiritual leaders and help them become complete [mature] disciples. Only lifelong friends can do this!

7/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE ADMIT OUR FAULTS OPENLY FOR THE HELP WE NEED FROM OUR FRIENDS

“Confess to one another” (James 5:16) This takes guts! you are to openly acknowledge your weaknesses and sins to other believers for the sake of needed support and prayer. If you really love Jesus and want to please Him you need help. Pride hides sin and suffers, but humility dares to ask for help and gains spiritual strength and freedom.

Overwhelming problems demand the hands of many friends.

8/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE SPEND REAL TIME TOGETHER PRAYING FOR OUR SPIRITUAL FAMILY

“Pray for one another” [James 5:16] We tend to pray for others with great needs or crisis situations like tragic disease or accidents. But the Word tells us the main focus of our prays are to be very specific.

“Epaphras … always prays for you that you will grow to be spiritually mature.” [Colossians 4:12a NCV] “May you be able to feel and understand … how long, how wide, how deep, and how high [God’s] love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves” [Ephesians 3:19a TLB]. “I pray… that you will always be eager to do right” [Hebrews 13:21 CEV].

“I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace while you trust in him” [Romans 15:13a NCV]. “I pray that the glorious Father … would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation” [Ephesians 1:17a GW].

Only by crying out to God for deliverance and grace can anyone be set free from their bondage and spiritual blindness. Read the group prayers of the church in the book of Acts. Learn what to pray for and join others in seeking the Lord through group prayer meetings with best friends.

9/ FRIENDSHIP MEANS WE SERVE AND HELP OTHERS BY USING OUR GRACE GIFT TO HELP THEM EVERYDAY

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” [1 Peter 4:10] Discover your grace gift [Romans 12], and put yourself to work serving your fellow believers in the church. For example, if you are a servant, clean the church building without being asked and not grumbling that others do not help. Agape love never needs recognition.

Set the rest of your fellow saints free to serve you and the Lord with their special abilities, by serving them first, because their gifts are different than yours. Don’t make them feel sorry for you! And do you know what? This actually means to become deacon-like [slave-like] with your gift and do all the menial tasks that are attached with your gift to show endless love to your church family while you glorify God by laying down your life for them.

10/ FRIENDSHIP IS MAKING A JOYFUL NOISE TOGETHER SINGING TO GLORIFY GOD WHICH ACTUALLY HELPS YOUR CHRISTIAN FRIENDS

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” [Ephesians 5:19] As we worship the Lord God together in music, we do not just worship God, we also strengthen and teach one another as we sing together. Your passionate worship builds up others. Music is a great way to memorize scripture and Biblical concepts. Corporate worship electrifies the soul of every believer.

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For now remember… FELLOWSHIP is living life together as a church full of BEST FRIENDS united in a strong partnership, close social union, deep communication, and common sharing.

It only works when it is driven by God’s love deep inside you, no political or antichrist social order forced upon men will ever duplicate this powerful life. So when you personally take these commands seriously, obey them joyfully, and freely give yourself to your local church you will begin to really experience the Kingdom of God here on earth!

Also remember what Jesus expects of you. “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Don’t miss part 2 and as always… For more answers go straight to the Book, the Bible. Thank you for reading the StraightTalk BLOG for Narrow Road Followers of Jesus.

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