Posts Tagged ‘ Friend ’

VerseD: Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17, ESV

We can choose friends, but Christ chose us as His friends, and He has given us a brotherhood of believers to help us through life and into eternity.

Sermon: Growing into Friends of God – John 15:7-17

I preached again!

Once again, I was back in Paulden covering for Brother Paul. We both have been retreading ground. In my last sermon, I preached verses 1-11, and last week Paul did the same (covering things from a slightly different angle.)

This week, I started in verse 7, so only a little retreading.

As usual, these are rough notes, and I added quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the recording had a major error, so there is no video or audio. At least you can read my notes, I guess.

Growing into Friends of God – John 15:7-17

Intro – The Day I “Became a Man”

Our society today rebels against true manhood and womanhood, against all the things God calls good: family, traditional roles, childhood and parenthood.

Frankly, it is all stupid, especially as they wonder why our society is going to hell in a hand basket, even as studies keep coming out showing the importance of fathers and two-parent homes, the rise in depression especially among younger generations and even those who “find their true selves” through gender-swapping and transgenderism, and the yearning for justice that no one can find.

Yet, growing up I wanted to be like my dad.

I remember the day I knew he saw me as a man. It was a summer day in 2002. We were taking our almost annual road trip from Illinois to Upstate New York to see family and friends. I was 18-going-on-19, and I was ready for the regular 12-14 hour day of riding in the back seat, reading, playing some games with my siblings, maybe pretending to nap. (I don’t nap well while traveling.) My dad usually drove, though sometimes he would have my mom drive for a couple of hours to let himself rest a little.

We made our stop near the border of Indiana and Ohio, did the usual rest stop stuff and got some lunch, and then headed back to the car.

Dad stops me a few feet from the car, dangles the keys in front of me, and says, “Ready for your turn?”

It was huge. I knew I was a man that day.

But he also went through a quick list of “remember this and that” for safe driving and such, as well as a reminder that he would be next to me if I got worried or needed to pull over.

In other words, “You’re not a kid anymore. Remember the rules, and remember I am here to help.”

______________

Before we resume John 15, let’s remember what we’ve talked about.

The past two weeks, Pastor Paul and I covered abiding in Christ.

We discussed much about obeying God, showing we love Jesus by obeying His commands.

What are God’s commands?

  1. Love God with everything you are;
  2. Love other people;
  3. Love each other, the Church.

There are different ways of doing this, yes, but there are some specific ways of doing this.

As Pastor Paul reminded us last week, the people of Israel were supposed to be the light to world drawing other people to God. They were God’s vine that consistently did not grow good fruit, so He had to cut them off.

Not just prune the vine. He had to cut them off. First through exile, and then, after Christ’s ministry and resurrection, the destruction of the nation of Israel (until 1948).

He gave a new Vine, Himself, to make a new people, the Church.

In other words, if we want to do truly good works and find eternal life, we must be found in the Vine of Christ. Only in Christ do we find life and fulfillment. Only in Christ, the faithful Son, can we be faithful to obey.

We must be a people who desire Christ more than anything, only finding our fulfillment in Him.

This leads us back to John 15, starting in verse 7.

​Reading

John 15:7–17, ESV

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 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. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Growing Up

Just like my Old Man showed his love by letting me drive, we see here that Christ is showing God’s love for us.

We are being elevated from mere servants of God to friends.

I don’t know if I ever would have asked to drive on a road trip. That was Pop’s job. He did the hard work of driving, even if I really, really wanted to drive.

I don’t think we realize what we fail to ask God for in this life.

Many teachers, preachers, and theologians today like to teach “See! We can ask for whatever we want!” To the point that some famous preachers say they had to ask God for a new luxury car, a bigger house, and a faster private jet. Verses 7 and 16 say so!

Is this what Jesus is saying we should be doing?

“If you abide in me … whatever you ask the Father in my name …”

We should be asking according to Jesus’ will.

Am I saying we should never ask for things or to drive our dad’s car? No. God loves when we talk to Him, even over seemingly trivial things.

However, this passage and others show that we ask according to His will.

The Mega Millions was just at $1.3 Billion (a winning ticket was sold in Chicago). It got me thinking about all of those people who win and suddenly find out about family and friends they weren’t aware of. People who come asking for money and/or gifts.

That’s annoying, having people only come to you when they want something, a free handout.

Or if I had started asking random people if I could drive their car. Also annoying and silly.

But Jesus tells us that He is not inviting anyone to come ask Him and His Father for stuff.

Like my dad, He demands faithfulness to His commands, regular obedience.

He wants us to grow up.

My dad didn’t hand me keys to the car when I was five or even 16 years old (though there was practice driving from the age of 15). He waited until I had faithfully shown him that I could be trusted with a vehicle.

Likewise, Jesus says we are His friends if we obey Him. He has shown us we are friends by revealing what His will is.

He says, v. 16, that He chose us to bear fruit, so we know we can bear the fruit He wants.

He says, v. 8, that His will is to glorify the Father.

He says, v. 17, that His will is to glorify God by loving others.

He says, v. 13, that we are to love sacrificially. Even to the point of giving up our lives.

We get over our selfish desires and seek to glorify God by serving others. We are to grow up and start caring for others.

Back in the Garden of Eden, our super-great grandparents chose personal rewards over obedience, and nothing has changed since.

But now we have the Holy Spirit of God who changes our way of thinking and acting to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, to seek the will of God, to love the same way He has loved us.

Some examples

Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.​
Exodus 33:11, ESV

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”
Isaiah 41:8-9, ESV

Moses and Abraham were murderers and liars, yet they were called friends of God because of their obedience and sacrificial love, both giving up children for God.

And through these men, God called people to Himself, not to be selfish but to seek the will of God.

In chapter 4 of his letter, James, the brother of Jesus, told us as much:​

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:1-10, ESV

So, the message?

Grow up. Be a friend of God, one who seeks His will and glory above your own, who loves God by loving others.

Be humble and realize your dependence on Him, drawing near to abide in His everlasting love.

We live in a world that says we should be seeking our own comfort and glory, but God demands obedience to His will. And He helps us be faithful if we draw near.

My dad didn’t give me the keys to the car because I was the greatest driver in the world.

He gave me the keys of the car because he loved me enough to train me to drive and rewarded my faithfulness to growing. (Even though I still had a ways to go!)

Likewise, Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to go into the world and bring glory to God.

He promised (in the last chapter, 14:18) that He would not leave us as orphaned children, rather that He would help train us up and empower us by His Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to whole world, loving them as He has loved us.

[Hebrews 6:1] “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,” [2 Peter 3:17-18] “beloved, knowing this beforehand, taking care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

VerseD: John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13, ESV

God Himself called us friends and died for us.

May we turn to this lost and fallen world to show them our Friend who loves so much.

Sermon: Going Forward – John 21:15-22

I preached again!

It is an end-of-the-year message, that deals with Christmas, our past, our present, and moving toward the future.

As usual, here are my notes. Remember that I do not necessarily stick strictly to the notes.

Going Forward

John 21:15-22

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

A Christmas Carol

One of my favorite stories of all time (after the Bible) is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.Every year we watch through many iterations, and I make sure to re-read the short story.

It is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man whose business partner has been dead for years, his estranged nephew still tries to invite him over for Christmas, but Christmas and everything about it is “humbug.”

Is it strange that I like a story about a man who talks with charity collectors about the poor going to work in workhouses or in prison? That when prompted with “many would rather die,” ol’ Scrooge replies, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Why do I love this story so?

Because, Scrooge is visited by three spirits – the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet-To-Come – who remind him of his more jolly past, how he has affected people in his present, and the future he faces if he does not change. And they do it all in a single night, before the morning of Christmas.At the end, he pleads with the final spirit: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!”And what about after that? “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.”

But Christmas has passed for us. What is Christmas about?

Jesus!

We know that Jesus came into the world, and we celebrate His first coming at Christmas time.

And how much like Scrooge can we be? How much do we focus on our wants and needs in this life without looking after those around us? Hating others and wanting what they have rather than wanting the best for them?

Where else do we see such pettiness?

Peter

In our passage, we see a man talking with His Lord who is no mere spirit or ghost. This is Jesus who barely a month earlier was crucified for our sins, yet He is alive!

And what does Jesus have to say to Peter?

  • Do you love me?
  • Do you love me?
  • Do you love me?

Why does Jesus ask Peter this three times?

We remember before the crucifixion that it was Peter who denied His Lord three times:

  • I am not His disciple.
  • I don’t know the Man!
  • I don’t know what you’re talking about!

Here is a man who was more concerned for his own well being than actively looking after his friend.

So, since Peter denied Him three times, Jesus asks three times to reinstate him, “Do you love me?”

What is love?

But notice that Peter is hurt by the third asking. Why?

First, Jesus asks, “Simon” – not Peter, for he lost that right by denying the truth he proclaimed earlier – “Simon, son of John, do you agape me …” Does Simon love Jesus enough to sacrifice everything for Him?

Remember that this is the Simon who said in John 13:37 “I will lay down my life for you.” Or in Mark 14:29 “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Both instances we read of Jesus telling him he would deny him and fall away.

And he did. But Jesus’ question finishes, “Do you agape me more than these?”

Is Jesus asking “Do you love me more than your possessions?” Possibly, but I don’t think so.

Is Jesus asking “Do you love me more than you love these other people?” More probable, but I think it goes deeper.

“Do you love me more than these others love me?” This is essentially the claim Simon Peter had made before.

In truth, it is a combination of all three implied meanings, but most importantly, “Do you love me more than anything and anyone so that no one can tear you out of my hand?”

“Then feed my sheep.” Give them the nourishment of the Bread of Life, the Word of God.

But a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you agape me?”

Both of these times, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He knows that Jesus can see into our hearts. Jesus stops comparing Simon to others in the second question, bringing it squarely home.

“Then tend my sheep.” Help the others grow closer to me, defend them from hunger and thirst and false teachings and fear of the world.

Yet Simon has been saying, “Yes, Lord”. He acknowledges that he loves Jesus unconditionally, but he finishes with “you know that I phileo you.” You know that I love you like a friend.

And then the third question. “Simon, son of John …” not agape, not will you sacrifice and obey, but “do you phileo me?”

Why is Simon Peter grieved? The questions go from, “do you love me so much it hurts, that you will do anything for me,” to “Simon, are you my friend?”

Imagine what it sounds like: “Are you sure you’re my friend? Do you really love me as your friend?”

And how does it play out?

“You know everything. You know I love you like a friend.”

“Then YOU follow me. Act like a grown up, because you will have times that you will be treated like a child.” And Jesus alludes to Peter’s death.

And Simon holds on just a moment longer as the child: “But what about him? Why don’t you ask that disciple the same questions? How is he gonna die?”

“I. Said. Follow. Me. Stop worrying about others. Follow me. As I feed and tend to my sheep.”

What about us?

What does it all mean for us.

Firstly, to deal with any possible rumors, yes, A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite stories, even though Scrooge meets his long-dead business partner. Even though the only time we see that sort of thing in the Bible is when a wicked king (Saul) seeks a witch to talk to his dead friend (who rebukes him. It really was a Christmas-Carol-esque story.)

For the sake of the story, I am okay with some wiggle-room of what is okay. Especially if you read a recent sequel, Jacob T. Marley, that shows a “why” the dead business partner returns. And for the Spirits of Christmases, we could easily argue they are ministering spirits, a.k.a. angels.

But like Scrooge, Peter was one who turned from those he loved. Like Peter, we often do our own thing to avoid pain.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to confront his past, all of the hurts, the boasts, the selfishness, and the loss.

  • Maybe 2021 has been a hard year for you.
    Follow Jesus.
    It won’t necessarily make all the pain go away, but Jesus can lead you through and out of the pain.
    Maybe 2021 was great for you.
    Follow Jesus.
    You might lose everything you’ve gained, you might keep it all, but your focus should be on the one who gave up everything to save you.
    Maybe you made mistakes, lied about things, turned on your loved ones. Maybe you’ve denied your Savior.
    Follow Jesus. The only faithful one.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to confront his present.

  • Maybe you’re finishing 2021 holding on to your past.
    Follow Jesus.
    Maybe you’re currently struggling with something.
    Follow Jesus.
    Let Him tend to your needs. Trust others to tend to your needs as they are following Jesus. Tend to others as you follow Jesus.
    Follow Jesus, now. Don’t wait. Follow Jesus. Now.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to face the future and his death.

  • And it is scary.
    Maybe you’re afraid of what 2022 holds. Maybe the finances of this year mean next year will be tough. Maybe you wonder where this church will be meeting next month. Maybe those in power in the government have you worried for one reason or another.
    Follow Jesus.
    Don’t worry about what others are doing. Don’t worry about their walk with Jesus or lack thereof.
    Don’t ignore others or the happenings in this world, but don’t worry.
    Just follow Jesus for yourself. Trust Him. He is the God who saves, the One who holds all things together. It may not be easy in this life, but we know we can trust in the One who is guiding history and has overcome death and the grave.

Go Forward

In Christ.

What does it look like to keep Christmas in your heart all the year, and keep it well, like the renewed Ebenezer Scrooge?

It is seeking the Kingdom of God first.

We realize our need to read and memorize Scripture. We seek to live out the commands to love God and love others, as Christ lives in us by His Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father.

It is seeking the Bread of Life.We realize our need for spiritual nourishment through Bible study and encouraging each other to become more Christ-like.

Taken outside the church just before preaching!

It is bowing before Immanuel – God with us.

We realize The Father sent the Son to cleanse us and restore us, and they sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us until Christ’s return. We acknowledge His authority and power.

And we follow.

We don’t get stuck in the same old rut or in our past mistakes and sins or in our worries and concerns or our own lusts and wants or in our own glory. We go forward toward the future glory that awaits us in Christ Jesus, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

The true Spirit of Christmas is the same Spirit that overshadowed a young woman to bring forth a Savior; a Savior who would die for our sins and rose again; a Savior who is one day returning to make all things new.

And He is with us always until He comes.

Like Scrooge – like Peter – we seek to spread the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control of the Spirit of Christ who indwells us. (Galatians 5:22-23)

All through the year.

So go forward. Follow Jesus.

Prayer

Our gracious heavenly Father, You who has been denied by us through our actions, our words, and our thoughts; You who have been pushed away by our own sinful desires, we praise you and worship you.

You could have left us in our misery. You could have wiped us out, like with the Flood. Instead, You became one of us.

We were stuck wallowing in our past, unable and unwilling to let go of the hurts, the glories of youth, the fame, and the fear.

We were stuck wallowing in our current pains and fears, our own glories and strengths, unwilling to help our neighbors, either because we felt we lacked the ability or because they deserve what they get or because “they should help themselves.”

We were stuck wallowing in our future, afraid of what may come or hoping for what we cannot get for ourselves or think we can get for ourselves.

You could have left us in our misery or removed far more than the surplus population.

But You came to us.

We praise you, because we could not get to You, but You made a way for us. We deserved death, but you offered us life. We have feared the world and death more than we feared You, and we confess it to you now.

Because You see our past, You change us in the present, and You give us a hope for the future, through Your Son – The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Help us to seek You every moment of everyday. Help us to help each other seek You and grow in You everyday. Help us to become more loving and kind – more like Jesus. By the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Help us follow Jesus.

In His Name.

VerseD: Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17, ESV

We fight and divide, but God stepped down to reconcile us and call us friends and adopted brothers in Christ.

VerseD: Ecclesiastes 4:9

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.

Ecclesiastes 4:9, ESV

Man was not meant to be alone. We need a spouse and a friend.

Once saved, Jesus calls us “friend” as we join His Bride – The Church.

VerseD: John 1:29

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29, ESV

John the Baptist recognized Jesus as our sacrifice and Shepherd, our Lord and Friend.
Like John, w should proclaim the Son of God who has redeemed us from our sin, who has come and is coming again!

VerseD: Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:17, ESV

Siblings often cause contention with each other. This is no different in the Church. Yet, Jesus has called us friend, because He is always with us.

VerseD: Ephesians 6:12

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12, ESV

Many people do evil things, but they are not our true enemy. Instead, we draw near to God and ask Him to defeat evil, as He did at Calvary, asking to be our mighty friend amd defender.

VerseD: Proverbs 13:20

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Proverbs 13:20, ESV

Have good, godly friends. They will inspire and encourage you. Seek God, the wisest friend, and ask Him to make you wise.
Or follow our corrupt and fallen world straight to eternal destruction.