Choosing Friends

March 23, 2013

It could be said that we live in an age of strangers. Very few folks meet at the fence anymore for a friendly chat and most folks do not even know the names of their neighbors. With varying work schedules and so many things we need to do and want to do, there is very little time for family let alone friends or neighbors. Yet, we all want friends. There are very few true hermits. Those who claim they want to be alone like Greta Garbo are just people who have been terribly hurt and afraid to take any more risks. Inside, they are dying for an intimate friend whom they can trust to love them as they are. I am extremely blessed to have a few folks like that. I have known Pete Mink for a quarter of a century and he is the brother that I never had. Some I have known five years or less. Recently, I was able to renew some friendships with folks that I have not seen for twenty-one years. Amazingly, they still seemed to like me and offered to pray me back into that area and want to keep in touch. And they say that God cannot work miracles.
We have many acquaintances at work and church that we would call friends. However, they are really just acquaintances that you enjoy their presence for a few hours, but you never see them anywhere except work or church. There is no deep commitment to them, but then there is very little deep commitment to anyone or anything in this society.
I can remember being a member of a church for four years and the last two of those years I was a deacon and teacher. Still, I had no one that I felt I could call as a friend to share the struggles I was facing. Indeed, I lost the battle of those struggles and while I am accountable for my backsliding and failure, it might have been different if I could have had a friend locally that I could have poured my heart out to without fear. I needed help, not rejection and judgment. Of all things, I needed confidentiality and not a public broadcaster. I knew no one that could give me that kind of help.

Prov 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. KJV

Many folks are shy or expect someone to approach them first to be a friend. That is not what the Scripture teaches. You have to take the first step. Just think, if everyone would be obedient to this passage we would all be reaching out to someone all the time and no one who really wants a friend would be without at least one.
Will Rogers never met a man he did not like and I have been told that I have never met a stranger. I can have a conversation with someone in a plane or bus station and someone listening in might think that we were old friends on a trip together though I have only met the person a few minutes ago. It drives my relatively shy, private wife crazy and she asks me how can I do that. I simply reply, “How come you cain’t?” People just seem comfortable with me and will tell me their life story. Most times, that is a real blessing because I get to minister to them or learn something. Sometimes, I feel like quoting Lewis Grizzard and saying, “I don’t believe I would have told that.”
Yet, even with my personality and ability to communicate with folks from all cultures, classes, etc., I have had times like I mentioned when I have had no real friends. I just seemed to be around folks that had all the friends that they needed or believe it or not jist didn’t like me. Some may have liked me, but not enough to hang out with me because we had no common interests. I am not a sports person, so a guy who wants to talk about sports all the time would find me a drag. Some folks don’t like hanging around a preacher cuz they is afraid they might hit his preachin’ button and they will get a sermon on Tuesday and everyone knows you can only get them on Sundays and Wednesdays. I guess that is the only time they are in season or something.

Preachers can talk about other things. In fact, I have some other buttons that you can push and get lively conversation. C];-)}|>
Sometimes, it is good to do without friends. There was fella back in the 19th century by the name of Lorenzo Dow, whom folks called Crazy Lorenzo Dow. With a nickname like that, he and I would have been close friends. It seems that when Brother Dow was only four or five, he asked a playmate if he said his prayers every day. The playmate, obviously a good Baptist, said “No.” Young Lorenzo stood up and said, “Then you are very, very wicked and I shall not play with you.” Now some of ya are sayin’, “The child was demented” or “That’s a bit much isn’t it?” I reckon not.
Lorenzo grew up to be a mighty fiery preacher. Once when all but one family in a town abused him and threw him out of town, a flood came and the only house that was spared was the house of the family that treated him well. I don’t know if God sent the flood as a judgment on the town or God just spared that house during a routine flooding of the area. Either way, I suspect the folks in the town did some rethinking of their position on the Gospel, that family and Crazy Lorenzo Dow. They found out that it was them and not Lorenzo that was all wet.
Lorenzo had the right idea as a child. He knew that no matter how much you want friends you must choose your friends carefully because they will affect you. Some will affect you for evil.

1 Cor. 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. KJV

Be not deceived could also be translated as do not roam or wander from the truth. That is what deceivers do. They use their charm and wit to lure you into thinking something evil is good. They learn their skill from satan who is the first deceiver. Paul is warning the Corinthians that they are being deceived or tempted to wander from the truth by some folks that seem skilled in the Word and holy in their actions to reject the resurrection of the dead. They seem to be the kind of friends and teachers that you need, but they have no character, which is what the word evil means here. Their evil communications or companionship, literally their homilies will corrupt or destroy the Corinthians’ good manners or moral habits.
These friends and teachers had so influenced the Corinthians that they had ignored soul winning and discipleship. Paul said that “some have not the knowledge of God” and this was a shame to them. (Vs. 34) They needed to wake up and get out of these bad friendships. 2 Cor. 6:14 says that there is no communion or fellowship between light and dark. Therefore if our friends do not lead us into the light then they are darkness and we are to have no fellowship with them. We need to carefully choose our friends so that they will affect us for good.

Prov 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. KJV

I think of a blacksmith or sword maker when I see this passage. You take a piece of iron and bang it with an iron hammer as it lies on an iron anvil and you can sharpen it into a sickle or sword. Now the iron you are beating must be hot. If the believer is filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, and he allows God to hammer him and if he has a mature Christian friend that he can lean on as God is molding him he will become sharp. Then he will be able to be used to slice through the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil
At times, the Holy Spirit will be used as water to cool off the hot believer to temper him. We have too many hotheaded Christians, especially preachers, running around burning people. They need to let the Spirit cool them off and go through the tempering period before they break from their own brittleness of pride, anger, and bitterness.
A good, strong Christian friend will sharpen you. He will look for ways to make you stronger. The word countenance refers to the face. Face is often used to represent character or reputation. The Japanese do everything they can to save face. We say that we must face up to our fears or sins. A godly friend with strong character will encourage you. He will help you to maintain a good reputation. He will help you to save face. His reputation will improve yours for you are known by the company you keep.
Do your friends sharpen or dull you? Do you sharpen or dull them? The word sharpen can also mean to make fierce. Does the devil and his minions see you and your friends as fierce warriors of truth or does he see you as dull brittle swords that can be easily broken? Maybe you need to take the advice of the old commercial that said, “Look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp!” Go to God. Ask Him to fire you up and temper you as He strikes away your spiritual dullness and fleshly impurities.

1 Cor 10:21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. KJV

You must choose your friends carefully because they show your allegiance and you want to be wholly for God! In the context of the passage, Paul was speaking to the issue of whether meat sacrificed to idols should be bought by believers or not. His conclusion was that if it is sold in the market, do not worry about it because the offering process could not taint the meat.

However, he did tell them that the Gentiles were sacrificing to devils and they should have no fellowship, communion, or partnership with devils. Too many times, we compromise ourselves in the name of friendship by having one foot in the world and one in the church. Your lost “friends” see your compromises as hypocrisy or insincerity in your faith. Only complete dedication to God will win them. Your saved friends will also wonder at your duplicity and it may even cause the faith of some to falter as they see you party with the Gentiles and then come to the Lord’s Supper. “Choose ye this day…” which cup you will drink of and with who you will be in partnership.

1 Cor 5:9-13
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore, put away from among yourselves that wicked person. KJV

You are not to keep company or mingle with fornicators and other groups of people that are not living righteous lives. Now, you cannot escape mingling somewhat with unrighteous people. As Paul says, you would have to go out of the world. However, if they are called a brother or a Christian and actively living in these lifestyles then you kick them out of the church and do not fellowship with them. The Amish call this shunning. The motive is to make them rethink their life and repent so that they can be restored.

Rom 16:17-18
17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the
doctrine, which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly and by good words
and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. KJV

Sinful living is not the only thing that should cause us to separate from “friends” that are not wholly for God or righteousness. We are to separate from the troublemakers. These are the ones that like to get folks all riled up for nothing. They look for ways to trip you up and then rebuke you when you fall. They like to fuss about everything and everyone. They talk a good fight and to those who are not mature enough to have discernment, they look like they might even be right. They gain a following and do more to create disunity rather than the unity that sound doctrine teaches.
There are times when grievances are valid. We should always stand for the truth and when necessary divide over doctrinal issues. Luther said, “Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.” However, the ones Paul speaks of here are just whiners. They seek attention and control with their whining and they do not even have the courtesy to serve cheese with their whine. If they requested one egg sunny side up, and one scrambled and you served them on a silver platter they would whine that you scrambled the wrong egg.
These folks are not serving Christ. Their own appetities or bellies control them. Their goals and motives are their own and not God’s. Paul says to absolutely shun them. Run do not walk away from them. Pray for them, but don’t hang with them. Be there to welcome them back if they repent and God removes the bitterness and pride from them. Don’t go out with them, but do not go out of your way to rebuke them at every opportunity either. Even negative attention feeds their flesh. Starve them and they may grow to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Then God can fill them and make them the friend they should be.

Lev 5:1 And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity. KJV

Prov 29:24 Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not. KJV

You must choose your friends carefully because they will either bring judgement or blessing. In many cases, it is an either you or them situation. If you hear cursing and do not denounce/report/bewrayeth it, you are as guilty as the one cursing. Keeping quiet about it is like condoning or agreeing with it. Proverbs puts it in the same breath as a being a partner with a thief. Both situations require silence and imply agreement with the act.
The cursing here is actually what we call blasphemy and not what we commonly consider cussin’. Street language is unwholesome speech and we should avoid it, but that is covered in other passages. These passages speak to disrespect of God and using His name in vain type of cursing. In the Old Testament theocracy, that kind of talk was a capital offense. Folks who claimed to speak for God and made predictions that did not come true were stoned. Even if the event happened, if they then said, that they were empowered by another God than YHWH, they were executed.
There are many folks who are with us today that would not be with us if those rules were still in effect. Blasphemy would have gotten me stoned years ago. A bunch of false prophets would have been along side of me. Stocks in quarry markets would be skyrocketing! Thank God for the New Covenant and grace!!!! However, we should still speak up when we hear blasphemy and not let the blasphemer interpret our silence as our condoning their language or as apathy. Silence makes us partners with them and will not bring us blessing.

Obadiah 10-11
10 For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut
off forever.
11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away
captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem,
even thou wast as one of them. KJV

You will stand somewhere. You can stand with God or your friends. Edom did not actually attack Jerusalem, but they did not help them either. They did not participate in the attack, but they rejoiced about it. They did head off at the pass the ones who escaped and killed them, but they did not attack the city.
When you stand by and let your friends mock other Christians or sacred things and remain silent then you are as one of them. You are standing on the other side. If the one being mocked is a Christian, who you do not particularly like and you are enjoying his misery, then you are an Edomite in heart. Edom was descended from Esau and that made them blood relatives to the folks in Jerusalem. They just did not get along. That Christian under fire is your blood brother and if you let the devil’s kids beat on him and enjoy it then you are not acting like God’s kid. You are standing on the wrong side.
I did this once as a young Christian. I was on my two-week tour with the Naval Reserve in Virginia Beach. One night in the barracks dayroom, a fellow sailor and believer was witnessing to another sailor. That sailor was especially aggressive and picked up the other man pinned him against the wall. He said, “If you are so excited about going to Heaven, maybe I’ll just take out my knife and slit your throat right here and send you on your way!”
I confess that I was scared for that man and myself and I said nothing and did nothing. I awaited the outcome. Fortunately, the belligerent one calmed down and let the man go. When the situation was less tense, I did make some comments and witnessed to the man myself. During the heat, I was standing on the wrong side. I should have jumped in and handled it, but I was not excited about leaving my children fatherless and stayed quiet. Since I did end up witnessing to him later, some might say it was discretion, which is the better part of valor that kept me silent. Actually, it was cowardice and had I left that room saying nothing I would have betrayed my brother and my God by being an Edomite.

Luke 11:23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. KJV

You must choose your friends wisely because you MUST choose! There is no fence sitting allowed. There is no middle ground. You are either with Christ or you are not. You are either a soldier of the Cross or you are a deserter. If your friends are not standing for God then they are standing against God and if you stand with them then you are also standing against God.

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is
enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy
of God. KJV

This is not saying that we cannot be friendly with lost people. We need to treat them with human decency. We are enjoined to do good to all men and not just the brethren whenever we have the opportunity. (Gal 6:10) We are not to be fond of the world system that is controlled by the flesh and evil. We are in this world, but we are not to be of it. This world is at war with God and hates Him. Enmity is the opposite of agape love. An unsaved person is controlled by the flesh and loves the world. He is at war with God even if he does not know it.
If we are not careful, we can lose sight of this. We start to think like the world because we are too close of friends with folks that are friends of the world. Instead of taking in God’s thoughts and principles, we can become deceived by the philosophies of the world. Unsaved people can be good people in comparison to other people. They can be generous and kind. They are intelligent. They are not all vicious ogres running about in wanton wickedness.
Indeed, many are religious and lead better lives than some Christians do. However, who did Jesus berate the most and enjoined them to repent? Was it not the “righteous” living and highly religious people? Paul told us that satan himself could appear as angel of light and his ministers appear as ministers of righteousness. (2 Cor 11:14-15)
That being true, then it behooves us to be sure that we are walking in the light and truth of His Word. We need to be seeking brethren of like mind to sharpen us and make us better friends of God. This will make us enemies of the world. This will also make it hard to develop a true friendship with unsaved people because they will not want to be friends with us. They may be friendly towards us, but in a clinch, they will support folks of their mindset over us. That is understandable. The converse is also true.
Our closest friendships should be with believers. We are to be more than friends we are to be family. We are to be equally yoked in marriage and it should be the same in friendships.

Eccl 4:9-12
9 Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth
for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not
quickly broken. KJV

We are not to be loners. We need friends. We need family. We need to make sure we are in the right family for eternal security. We need to make the right friends for a form of temporal security. If we are not of the same mind how can we walk together? How can we trust and depend on each other? A threefold cord is not easily broken if all the cords are made of the same material. If they are of different strength or material it will not support the same weight or handle the same stress as three equal strands.

Josh 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. KJV

Finally, my brethren, you must choose friends wisely because if you do not choose to live wholly for God then our friendship ends. I am not perfect and I do not wish to judge anyone. I need good friends and I want to be a good friend. Therefore, I must choose my friends carefully. I want friends that will sharpen me into fierce warrior of God. As I am tempered, I want to sharpen them. I have failed and dallied in the world long enough and so have many of you.
It is time to choose better friends because they affect us for good or evil. It is time to show our allegiance! It is time to seek blessing instead of judgment. It is past time for us to make the choice that we must choose. It is time to end our friendship with the world and become Abrahams, the friends of God that we might bring blessings to all men. Then we will be able to be truly friendly to unsaved people and lead them into friendship with God through salvation. Friend, will you walk with me? Can we agree to be like Crazy Lorenzo Dow and love God above all? If so, we will be the best of friends in all the facets of the word.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s