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Be wise (3)

Mind your friends

Scripture Readings

  • 2Timothy 2:14-26;
  • Proverbs 1:10-19

Introduction

Dr Google is for the most part of our society the beginning and the end of knowledge.  So, I find this site to help me select friends.  It says make friends with people like this:

  • People who can never remember when your birthday is.
  • People who can’t stop correcting you
  • People who wait for YOU to make plans (and then almost always cancel).
  • People who never want to do what you want to do.
  • People who never tell you why they’re mad, even though you know they’re so mad.
  • People who can’t be happy for you.
  • People who never ask how YOUR day/weekend/life was.
  • People who make you feel like everything is the worst.
  • People whom you can’t trust as far as you can throw them.

One person in this list one can’t miss is “you” – always in the centre and always the most important. This runs contrary to the Bible where God is in the centre: what I do, and the friends a choose are determined by God’s choice for me.

When one grows up, particularly around our teenage years, friendship is important.  We suddenly discover the importance of being part of a group.  We develop lifestyles which reflect our choice of friendship circle, we choose to dress like the others, wear make-up and hear styles showing that we are “counted in” -and of course there is the ever important idol worship of music artists.

Today, as we look at the Scriptures the message is clear:  mind your friends, or: make sure you pick the right friends.  Friends can be a blessing, but many folks out there are on the ash heap of life because they over-valued friendship and sacrificed which was supposed to be the most important aspect of the life of a Christian:  friendship with God.

The saying goes, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

Pick your friends well

The verse to remember here is:

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Proverbs 12:26, NIV)

Right at the beginning of the counsel of the parents in the book of Proverbs, even before they go into life advice about money, business principles, or minding one’s tongue, the teaching of the parents go to picking the right friends.

It begins with, “If they say, come along with us …” This is the language of the gang.

They offer comradeship. They share one purse and have a common circle; they act as a brotherhood. In addition, they promise riches; precious wealth, spoil from their victims, belongs to the fraternity.

They hold out the thrill of possessing and wielding the power of life and death. They lie in wait for the righteous law-abiding citizen; they identify themselves with the power of the grave and the pit. They are sort of hell’s agents, grim reapers who swallow the innocent alive. This excitement and pleasure beguiles and enlivens the band and calls to the youth to join.

I feel for our young people today; I think in some way we grew up in a more innocent age.  Yes, we had our friendship circles, and we did participate in mischief.  Yes, there was the enticement of cigarettes, and yes we raided the orchards of many townsfolk for grapes and peaches.  Even then there was the pressure to give in to the wish of the group.  It was definitely not a cool thing to not be part of the gang.

But there was no drugs, no ice, no internet pornography; surely the enticement to sexual immorality was not as strong.  Add to this the pressure of the group to disregard respect for parents, teachers and law officers.  It was as if parents cared more for their children – when they out, when they will be back and who they are going with.

I think we should pray more for our young people.  We should talk to them about who they should choose to hang out with.

Sure we all know one thing:  once part of a group, one can easily become very silly.  Social group pressure can be enormous.  Just look at how a group of footy supporters act when sitting in the group.  If they sat all be themselves they could easily be seen as well-behaved and civilised; they same group can become monstrous, more so when you add a bit of alcohol to the mix. Don’t give in:

Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked. (Proverbs 25:26, NIV)

The Bible’s advice is clear this morning:  mind your friends.  Pick your friends well.

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Proverbs 22:24–25, NIV)

Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble. (Proverbs 24:1–2, NIV)

When you are wise – and you understand that beginning of wisdom is the fear of God – then what rules your choice of friends is not what you want in the first instance, it is surely what they want you to do, how you should act, how you should talk, and what activities you should be involved in – who makes this choice for you is God:  his will is the most important.

Very soon in there walk with God all Christians should learn the Lord’s prayer:  Hallowed by The Name, Thy will be done, Thy Kingdom come.  Our example is the One who gave his life so we can indeed call God our Father, Jesus Christ:  that was his prayer, “Not my will, but Your will be done.”  He gave his life so that we can be free from the bondage of sin; He gave his Holy Sprit to bind us to Christ so that we will want to please Him an all we do.

Fact is, the gang cannot deliver on its promises. As birds are ensnared by the invisible net, so the gangsters cannot see the trap they have set for themselves. They lie in wait for their own blood. In the end, the grave swallows them, and the pit takes them.  The so-called freedom they promise through drugs is what in the end will kill them too; the so-called sexual freedom to do with their bodies as they like, in the end get to them in all sorts of physical diseases, not to mention the mental torment some have to live with.  How many women just can’t forget the unborn child they aborted because of their sexual immorality.  There are scores wandering the streets searching for the boy or girl they gave away through substance abuse and promiscuity.  Regret always comes too late!

Real wisdom is to consider end of a thing. To see where a path leads is to discriminate whether it is fit for travel. Consider the end of the gang and be wise. For all its promises, it ultimately cannot deliver anything but death. The voice of peer pressure requires the antidote of wise instruction, wether it comes through friends, or fellow members of your church family.

This does not just apply to the young people in our midst today.  It is for us all.  This wisdom of the Scripture applies to who we take as business partners, who we hang out with socially, who we take that oversees trip with.  it determines what societies and social groups will have my name on their membership roll.

We need to be wise here – we cannot withdraw from this world; we need to have a voice in our society.  The Bible does not forbid us to have an influence in even a bad society.  No, we are called to be the salt and the light in this world.  But we should never be dictated to be the world how we should conduct our lives.  Because the Bible tells us very clearly that same-sex marriages are against his will; we therefore are guided by what God says, not by the world.  But we will surely sound the trumpet for the truth when we called to do so.

We do so because God wants us to be his ambassadors for the truth. There is this verse we need to hold on to in the times we live is.

… if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15, NIV)

Take the message of God’s Word out of society – and that is our duty – and society has nothing to stand upon – truth is robbed of its meaning and replaced man’s idea of truth, which cannot stand the test of time.

The blessing of good friends

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Proverbs 17:17, NIV)

A real friend is a blessing from God.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24, NIV)

Your real friends, that is if you call yourself a Christian, should be a fellow Christian – which does not mean that all Christians make good friends, or that unbelievers can’t be good friends – we’ve got a long way to grow in our understanding of what the Bible expects of us as Christians to really love one another.

Your true, real friend will do as proverbs tells us this morning:

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:5–6, NIV)

True friends are not nice – there is no command of the Lord that we should be nice.  Being nice can be extremely dangerous; being nice sometimes evades the truth and dances with falsehood to avoid the boat from rocking.  A true friend tells it like it is: the truth and nothing but the truth.  Let’s be honest, truth hurts and it opens wounds – but that’s what doctors do to make you better.  Always remember, God is more important than friends – his will is supreme.  Love your friend to death, but do not withhold rebuke when necessary.  Listen to the next three verses:

One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet. Like a bird that flees its nest is anyone who flees from home. Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. (Proverbs 27:7–9, NIV)

What does it say?  A friend in need is hungry for what is good in the same way a hungry person will eat honey.  A true friends heartfelt love and concern is like a spring of water in a barren desert. Such friends are people we should cherish and hang on to for dear life:

Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you— better a neighbour nearby than a relative far away. (Proverbs 27:10, NIV)

If you are in need a friend nearby is much more precious than a brother far away.  Remember:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

Some friends will not get it

Of course we need to pour out Christ’s love on those we come in contact with.  We should be ready to give account of the faith that lives within us; we should spread the message of the Gospel to all, irrespective of who they are.  And we should do so with the prayer that God will use our testimony to his glory and to bring the sinner to repentance and life.

But if it doesn’t happen don’t be discouraged.  Keep these verses in mind:

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. (Proverbs 13:1, NIV)

Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2, NIV)

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