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Jesus, my best friend 25 December 2005 Introduction I wish you all welcome. Today is a little out of the ordinary since we just ate together, and in a bit we’ll be reminded that this is Christmas when we exchange funny gifts. That’s also why I wanted to preach on a subject other than Hebrews 11. Right away I remind you my choice isn’t because I think Jesus was born two thousand years ago in December. The specialists tell us he was born in springtime. So religiously speaking, Christmas is a non-existent holiday. Nowhere will you find it mentioned in the Bible, it’s the invention of man – an invention that is not bad if it serves to reunite families and causes good to be done. But it becomes wrong if we celebrate it as if God had commanded us to. So today I don’t want to celebrate Jesus birth, but use some traditions to enjoy a good day with my family. I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. Since we have guests among us, I want to talk this afternoon about friendship. Friendship is a precious thing, isn’t it? Cicero said this one day: “the use of friendship is the only thing in the world on which everyone agrees.” We need it to warm our hearts and souls! Sam Walter Foss wrote: “Let me live the length of a path and become the friend of all who pass, and I will be happy.” We all aspire to experience at least one beautiful friendship in our lives, whether we’re young or old, Belgian or French, rich or poor. Who was your best friend as a young child? Can you remember? Funny how we forget many things from this period, but not our friends’ names. I can still tell you my friends’ names: there was Vincent, Jean-Michel, and Yves. We spent so much time playing together. Then there were the friends of my teenage years, the best of which was Frederic. We became friends when his dad killed himself. I remember like it was yesterday. His parents had just divorced, his father fell into alcoholism. One night he invited his kids to eat, but Frederic preferred to stay and play with us. When his father was alone he thought of all he had lost and jumped out the window of his 4th story apartment. From that moment Fred was like my adopted brother. We did the 400 hits together. I could tell you about our trip to Spain, our experiences dating girls… ...huge snowballs we made to block cars in the road. We loved to watch them stop and skid as they backed up on the frozen road. Friendship is a really beautiful thing when we experience it. When I look back at my life and the years passed, I see the different faces of those who marked my heart. But I also see the changes the years brought. Unfortunately these friendships didn’t remain unchanged. With time, there was an evolution. We took different paths. We no longer live in the same place… …our thoughts have changed and our centers of interest also. Do you understand what I’m saying? Have you felt the same thing? Time changes things, eh? I change, you change, our friends change. It’s the nature of life. In growing older, my values aren’t what they were in my youth. Today my faith defines who I am. The Bible defines what I believe and do. And faith creates in me the need to look in another direction, an encouragement that is necessary for me to function as I want. My childhood friends can’t help me in the path I’m on now. Sure, they can still help me if I have a physical need. Frederic became boss of a photo store. He can help me if I need a new camera, or to develop some pictures. I’d bet if I needed to borrow money, I could still talk to him. But he can’t help me if I need advice on how a Christian father should raise his children, or how a husband should love his wife. He can’t tell me with wisdom from above. So my friends as an adult are different from those I made before. My friendships are different. You see what I mean? Have you experienced the same thing? Who are your friends today? Not your buddies, but your friends. Has there been a change with the years? And if so, do your new friends mean a lot to you? I have a certain sadness for those who tell me they haven’t found a precious friendship. I’m always perturbed when I meet people who have adopted a negative view of friendship because they’ve been hurt and betrayed, who refuse to make new relationships because they’re still bleeding. Ben Franklin’s one of those who probably had such an experience because he wrote: “there are only three faithful things in this world: an old wife, an old dog, and money saved.” C.C. Colton’s not much better. He wrote: “I’ve always noticed a note jealousy, even in best friendships.” Socrates said: “Friends…but there are no true friends!” Oh I want so much to bring these great men out of the tombs to present them with some of you who I’ve come to see as friends. Praise God for the way he’s touched my life through some who are here today! Praise God for those he’s brought in my life who’ve allowed me to see things differently from Colton or Socrates or Franklin. Praise God for those I’ve known since my 20s and still hold in high esteem. And praise God if you also have friends who mean a lot to you and encourage you in the faith. Think of all of this when you leave tonight and tell God how appreciative you are of them. It’s a gift from him to have found a good friend. This said, I want to develop 3 thoughts for the rest of my lesson. Firstly, I want to define in a bit more detail friendship. Secondly, I want to talk about who we should choose as best friend. Thirdly, I want to talk about the attitude you must have towards your best friend. I. Definition of friendship Let’s focus firstly on the definition. When we look in a dictionary, we find: “a friend is a person one knows well, for whom we feel affection and for whom one has an affinity.” So a friend is more than an acquaintance. A buddy, a colleague or an acquaintance know certain things about us, but don’t know us well. Likewise, we all go to church together, we are brothers and sisters according to the Bible, but we don’t all know each other in depth. Do I know your dreams today? your hopes, and your fears? Do you know mine? Do I know what you like and hate? Do I know what irritates you and about what things you are passionate? Do you know for me? True friends are generally close enough to know these things about one another. They know what goes on in the head… …and heart of each other. There is an intimate sharing. Acquaintances don’t know these things. There share a job, maybe the same bank, school or pastime, but it doesn’t go much further. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:24… But let’s come back to the dictionary definition. It’s not just someone we know, but for whom we feel a great affection. In other words, someone we like or who likes us in spite of our faults. Did you know that in Hebrew the word… …meant “the beloved”? The term is “ahab”. Maybe that’s why Solomon says in Prov. 17:17… A friend loves at all times, that is to say even when all isn’t going for the best, when you’re in the depths of despair. The opinion he has of you isn’t based on what you are today, doesn’t depend on how you feel this month. His point of view is based on what your life has been thus far. He sees beyond your discouragement, your momentary problems. He sees into the depths of your personality, what’s in your heart. He sees your integrity and doesn’t doubt you. A friend keeps believing when others lose hope. He keeps walking with you because he knows the potential hidden in you. He bears all, loves despite all, accompanies despite all for he knows the little seed hidden in your heart will yet one day produce a marvelous flower. A friend, you see, chooses to ignore the impolite exterior, the eventual problems of money, work, family, occasional misplaced pride at a success. A friend doesn’t condone all, but continues to love in spite of all. He continues to encourage like Barnabas did for Paul or Mark. I would also say a friend hurts with you. When your burden is too heavy, he puts his shoulder to the load and starts to carry the weight with you. Like the Arab proverb says, a friend is one who will get off his horse to help you… …get your chariot wheel unstuck from the mud. He’s not afraid to dirty his hands for you. Finally a friend is one in whom one can trust. Isn’t this so? Why do you share your worries, heart problems, and doubts with your friends? Because you know a friend won’t add to your hurt. You know he or she would be ready to die rather than hurt you intentionally. I found a good illustration – it happened during the first centuries. When Dionysus became emperor, he began to rule with cruelty. Quickly certain rebelled and formed groups to resist him. A man named Damon became a leader of the rebellion. The emperor’s soldiers sent spies and managed to arrest him. When they brought him to the king, he was immediately sentenced to execution. So Damon begged the emperor to let him go say goodbye to his family before dying. The tyrant couldn’t believe his ears. “Damon, why should I let you do that? You’d just use the chance to escape.” To which the prisoner replied, “I give you my word that I’ll come back.” “Your word,” laughed the king, “what’s that worth?” To this someone in the crowd that was present came forth and said “I will take his place until he returns and if he doesn’t, I’ll die in his place.” This man’s name was Pythias…you understand he was Damon’s friend. The emperor was very surprised at this offer, when he saw the expression of love and trust that prevailed between these two men. Wanting to see how far this friendship went, he said to Damon: “I’ll give you 6 hours, not a minute more. If you’re not back exactly then, I’ll take your friend’s life. Don’t underestimate me!” 5 h 55 min later the king brings Pythias in front of him and said, “your friend isn’t back. In a few minutes, you’ll be executed. He let you die in his place.” The executioner takes him, forces him to his knees, and raises his sword to cut off his head. At this moment, Damon appears crying “stop, stop, I’m here!” He’s out of breath, he comes toward Pythias and says, “sorry, my horse died of exhaustion, I made him run so much. I couldn’t find… A replacement.” Pythias pushes Damon back, turns toward the emperor and says, “let me die in his place, I beg you!” The emperor, stupefied by this request, responds, “surely you’re out of it. You can’t be serious, you want to die in his place?” Pythias didn’t have time to respond because Damon speaks up: “no king, the punishment is mine!” This story tells how for the first time in years the tyrant’s ice heart was touched. He melted before this demonstration of love. He lets them live, but they must show what made their friendship so strong. Do you have a friend like that today? One who loves you enough to die for you? I do! II. Who should be your best friend? I arrive at my second point. I don’t like to tell people who to spend time with or not. I don’t lead a sect, but a group where each is free to choose. However today I’m going to make an exception and tell you your best friend should absolutely be… Can you guess? You should absolutely have the same best friend as I; that is, Jesus. I tell you, if you let him, Jesus will be absolutely the best friend you could have. You can’t find one better. Think of all I said a couple minutes ago. Firstly, a friend is one who should know you well. Who knows you better than he? He knows the number of hairs on your head, what goes on in your heart, and what’s brewing there. He knows perfectly the way you think. I bet you don’t know yourself as well as he knows you. I’ll give you an example – how many hairs on that skull of yours? Not only that, he loves you more than all. Paul says in Eph. 3:14-19… Has anyone ever loved you like Jesus has? Anyone ever died for you? Jesus did. Do you want to know how much he loves you? Look at his pierced hands and feet. Look at his crowned forehead where blood flowed for you. Listen to his voice that cries: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!” (Jean 15:13) While we were still sinners Christ died for us. He saw your heart and said: “you’re worth it!” “Daniel I love you no matter what you’ve done to your wife, no matter what you’ve done to your daughter or to your son. I love you no matter who you’ve hurt, stolen from, abused, or lied to. I love you despite what you’ve done to me!” I ask you, can you find a better friend than this one? And I add still that Christ won’t ever leave you if you choose him as best friend in your life. Revelation 1:5 – he is faithful! A man once brought an accusation before Plinius the younger. He had committed the crime of being a Christian. The governor told him: “I’ll banish you!” To which the man replied: “You wouldn’t know how, for the world is my father’s house.” “So I’ll kill you and destroy you!” The man replied: “you wouldn’t know how, my life is hidden in Christ.” “I’ll take all your goods” Plinius told him. “You wouldn’t know how, even if you wanted to, for my treasure isn’t of this world, but in heaven. “So I’ll chase you far away from men and you’ll have no more friends.” The Christian finally told him: “You wouldn’t know how, for I have a friend from whom you can never separate me.” Jesus, if he’s you’re friend, will never leave you. Need I say more? So will you let Jesus be your best friend, if he isn’t already? He wants it more than anything. That’s why he says in John 15:15… III. The attitude to have toward my friend Finally I arrive at my last point: “What attitude should I have toward my friend?” I don’t have the time to expand, but I want to quickly mention 4 things: 1. I should always confide in him. 2. I should live for him. 3. I should always follow him. 4. I should always try to obey and fight for him. I want to finish with a verse: John 15:14… Conclusion Today are you in relation with him? Do you live a life that shows him to be your best friend? If not, I tell you make place for him in your heart. It will be the best decision you’ll ever make.
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