Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Faithful Friend

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…”
- Ephesians 1:16

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'
- Luke 7:34

Jesus, friend of sinners
Loved me ere I knew him
Drew me with his cords of love
Tightly bound me to him
Round my heart still closely twined
The ties that none can sever
For I am his and he is mine
Forever and forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
A crown of thorns you wore for me
Bruised for my transgressions
Pierced for my iniquities
The wrath of God that I deserved
Was poured out on the innocent
He took my place, my soul to save
Now I am his forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
I love to tell the story
Redeeming love has been my theme
And will be when in glory
Not death nor life nor anything
Can ever separate me
O love that will not let me go
Yes, I am his forever
- Pat Sczebel, His Forever, Sovereign Grace Music

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

“If we cover and obliterate a man’s faults, and consider the beauty and dignity of God’s image in him, then we shall be induced to love and embrace him.”
-John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, p. 35

Yesterday I had coffee with an old friend. We’ve known each other for 12 years or so and there are few things we don’t know about one another. We’ve not seen each other for some time, but the conversation picked right back up where we’d left off months ago. As I left our engagement I found myself thanking God for his friendship. He is a faithful man persevering in the grace of God in the face of much affliction, and I have the privilege of calling him my friend. Christian friends are an indisputable gift from God. We ought never to take them for granted. I have no doubt that this man would do anything he could for me. In fact, during a particularly difficult time in the life of our family he was making plans to help us, and this at great cost to himself. He has faithfully modeled the Savior to me by his example, he has called me to account, he has offered me wise counsel, he has loved me in spite of my many sins, he has faithfully loved the church, and he has put flesh to bones as he’s served as an example of forward-looking perseverance. Next week, in a typically inconspicuous fashion, he’ll take a meal to some folks who are quite ill, and no one will be the wiser. He serves under the radar and he prefers it that way.

In some analogical way I understand Paul’s love for the Ephesians. In the extravagant kindness of God the man I mentioned is not my only friend. God has graciously placed wonderful and godly friends around me in this church plant family. I consider myself rich beyond compare. Just this week I’ve heard of several incredible and sacrificial examples of Christian love and demonstrated friendship at Christ Our Redeemer Church; meals taken, tokens of love and appreciation sent, coffees together, time spent in conversation, encouragements, moving help, gifts given, financial needs met, meals together, warnings given, sins confessed, sincere prayer offered, rejoicing together, weeping for, labor performed, rides given, help offered, the gospel implored, and that’s just this week. These are the dear friends that I get to serve alongside of, and I get to call my church family. These are the wonderful folks that model the visible, sanctifying work of the gospel to me. By their demonstrated love and friendship Christ is shown, and not by some non-descript, disconnected and syrupy sentimental love, but by gospel-wrought, heart-changed, and Jesus-loving love.

Jesus is not ashamed to call us His friends. What was intended as a term of derision is a name He gladly assumes. And in an act of consummate condescension Jesus reconciles sinners to Himself by making His enemies His friends. Romans 5:8 says, “…God shows (demonstrates) his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” His friendship towards sinners is visible and verifiable. The Cross stands as the love of God placarded for the world to see. Here’s what the apex of God’s friendship to sinners looks like; it looks like the Creator of the universe being crucified naked and bleeding between two thieves on a Roman cross. It looks like the gospel being effected by the Holy Spirit in sin-mortified hearts so that the good news can be believed and embraced. It looks like folks beginning to resemble their Savior in love for one another, and it looks like lives lived in sacrificial, gospel-grounded friendship for one another. It looks like heaven on earth as the Kingdom, in the gracious rule of God, is brought to bear in the here and now.

I thank God for His mercy and friendship shown in and through you.

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