Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A FRIEND AS THINE OWN SOUL”

Deuteronomy 13.6

 

This evening I want to speak to you about matters related to friendships. I am persuaded that there is a blindness in our culture that results in an unwillingness or an inability by many people to recognize the power and influence of friendships. Perhaps as a result of militant feminism, or perhaps as a result of male effeminacy, because feminism’s rise is the direct result of masculine impotency, there is a correlation with this matter of friendships.

Deny it all you want, men and women have the capacity to enjoy four different kinds of rich and fulfilling relationships: First, there is one’s relationship with God. Second, there is one’s relationship with your mate. Third, there is your relationship with your children. Finally, there is your relationship with your friend.

It is sad that most people enjoy no rich and fulfilling relationships with anyone, not God and not anyone else. It is also dangerous, since it is not unusual for those who mistake the importance of such relationships to become the victims of them. Of course, that is not to mention the eternal consequences that result from having no relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Tonight I would like to direct your attention to that important relationship which, while not exceeding the importance of anyone’s relationship with God, is known in scripture to manifest a love that surpasses a man’s capacity to love a woman. I speak, of course, of friendship.

Though he was poetically eulogizing him after his death, I do not think David was using hyperbole when he mourned the loss of his bosom friend, Jonathan, in Second Samuel 1.25-27:

 

25     How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.

26     I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

27     How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

 

Jonathan had risked his life to preserve David’s. Jonathan had acknowledged David’s right to succeed his father, Saul, to Israel’s throne instead of himself. Jonathan had also endured the outrage of his father for David. No, I do not think David’s comment about Jonathan’s love for him passing the love of women was any exaggeration. What woman had ever done for David what Jonathan had repeatedly done for him?

The love David and Jonathan had for each other is of a kind that is clearly recognized in our text for this evening, Deuteronomy 13.6. To understand the context, read Deuteronomy 13.6-10:

 

6      If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;

7      Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

8      Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:

9      But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

10     And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

 

This passage instructs Israelites to inflict the death penalty upon anyone whose actions or influence would seek to in any way lessen or diminish the strength of one’s relationship and devotion to God. Notice, if you will, that accompanying brother, son, daughter, and wife, is that relationship described as “thy friend, which is as thine own soul.” It is clear to see that both David and Jonathan would have described the other as my friend, which is as my own soul. Mothers, fathers, pastors, and anyone who would be wise in his dealings with others, would do well to recognize the existence of such friendships as these. Perhaps rare these days, they are all the more potent in their impact where they can be found.

Such friendships are forged in the crucible of common experiences and the fellowship of sufferings. Those who are in the military commonly forge such friendships with those they train with, and especially with those they serve with in combat. As well, those in law enforcement agencies and in fire departments oftentimes develop such friendships. Of course, this type of friendship was far more common in exclusively male environments than in situations today where both men and women are present.

Knowing that such friendships can be established, does it not also stand to reason that such friendships can either work to good or evil, can be both beneficial and harmful, can be both constructive and destructive? If that be so, if we own up to that reality, dare we as a church, dare we as parents, stand idly by without inserting some intelligence into the formation of such friendships?

Even if one of our own young men had no particular concern for the things of God at this time in his life, is it not reasonable to suppose that he would stay in church if his friend who is as his own soul were here? Does it not make sense that parents, with their power to grant and to deny permission for a child to go here and stay there, to hang out with this one and stay away from that one, should exercise wisdom to encourage their sons and daughters to forge such friendships here in church, rather than at a gym, rather than at a club or after school activity, rather than anywhere else but here?

Do you really think she would have left her church, after spending years raising her kids and grand kids, only to lose one of them at a time to sin as they matured and left, had she any friends who were as her own soul? Would her kids or grand kids have left, had they any friends in church who were as their own souls?

What about him? Do you have any doubt that the rather quiet man will someday leave the church, especially if he has here no friend who is to him as his own soul? After all, everyone has ups and downs. Everyone has spiritual difficulties from time to time. Everyone is attacked by the devil on occasion. What will happen to that fellow who is only kept here by spiritual considerations, and who has no deep and abiding friendships with anyone that will hold him here when his faith falters or when his spirit is weak?

I think you can see from these considerations that friendships are vastly more important than you may have thought. Even if friendships are not so powerful a factor in your own life, you will certainly grant the power of friendships in the lives of your children.

Boys will leave home for friendships. Boys will join gangs for friends. Girls will sometimes run away for friendships. Do you really think young men with strong friendships join the military? Nevertheless, they sure do forge strong friendships in the military, something the armed forces recognize and capitalize on, I promise you. Do kids go away to college if they have really strong friendships at home? It has not been my own experience.

Do you think the parents and leaders of our church should not more wisely attend to this issue of friendships, so important to the Law of Moses, so important in the life of Jonathan and David, and so important in your children’s lives? I certainly think so.

Three main points this evening, as I seek to clarify our thoughts with respect to this matter of friendships and our church:

 

First, I Have SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU PARENTS

 

Have you ever had such a friend as I have just described?

 

Perhaps you were younger, and therefore did not have the means to implement your friendship the way you wanted to. By that, I mean you could not leave with your friend, but you would have if you had been able to. Have you ever reached an agreement with your friend, or made some type of covenant a long time ago, that you had every intention of keeping? Is it an understanding with a friend that, even now, if called upon by that friend to fulfill the conditions of the agreement, you would seriously consider it? It is unlikely that you have ever had such a friend, with such an important understanding or agreement, but take note that the two boys at Columbine High School had that kind of friendship. They took their agreement all the way. What I am saying is that since you have probably not had such a friendship, you are likely to minimize either the importance or the power such a friendship can exert in someone’s life, for good or for evil.

 

Have you ever been such a friend as I have described?

 

My brother was such a friend to a number of boys when we were young. He was faithful and loyal, willing to sacrifice and suffer for his friends. My brother was the absolute epitome of this kind of friend when we were very young. I remember observing the reaction of some Christian men when someone was arrested. It took about three minutes for them to raise $20,000 to post bail. There was no question of right or wrong. That was for the court to decide. It was three men, one of them a man of very modest means, emptying an account to make sure someone did not needlessly spend the night in jail. Are you the person someone calls on when a friend is in serious trouble? Alternatively, are you the person others always know will figure out a way to not help? Perhaps you are the guy who always concludes, “He would not have needed help if he had done what he was supposed to do.” Proverbs 17.17 declares, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Do you know what that means? What good does it do to be a friend so long as no one needs your help? The real test is adversity. Where are you during adversity? What will you do in adversity? It is not so much what you will do when you have plenty of money, as what you will do when you barely have enough, and helping a friend out takes real sacrifice. You have heard of the conversation between the chicken and the pig about fixing breakfast. Responding to the chicken’s questioning why he would not come up with his part, the pig said, “You can talk. With you it’s a matter of a contribution, but with me it requires total sacrifice.” If you have never come across, at great risk to yourself, then you have never been such a friend as I am talking about. Therefore, you can only talk about something you do not really understand.

 

Are you willing to be such a friend?

 

Understand that it is risky. Understand that such a friend responds to the other’s need, not the other’s merit. Understand, too, that such a friend responds to the other’s need, not your own comfort and safety. Don’t you know that such friends actually risk their lives? We think of the Lord Jesus Christ whenever our mind lights on the verse that declares, “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” Proverbs 18.24. However, in actuality, that verse is speaking to the kind of friendship Jonathan and David had. How do you expect someone to believe the Lord Jesus Christ truly is a friend of sinners unless they can see you exhibiting the friendship Solomon described? Yet so many Christians want to fantasize about the Lord Jesus being the friend who sticks closer than a brother, rather than actually being that kind of friend themselves. Why so? It is so much easier than real Christianity. Think about this, mom and dad. If you are not that type of friend, it is unlikely your own children will demonstrate much initiative at being that kind of a friend. That, of course, means such friendship needs will not be met in their lives under your supervision. So, do not be surprised when your son or daughter reaches the age where you cannot veto their decisions, and they decide to leave the church for matters related to friendship. Of course, had they close and intimate friends in church they would still be in church.

 

Tacking A Bit In Another Direction, I Have SOME ISSUES FOR YOU PARENTS TO CONSIDER

 

Different sources tell us that more than 80% of all teens will leave church after they get out of high school, never to return except to visit on special occasions. Of course, that means they are lost, since those who are saved do not leave. However, what about an effort to keep kids in church after high school, in the hopes that God will get hold of them, save them, and keep them here? That is one side of the issue before us. We want to keep our kids from leaving, while at the same time reaching out and bringing others in. Why not do both at the same time?

May I suggest that we attempt to accomplish that here in the auditorium and on the church property? Let me get you thinking by discussing what I believe our proper roles ought to be here in and around the church house when we come together for services and outreach.

First, there is the pastor’s role. Of course, my primary role when we gather for worship and outreach is to minister God’s Word by preaching and teaching. Though I try very hard to be friendly to everyone, and to greet and make a personal contact with everyone on the church property, I am wondering if what I am doing is counterproductive. Do people in our church slack off due to my efforts? Maybe if I back off and focus more on my preaching and teaching, more of you folks would concentrate on your role in and around the church.

Next, there is a family’s role. I suppose a good question is, does the family really have a role in and around the church auditorium? I am not denying the extremely important role fulfilled by the family unit in the life of the church, but I am questioning the family unit’s role as a group in and around the auditorium. To be sure, parents must supervise their children. However, does a family of parents and children perform a function in and around the auditorium? If so, what do they actually do? If they do not, why is it so important for them all to sit together? In other words, what precisely does a unit of parents and children, or parent and children, do in and around the auditorium on Sunday AM, Sunday PM, Wednesday PM, or Saturday PM? I know there are churches where a great deal is made of everyone sitting together, but I am challenging the benefit of that in light of the realities of evangelizing the lost. It is, of course, necessary for fathers and mothers to train their children to be still, be quiet, and pay attention once they are old enough to be in the auditorium. That requires that their small children sit next to them or directly in front of them. However, what is accomplished, practically speaking, when a mom and dad and two teenagers sit together in church? I do not think anything is accomplished by that kind of seating arrangement.

Third, there is the individual’s role. When a family visits the church, they are not alone and they are not lonely. Thus, they have no need of companionship and friendship in the auditorium before, during, and after the service. With families that visit all you need is a warm welcome and greeting. However, what happens when one person walks in? Those of you who remember coming here for the first time will attest that visiting a church by yourself can be a very scary proposition. That is where the individual church person comes in, being friendly and offering the gift of friendship to the person who needs it and wants it. People are lonely. Most people have no close, personal friends who are any good for them. So, why is it that someone with a recognizable need walks into the auditorium by himself or by herself, and just because you are married you are forbidden the opportunity to befriend the person? Are our marriages so fragile, that unless husbands sit right next to their wives, the marriage is somehow weakened, or there is a danger of an immediate breakup? Alternatively, a wife is so insecure that she develops hives at the thought of her husband actually introducing himself to, sitting with, and then grabbing a snack and being friendly to a visitor after a service? What have we gotten ourselves into that we have forgotten that the grasping, clawing, keep your babe away from everyone else kind of love is both juvenile and carnal? True love rejoices at the prospect of your beloved growing, expanding, stretching, reaching out, expressing, serving, ministering to others. I love it when my wife goes and sits with someone during the service and is friendly toward her. As well, have we such a low opinion of our children that we think they are incapable of doing the same? Ddddd Cccccc brings her son, Jjjjj. He is a lonely, awkward boy. He needs a friend. Is he so malignant that no mom or dad would dare for their son to meet him, to befriend him, or (heaven forbid) invite him to the house after church?

What about Lllll?

What about Ccccc?

What about Aaaaa?

What about Eeeee?

What about Ssssss?

What about Ddddd?

What about Jjjjj?

What about so many others? To be sure, there are times parents make choices that work directly against the likelihood of their children staying in church and coming to Christ. We have young people in our auditorium who are almost certainly going to leave us, if their parents do not take major steps to intervene. However, we have our responsibility, as well.

Does marriage render a woman incapable of getting up when she sees another woman about her age walk into the auditorium and walking over to meet her? Is her marriage so fragile that sitting with the guest during the service would cause it to suffer a serious strain? Are she and her husband so profoundly ignorant of Bible truth that she thinks she has to ask her husband before she makes such a bold and innovative move?

What about men? Are they suddenly shackled by a heavy burden when they say, “I do”? Or does not every Christian man have the right, the duty, and the obligation, to get off his blessed assurance so he can leave his favorite chair and welcome a guy who walks in? Or do the words to the hymn, “My anchor holds,” apply to you needing to sit in your favorite chair?

Parents, there are two truths that cannot be denied: First, kids that go to Christian schools are very typically poor at befriending kids who do not attend their schools. That is an observation many pastors have made. Therefore, I would suggest you recognize that deficiency and seek to counteract it in your child’s life. As well, there is no denying that kids who attend public schools are in a thoroughly putrid environment, where they are openly and flagrantly solicited to commit sin, to abandon any consideration of the Christian faith, and to adopt the lifestyle and philosophy of infidels. That means it is all the more important for your youngster to make deep and abiding friendships at church, to counteract and offset in some small way the influences of the environment he is in. He will stay in church only so long as he wants to stay, and his want to stay will be influenced by the friends he has made in church, not by the friends he has made elsewhere.

I have always wanted my daughter to make and maintain friendships with lost kids. However, I shudder at the thought of my daughter’s best friend being anyone who is not in this church. That should be intolerable for any Christian parent, because it is so dangerous for your child.

 

May I Suggest A STRATEGY FOR PARENTS?

 

Recognize the great and profound danger your youngster will be faced with should he or she choose to leave our church and turn his back on the means of God’s glorious grace. Recognize, also, that wise parenting sees the importance of clearing the path in your youngster’s future. To that end, and recognizing that your son or daughter is far less likely to leave our church if they have Jonathan and David types of friends here, let me encourage you to pave the way for your children to make and cultivate friendships here at church. This will be good for Christian school kids, as well as public school kids.

First, train your kids to greet and meet others their age in the around the church before the service begins. Unless you have a child who is a veritable sneak who simply cannot be trusted, please do not expect or permit them to always sit with you. Put them to use in making others their age enjoy their experience here at church by making and cultivating friendships. Do you realize we have kids that have gone to church here for years whose names are not known by kids who are here every service? Mom and dad, that is a crime. Direct them and supervise them from afar, as they greet and meet others their age.

Second, train your kids to sit and socialize with the new kids. The way you do that is ask them questions after church. What is her name? How old is she? Where does she go to school? What does she like to do for fun? Is she a musician or an athlete at her school? Does she have any brothers or sisters? Those things should be found out the first or second time your youngster has sat and socialized with that new kid. If your youngster is a bit younger, train him to bring the new kid to come over and sit near you. But train your children to be sociable and friendly.

Third, train your child to sing with a full and hearty voice. I cannot stand it when a young man sings with a small, mousy voice, and when a girl sings with a tiny childish voice. Everyone should train his or her kids to speak up to be heard. The same goes for singing. Your child teaches that new kid he is sitting with how to sing when he himself sings properly. Loud singing is better, because kids like being loud. I do not ever remember being asked to be louder when I was a kid, because I and everyone else my age was just naturally loud. Sing loud, kids.

Fourth, train your youngster to listen to God’s Word being preached and taught. Making sure your child sits some place in the auditorium where you can see him or her, you should take serious your child’s leadership role in showing a visiting kid how to behave when I am preaching. If a kid whispers, and your kid quietly says “Shh,” that kid then knows to be quiet when I am preaching. If your kid listens, and that kid learns to listen, then things will happen, because the Spirit of God works in the lives of people who listen.

Fifth, train your child to be a leader. That way he can lead the new kid outside for finger food fellowship or some such thing, and foster good conversation outside. Too many people who have grown up in church still do not know how to make small talk. That is nonsense. Inability to chitchat is inability to be friendly, is inability to be sociable, is inability to be nice to people. Get your kid to take the new kid outside, and show him where the food is, and to keep him where I want them to be instead of in the parking lot. Train your kid to be the leader.

Sixth, train your child to invite new kids over to the house. My daughter has standing permission to invite anyone over anytime she wants. I suggest you adopt the same policy, being somewhat suspicious if your youngster does not invite people over after church, or if your kid always invites the same kid over all the time. Kids should be just as open to making new friends as you are, and just as willing to invite people over to your house after church as you are. Tired? Have to get up early in the morning? Poor baby. Then invite them over for Friday night, or before church on Sunday PM. Hey, that is a great idea, because the need to get to church is how you get them out of your house.

 

Friendships are likely more important to your youngsters than they are to you. Recognize that and act upon it. Lead your youngster to open up and be friendly with visitors, thereby delivering your child from the prison of shyness and social awkwardness. Every friend you and your youngster make is a likely candidate for conversion, because people like being with their friends, thereby increasing the likelihood that the new friends will stay in church long enough to be saved.

As well, I would suggest that you strangle off the friendships your children have outside church, or those friendships that you know very well will never result in your kid’s friend coming to church. Look upon such a friendship with your child as the poison it is.

Your child is likely as not going to leave this church without getting converted unless and until a strong and intimate friendship is formed with one or two other kids. However, if that friendship is formed, and your youngster stays, he or she may stay here long enough that the Spirit of God gets hold of him and he is saved.

Consider yourself, as well. Friendships are frequently preludes to conversion. Certainly not always, but very frequently. So, let us each make a point of being the friends we need to be, to each other as well as to those who set foot in our auditorium or onto the church property.

Be willing to get up out of your precious favorite seat that connects you directly to heaven, so you can be the friend that lost one needs to feel welcome here, and to come back again. Who knows? Perhaps that kid your son or daughter meets and befriends will the friend who is as his own soul, that he would never consider leaving this church to lose, resulting in them both being saved.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org