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amen valentine’s day we are here to talk about love well I know that for some of you you may love love you may love this day and be so excited to celebrate it with the people around you whether it’s your beloved spouse or children or your family and or there may be some of you that hate this day you wish that this day would never be celebrated because it brings too much pain too much disappointment or loss or grief and if you’re any one of my friends for the last so many years we know this day as singleness awareness day because valentine’s day tends to be the day where we all realize this human desire for love we all have it whether it’s satisfied in your life right now or it’s not satisfied we realize that we have a longing for love there’s a whole lot of people that say some things about love what I read to you today was from the apostle

john but a man named george sand says this is the only one happiness in this life to love and to be loved we go to the saint ignatius or augustine he says better to have loved and lost than to never be loved at all lots of lots of literature and movies and and stories have been created around this concept of love because it touches every single human soul and and we don’t want just surfacy love we want to know love to the to the depth and the core that it touches our very soul that’s what we crave but I’m going to suggest today that actually it’s from the seed of friendship abiding love can grow it’s got to start somewhere and it starts often with friendship and today we’re talking about the kind of love that is brotherly love brotherly sisterly kindness kind of love and it’s from that place I think that deep abiding love can grow and I don’t know

where you stand with Jesus or why you’re tuning in with us today but I’m going to argue today that if we want to get to those strong abiding places in love they need to be Jesus centered friendships the strongest friendships are Jesus centered friendships but that begs the question what in the world makes a Jesus centered friendship distinct and so today I’m going to suggest four things so if you like to take notes this is a great way you can follow and track and find four things that I think make Jesus centered friendship distinct the very first thing is that Jesus-centered friendships are rooted in an ancient story we we even sang about it today we sing that Jesus is our friend the story of long ago is that God the creator of the universe the creator of us the one who breathed into our nostrils the breath of life that God he befriends us look at all

these examples that we have we have adam and eve eve he they’re walking and talking with God we have noah it says that he’s faithfully walking with God abraham was called God’s friend and that was what he was known for even in james chapter chapter 2 which is a long time after abraham even lived he was known for being a friend of God moses and joshua they took off and they went to the tent of meeting and it described their experience with God as one speaking with a friend we hear numerous stories after story in the minor and major prophets of prophets hearing from God and and doing what he says so they’re they’re friends of God even king david was known for to be a man after God’s heart and then like we talked about last week the disciples are specifically chosen and invited into friendship with Jesus and later on in john

chapter 15 15 he says you’re not just my servants you’re not just to do my bidding you’re this isn’t a master servant relationship I call you friends you know my business you know my heart you’re you’re invited into a closer relationship and then we have evidence that in the apostles and even those that were not a part of the jewish tradition they become intimate friends with Jesus spirit in acts and in all of paul’s writing they they become friends of God and and you know how we know that these people are friends of God they talk with God and they walk with God the friends of God are people that have a relationship of ongoing connection with him and this is the kind of relationship that Jesus invites us into I don’t know where you’re at with your relationship with Jesus but a relationship and a friendship with him is not just becoming friends

of friends of Jesus but it’s actually starting to talk with him and walk with him ourselves and I feel like this is an important time in our historical journey where we need to lean into friendship with God and we need to root ourselves in this ancient story by letting him be our friend letting him tell us that we are deeply loved and that we can look we can walk with him too and show him that we love him and we are standing in his friendship the second distinctive of Jesus centered friendship I think actually redefines friendship because as you if someone were to ask you today what do you think a friend is I asked a friend the other day for coffee and she said it’s someone who who knows me who and I know somebody who gets me and I get them and maybe we define friendship as people that have similarities we we think similarly we

like the same things but the kind of friendship that Jesus offers us goes beyond the commonalities it’s not just a recreational friend or a neighbor friend or a work friend or or the things that we enjoy I think that this definition sums it up companion who fights for your ultimate good nearness with christ this is a definition by kelly needham in her book friend-ish and I thought this was a really interesting read and I wanted to bring this definition to you today because I think a distinction between Jesus-centered friends is that we care to fight for others nearness with christ and I’m curious if you sat back and you thought hmm who are my Jesus-centered friends who are my companions who fight for my ultimate good my nearness with christ it’s a gift if you know this kind of friendship I feel like God has blessed me with

friends throughout seasons of my life to be companions that fight for my nearness with christ these are friends that when things are tough they say yvonne do you want to pray about that let’s talk to Jesus about that these are friends that when I’m spiraling in a vortex of my own disorientation or despair or discouragement and I feel like it’s dark they start asking me gentle questions to remind me that God is still good that he can be trusted and that we can still walk together with him and I also wonder if you were to think about you being that friend are you that friend are you a companion that fights for someone else’s ultimate good their nearness with christ you know there’s lots of different friends in my life and and friends that have been very near and dear to me and the way that I have befriended others sometimes it’s helpful and

sometimes it does point out some things but sometimes I’m scared and I don’t want to to confront someone and I’d rather just sit there in the in the shared experience of that place than really love them with wounding words in proverbs chapter 27 it says wounds from a friend can be trusted but the enemy multiplies kisses so whenever the Jesus centered friendships when they wound us or when they say things that kind of pierce and sting for the moment we know that the Jesus centered friendships they want more for us they want to fight for something greater for a connection with Jesus that maybe we feel like is just too far away but then those the other kinds of friends that come and they multiply their affections and I don’t know if you’ve ever had this kind of friend who who wants you to love them so much that they throw

on the affirmation or have you ever had a friend who starts to come to you for all that they need and and they want you to sort of be their their savior I’ve been in those situations and to me those kind of friendships they feel like there’s so much pressure like I’m supposed to be your everything and I can’t give that I’m only human I think there are friendships that are are overly dependent on one another and it’s possible that if we don’t see friendship from this Jesus centered place where each of us are connected to the friendship of God and where we can fight for one another’s good from that place it can get a little distorted so kelly need him in the same book friendish she talks about a couple warning signs and I just want to read them for you today she says when we depend on friendship over and above Jesus it’s dangerous those

friends can’t be Jesus to us when we look to friendship to fulfill needs that only God can fulfill it’s idolatry she says and by idolatry we mean you could actually worship a friend by hoping that they are your savior they’re going to come and rescue you from your situation maybe this friend is your only connection to God and by being with that person you you feel like you’re with God even though you’re not really personally being with God on your own maybe the friend becomes your only refuge in place of safety or the final say and the final verdict you go to that friend for for what’s right and what’s wrong a friendship loses its ability to or when a friendship loses its ability to point out what’s keeping you from Jesus it’s a hindrance not an asset and when we are the center of friendship it’s misused because friendship isn’t just for us I

mean it feels good and it feels like a gift when we’re given a friend but if friendship is now defined as a companion who fights for our ultimate good it’s actually about them this is like a three-way friendship where we are more concerned about their relationship with the other the next um oh I wanted to mention that we’re about to do this series on ruth and ruth means friendship and I love that we get to kind of continue our friendship series secretly uh into lent by looking at this story of ruth but ruth she says to naomi while naomi is in a pit of despair she even renames herself bitter because her life is so awful she feels and ruth says your God will be my God and I think ruth was fighting for for naomi and her in friendship because she wanted naomi to find connection with her God again the next distinctive that I think comes out of

friendship is that Jesus-centered friendship rests in a good gospel friendship is usually amazing and bubbly at first you can kind of click but like I said friendship is more about helping someone be near to Jesus than it is just about what we can gain and and the connectivity between us but friendship at some point in the journey it’s it’s gonna hit the the rocks in and the bumps on the road right and friendship in order to continue um and to be a Jesus-centered friendship has to be rest has to rest in some good news and so I’ve got some good news for you I I brought this up here because I wanted to just go through a little gospel story and from what I understood about the good news uh when I was younger was that me you know I am a sinner you know so I’m bad and but plus when Jesus comes and he’s good you know then actually I’ll just make

Jesus have a robe or something and and so even though I’m sinful and Jesus is good his righteousness covers me and now I’m good that’s sort of the message that I heard that was the good news which in a lot of ways it does sound like good news I can I go from being bad to being good but what I have grown to learn about the good news is that God he created me and you know he also created a world for me to live in you know with trees and plants and cute little animals you know cool um and and he’s also created me to be with others and there’s actually all this in between space the good news is not just about me the entity being going from bad to good there’s actually a relationship that I have with God a relationship that I have with others with the world and even with myself and sin when sin came into the world the

adam and eve hid their relationship with God was was messed up it was disordered and they ate from the tree and that their relationship with the world was ordered and now they blamed one another and they felt shame and now we have this issue between all the relationships around us and the good news is really that when Jesus comes he desires to set all the in-between spaces right which means that in friendship in our relationships when they’re centered in Jesus they can find forgiveness they can find healing they can find restoration because Jesus blood covers the in between parts of our relationships I think that when friendship gets hard friendship in Jesus rests in a good gospel which means that in between spaces with God with others and even ourselves can be mended and can be worked through not to say that this isn’t

a difficult process and it’s not like Jesus comes and he magically makes friendship easy we still have to work through that journey but there’s a resting and a peace that comes when our friendship is rooted in this good gospel I also think that when friendships move on that Jesus centered friendships they rest in a good gospel that looks toward eternity there have been many seasons of friendships that I’ve had in my life and when they end because or they I don’t talk to them regularly and it’s not an ongoing active kind of friendship I trust that one day in eternity we get to romp around and enjoy one another again and that’s a gorgeous thing about this gospel that doesn’t just mean that friendship is for now the here and now friendship is also for eternity so when friends take a new call because they feel God’s called them elsewhere we

can we can bless them and we can say we can be we will be re reunited when when friends choose something different we can be reunited and I love the classic story of jonathan and david this was a friendship where they connected because they were they were wanting to fight for the ultimate kingdom they knew that each other had a heart for the kingdom of God over the kingdom of israel and the kingdom of king saul and it bonded them very very quickly and we see evidence that they really wanted to spend more time together and yet they were not allowed to and there was this this painful breaking that david had to run away because jonathan’s dad king saul wanted to kill him so obviously they couldn’t have an active and ongoing friendship but they could look forward to one day enjoying their friendship in eternity

the last distinctive in Jesus centered friendships that I want to talk about today is that I think that they refine us in christ’s likeness so just like when friendships hit the road and it seems like they kind of enter the fire they friendships that are committed to Jesus and are willing to work through those bumps in the road and allow Jesus in the gospel to heal them in the in between spaces they can come out the other side looking differently now back in college I had this friend that I spent every day with pretty much she was my roommate and we did everything together and she had worked at a camp the summer before I worked there and the summer that I attended I had a little camper come up to me and say you know what yvonne you remind me of this other counselor and I said oh really you know who is she is she cool you know and she said

oh yeah it was it’s a counselor that isn’t here this year but her name’s kim pic or kim carter and I was like interestingly enough kim and I have spent almost every waking moment together over this last year and it’s very interesting that you say that we are act and talk and seem similar and I can tell that I was the one becoming more like my friend kim because she knew kim from the year before and so the more time that I spent with kim the more that my kim likeness came out and I think that that’s true in our life with Jesus the more time that we spend with our friend Jesus and we get to know him we know how he he talks we know how he thinks we know how he walks and what he would choose maybe we could if he was in the other room you know we could catch eyes and we’d know what he was about to do the more that that maybe we start to

look more like Jesus too and if our friend is also doing the same thing how much more does that help us because now when we’re spending time with Jesus and we’re spending time with this companion who fights for our nearness with christ now we’ve got more people that start to help us be shaped in the likeness of christ there’s an interesting story from scripture and an interesting character who pretty much looked nothing like christ and he went on a long journey and we actually have an incredible amount of information about him and about his friends in God’s word because the new testament is filled with his writings the apostle paul was an enemy of God he was not his friend in fact he hated his friends he worked to exterminate all of his friends and and to stop the movement of Jesus and there was one day on this road where he

had this incredible encounter where God just spoke clearly to him and said saul why are you doing this to me and in this moment there was this invitation from Jesus who called him out who wounded him maybe in that moment but because he wanted his friendship and so saul actually did a 180 and he wanted to be friends with God but that didn’t always go over so well with those around him because they didn’t trust him paul was at one time their enemy and now he was he’s saying that he wants to be their Jesus-centered friend so he needed other friends in his life a friend like barnabas who could come alongside him and say I I am more trusted in this community of Jesus friends and so I’m going to vouch for you and I’m going to help you I’m going to guide you I’m going to encourage you in your faith in Jesus and I’m gonna fight for your

nearness with Jesus and then you know saul he actually has some issues with some of his other friends which you know we all have issues with friends but um instead of choosing um one friend he chooses silas and he says silas you’re gonna be my Jesus centered friend for this time maybe he didn’t use that word those language but but paul and silas go through some really tough stuff together they partner in ministry and there is a moment in their story where they are sitting locked up in a prison cell and in that moment the two of them are fighting for nearness with christ they pull out an old hymns and they start to sing and worship God from that place they are fighting even in the hardest darkest time in their ministry to to fight to be connected with Jesus and to hope in him no matter if Jesus lets him out or if Jesus allows them

to finish their life in that space and then we even see paul reaching out to those who come after him he ends up pouring his life into a young man named timothy and he we have letters that are written to timothy in the bible and we see that paul wants to do the same thing that barnabas did for him by guiding him teaching him directing him encouraging him in the faith and fighting for his timothy’s nearness with christ so this is a whole scope of friendships that we can have and I think in all of them we can be Jesus centered we can have a relationship with above with Jesus because he this is the story of long ago so if you want to have a friendship with Jesus you just start talking to him he wants a friendship with you and you can learn more about who he is and what he’s done for you as you get to know him but just reach out to him

today because he wants to be your friend if you are in the journey and you need people that are more like a barnabas ahead of you on the journey maybe today is an invitation for you to start looking for who’s a little bit more mature on this journey who could who could help me and come alongside me and and help me fight for my nearness with christ but maybe you need people that are alongside you who do ministry and and do life together like a silas or maybe you need someone that comes after you you know I think it’s easy within the church to find friends that that are alongside us and we feel like we we think similarly and we want to we want to follow Jesus but then we kind of create a little holy huddle and and we just want to be friends with those who are friends of Jesus instead of reaching out to those who are less

developed in their faith and maybe they don’t serve you as much as you might want a friendship to but actually it does serve you because as you give of your faith and of your heart for Jesus to someone else who’s younger in their faith and you invite them along you feel like you’re a part of a greater story and you feel like your life and your life with Jesus really matters so I’m going to invite you to just take a moment to ask yourself which of these kind of friendships do you most need so all in all I think that Jesus centered friendships are rooted in an ancient story and you’re invited to join that story it changes our definition of friendship and it’s actually to fight for one’s nearness with christ we can enter those and we can endure those because they rest in a good gospel and we can be formed in christ’s likeness as they refine us if

this series has been resonating with you and you feel like man I need to do some work on my friendships and my relationships we would love to come alongside you we’re actually going to offer a class called emotionally healthy relationships and this is an eight-week class from march 7 to may 2nd so you’ve got three weeks to decide if you want to join us we’re going to have it during the second service and two counselors and myself a pastor are going to be present to you and help you navigate this journey and start looking at the way of friendship and we would love for you to sign on up register for that there will be a small fee for the books but we think that this will be a really valuable journey that we would love to take with you so as I conclude conclude I’m just going to go back to the apostle john’s words he says beloved if God so loved

us we ought to love one another no one has ever seen God but if we love one another God abides in us and his love is perfected in us friend making is risk-taking but I want to encourage you to be brave and to take risks to create those strong Jesus-centered friendships let’s pray father God king Jesus holy spirit we thank you so so much for reaching out and extending friendships to us we thank you that you invited us into this story and that you have allowed for a good gospel to let us rest in this God I don’t know where my friends are today in their friendships but I ask that you would help them create strong and abiding friendships that allow them to fight for nearness with christ lord open doors of friendship lord give give fruit to the

seeds of friendship that they plant today and beyond I pray this in your name amen

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