The Art of Spiritual Friendship: Faith and Friendship Part 2

In the last article on this subject we learned that it was through the vehicle of friendship that God transforms us.  Christ has made peace between God and man, ending the long standing war that our parents started in that beautiful garden all those years ago, and where there is peace, true peace, there is always friendship.  But what is the effect of this spiritual friendship on our everyday, ordinary, mundane lives?

First thing to recognize is that we are not alone in this new found peace and friendship with God, there are others, many others in fact, and a true friend of God is our friend as well.  We find ourselves on a journey through a now strange land.  The familiar ways of our old life before Christ become unfamiliar when the Holy Spirit lights upon our soul.  The path is narrow and often difficult as we are faced with temptation daily, hourly sometimes, to break fidelity with God and satisfy the desires of what still remains in us of the corruption inherited from our father Adam.  Misunderstood by the general population, which lay still under the sway of hidden powers, first and nearest, within their own heart there is the sinful nature transmitted through the Fall, second without, in the World, Satan, an agent of pure evil is deceiving them and is out to destroy them and us who trust in Christ and serve the living God.  Our new desire for holiness frees us from the tyranny of making our decisions according to the world’s idols of sex, money, power, and reputation.  The Gospel re-orients us to God but in such a counter-cultural way that it sometimes stirs the ire of those who do not call God their Father and would rather not be reminded of His existence.  This radical opposition to God, which lies on the human heart, coupled with the deceptive power of Satan, turns the world we live in into something akin to a war zone. Those who call on Christ are pilgrims, refugees traveling through this war torn land of hatred, manipulation, and prejudice on our way to a better land with better promises.  We are searching for a city whose maker and foundation is God, where there is no pain, or sorrow, or tears, and where our Father has a Mansion with enough room for us all.  Searching is not really a good way to describe it, because we know the Way and we are on it.  It is just some times darker and more difficult than we expected.  Which leads us to the point.

Since we are few, the way is narrow, we are all headed in the same direction, in fact to the same place, with the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same Father, and the same light for our feet, God has called us to journey together.  In fact the Greek word for “the church”, “ekklesia”, means “the called out ones”, it is a plural word.  The church is a group of people called out together to pursue a radical friendship with God primarily and then to turn and practice that same grace and forgiveness toward one another that they have experienced in the person of Jesus Christ.  As we practice being spiritual friends we find the grace to live in the same spaces and places with the same people for long periods of time and still remain spiritual friends.  The reason being is that as we pursue our friendship with God we find out all those annoying things that we still do on a daily basis to Him and yet still on a daily basis we are met with love and forgiveness.  Having experienced such a very great, repeated extension of love, we then find that type of love welling up in ourselves, and the ability to forgive, love, and extend favor to those who continually annoy us comes freer than we ever thought possible.  Grace experienced is grace extended, it can be no other way.  Jesus ties our ability to forgive with our ability to be forgiven in the Lord’s Prayer.  Why, because Jesus knows that our orientation to God comes out in real life.  What we believe we do.  Our heart and our feet are always connected.  There is no sacred and secular divide, no heavenly love without earthly action.  If we are truly a friend of God, one that is radically re-oriented to Him in the love and grace of Christ, then we are spiritual friends with all those who call on Him as Father and Lord.  We will spend eternity with them.  But we are especially called to live out that grace and love with real people, that live where we live, and who are pursuing God out of a pure heart.

What does the pursuit of spiritual friendship look like?  Where should it begin?  At the same place it began with God, communication.  In the last article I urged you to be frank with God, if you doubted tell Him, if you were afraid, tell Him.  God is big enough for your fears and your doubts.  But he also knows you are made of flesh, that it is not good for you to be alone, and that you have a need to be known, understood, and trusted.  It would be wrong to say that God needs these things, but obviously He desires these things.  He spent thousands of years revealing Himself to us. He came in human flesh as Jesus Christ who is the express image of the person of God. He orchestrated and inspired the writing of the Scriptures.  Why would He do all this?  Because He wants us to know Him, understand Him, and trust Him.  And you, being created in His image have these same desires, except in you it is right to classify them as needs.

I figured out that there was something wrong with my daughter Ruthie because by the time she was 18 months old, I knew from the experience of being the father of four other children, she should have been further along in her speech development.  Sure enough, she is nearly deaf.  I knew there was something wrong because she could not communicate.  Countless childhood diseases are detected through lack of speech, yet a full grown man can be incapable of intimate friendship, unable to communicate to another human being what is going on inside his own heart, and we still consider him a spiritually healthy individual.  The truth is a man that cannot tell you what’s going on inside of him is a man that is hiding from God.  Before he can vocalize it to you he will have already vocalized it to God.  A man that will not uncover his soul to a spiritual friend, who refuses to become vulnerable, is a man that is not developing a friendship with God.  You cannot be honest with God and dishonest with men.  You cannot be honest with men and dishonest with God.  You cannot love some one you can’t see without loving those that you do see.  Nor can you develop a healthy spiritual friendship with God and not develop healthy spiritual friendships with at least a few of  His people.

If you think about it, vulnerability is the hallmark of the incarnation.  Jesus, God in the flesh, was born into a violent world as a helpless babe.  Every child under the age of two in the region was killed by King Herod in an attempt to murder Him.  Jesus made himself very vulnerable, not just to hate, but also to love.  John, the Apostle, refers to himself as one whom Jesus loved.  He is pictured as laying his head on the chest of Jesus at the last supper.  Jesus knew how to be a good spiritual friend.  In fact, those who walked closely with Him in His earthly pilgrimage gave their life in His service, most to martyrdom.  And if you’ll notice, some times that meant saying things to them that they didn’t like or want to hear.  James and John are not sitting on his left and right.  Peter He actually called Satan once.  Jesus rebuked the Apostles as a group on more than one occasion.  Brave, vulnerable communication can be required at times if we are to be good spiritual friends.  Pay close attention and you will see that Jesus washed Judas’ feet, the son of perdition, just before His betrayal by that man.  Being a good spiritual friend takes a great deal of faith, love, and hope.  The reality is you may be betrayed.  Never forget that it was through a betrayal that salvation came to the world.  Faith and risk are not only necessary to our friendship with God but they are key components as we move into spiritual friendships in a broken and hostile world.  Betrayal is a given, but God takes that which is meant for evil and turns it to good for our souls and for the souls of our friends

In the next article I will return again to examine another aspect of developing our spiritual friendship with God, so that we can further plow the way forward to understanding the best practices for developing spiritual friendship among God’s friends here on earth.

New Book Review

The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture

By Justin Wilson-Hartgrove

 

If you are struggling to be fruitful as a Christian in our society, Justin Wilson-Hartgrove has thoughts on why that maybe the case.  He uses the term “mobile” to describe our culture, I prefer the term liquid, but either way Wilson-Hartgrove will touch a nerve and I personally think he is onto something.  Click on the book review tab to read the full review.

New Devotion based on Pslam 5

There is a new devotion up this morning based on Psalm 5.  My hope is to see the Psalms regain a place of prominence again in the Church.  They teach us how to pray like no other part of the Scriptures do.  I love what Luther said about them, “that nowhere in the Scripture is divinity and humanity so well blended as the Psalms.”  What he meant was that the Psalms are replete with conversations between God and man.  A.W. Tozer believed that the reason David was recognized by God as a man after His own heart was because of David’s frank dealing and unreserved conversation with the Almighty.  I hope these devotions help you establish a relationship with the Father that can be described this way as well.  Just click on the Devotions tab above.

*Don’t forget* If you like what you read on Solomon’s Porch, subscribe now and it’ll come straight to the ole inbox, save yourself a click or two on the mouse.

New Devotional

There is a new devotion up this morning based on Psalm 4.  Just click on the Devotions tab above.

If you like what you read on Solomon’s Porch, subscribe now and it’ll come straight to the ole inbox, save yourself a click or two on the mouse.

Justification

Justification is jesus making you innocent.  Jesus, lived a life just like you.  He suffered, was misunderstood, and mistreated, yet he experienced all this without Sinning.  However, he tasted death.  Now death is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23), and Jesus paid a penalty He didn’t owe, which gives Him the ability to absorb all the punishment that we deserve.  When He absorbs the punishment for all our sins, the guilt of our sin being removed, we are left in a perfect state of permanent innocence, justified before the Law of God.

New Feature @ Solomon’s Porch I61 Events

I61 Events, see the new tab above, read the description below………………

I61 Events are events that Solomon’s Porch members are either beginning themselves, attending, or supporting in some way.  We hope to be able to make available to all our members and their friends opportunities to roll up their sleeves and bring help, healing, and reconciliation to the community we live in.

I61 Events are named after Isaiah 61:1-4, which is the passage Jesus quotes in Luke 4:16-21 to describes His ministry to His home town.

1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

We think that this should also summarize our ministry to our home town.  We hope to bring the same kind of spiritual and physical healing to our home town that Jesus desired to bring to His, and did bring to so many others during His earthly ministry.

Update * New Book Review*

The Celtic Way of Evangelism:  How the Christianity can Reach the West, Again

By George G. Hunter III

This weeks book review is on a rather out of the ordinary book, but I definitely think it is worth the read.  Check out my new book review on the Book Review tab above.

Update

The Malachi Sermon Series is now Complete!

The final sermon from the Malachi series is here.  Go to the sermons tab to get the audio.  Also at the bottom of the home page you will find the sermon notes from all three sermons. enjoy!

New Devotion based on Psalm 3

Also today there is a new devotion based on Psalm 3.  Go to the devotions tab and then scroll down til you see Psalm 3.  The devotions are meant to help you meditate on God’s Word, also I encourage you to keep a journal of your experiences with the Lord in prayer as it is helpful to express what you learn during that time in your own words.  Marking your progress in grace is always helpful for when our enemy attacks and we become discouraged.  It also helps us track our own consistency in applying the means of grace to our lives.   I pray the Lord will bless your time sitting before His throne.  Grace and peace to you all.

The Art of Spiritual Friendship: Faith and Friendship Part 1

There are two types of spiritual friendship, friendship with God and friendship with man.  The first is our development of a friendship with God based on the good news of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  In those defining acts Jesus completes all our failures, mends all our faults, and delivers us to God.  Never forget that the Gospel ends in the ascension to the throne of God, not in the resurrection.  The purpose of all the other acts was to bring us back to God, to set us in new relation to the creator, one infinitely better than the situation that Adam found himself in.  While Adam was good and created in a good relationship to God, Jesus in perfection becomes glorified, a state from which there can be no fall, and we by faith are joined to perfection, not mere goodness as in the original state.  We find ourselves, because of the incredible favor procured for us in the Gospel, at the throne of the Father without fear and shame, completely at home (in fact it is our true home) in the heavenly places.  Now, as Father and son, or Father and daughter, we set out together to get to know one another and to engage one another in day to day life.  Which brings us to ask, “What is the purpose of such a relationship?”  Why does God insist that we engage Him personally?

Engaging God as a person is the thing I find that is most neglected in modern faith.  Since the enlightenment, a movement that taught us scientific principles of analysis, I find that most men, good Christian men, treat God as an object to be studied rather than a person to be known.  We are forever developing doctrinal positions about God, debating about Him and writing books about Him, yet so few actually figure out that God is not an amoeba on the slide under their microscope.  Getting His shape is impossible and knowing Him as one knows science or history is an impossibility.  God cannot be known as a book can be known.  Even the Scriptures themselves only give us what we need to know about God, they are sufficient for all of our life and all of our faith but they do not in any way shape form or fashion contain the specifications on God, nor do they purport to.  The Scriptures reveal to us the keys to relationship, Jesus, His Gospel, and the sending of His Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures call us to relationship with a being, not a cold knowledge of certain facts.

So, how does one develop a spiritual friendship with God?  Well just as God is a being that is communicative so He has created you a being that is communicative as well.  Therefore conversation, the ability to form words and ideas, to declare feelings and intent, is where we are to begin.  Not just conversation, but frank conversation.  God, as a being, is big enough to handle all your doubts and your fears.  He is a God that can handle your frankness.  Don’t beat around the bush, say what you really feel and think, if you doubt tell Him, admit it, if your afraid, tell Him, it’s ok, He can deal with all your fears and insecurities.  But put a voice to them, communicate with Him.  Tell Him your spiritual dreams, admit to Him your spiritual failures. Tell Him what you aspire to be, what you feel deep down where nobody else would dare venture.  Unveil your soul to Him, don’t hold anything back.

Why do I tell you this?  Because all relationship is based on trust, that’s right, faith.  The purity of your faith in the person can be detected in the amount of risk that you are willing to take with them.  For instance, in our life here on earth we have friends, but not all friends are equal.  There are aquaintances with which we make small talk, and then there are long time friends to whom we can bare our souls.  The level of friendship is always based on the level of faith we have in them, always.  Once a close friend betrays our trust, or our faith in them, the level of fellowship we have with them changes to suit their faithfulness to us.  Friendship is always a faith-based endeavor, whether with men or with God.

What then happens when a person comes to God completely unveiled, trusting Him with all that they are, warts and all so to speak?  Well, listen to what the Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 3:18,

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

The simple answer is, transformation of our entire being.  God knows that if you’ll trust Him, if you’ll be honest with Him about yourself, in this simple act of faith, God unveils himself to you.  And when you sit unveiled, staring at the glory of God, the Holy Spirit alters you, reshapes you according to the image that you behold.  The result of spiritual friendship is personal transformation or what is commonly known as sanctification in Christian circles.  God wants to transform you through the vehicle of relationship.

Interestingly, the level of openness and honesty you have with God bleeds into your personal relationships as well.  Just as no man can love God and hate his brother, so no man unveiled before God can hide from his brother in Christ either. And that will be the subject of the next article, spiritual friendship with other disciples of Christ.

New Devotion

I posted a new devotional this morning based on Psalm 2.  Just click on the devotions tab and scroll down til you see Psalm 2:7-12.  There are some questions for you to consider, to help you meditate on the Psalm, and I suggest you keep a prayer journal to help you process your meditations.  There is also a suggested prayer for you to pray at the end or you may want to pray the words of the Psalm back to the Lord at the end of your time.  May the Lord bless you.