Gospel Friendships

The Gospel calls us into Gospel Friendships.

Galatians is about how you can have ‘Freedom in Christ alone.’ We discovered in Galatians 5 that we have freedom to lovingly serve others. In Galatians 5:26-6:5 we discover how this looks in our friendships with others who are free in Christ.

1. CONCEIT – the enemy of Gospel Friendships

Galatians 5:26 says that conceit leads to either provoking or envying.  Neither are good.  Notice that Paul is saying our opinion of ourselves determines how we treat others.

Why does conceit lead to provoking or envy? Firstly, what is conceit? John Stott in his commentary on Galatians says it “denotes someone who has an opinion of himself which is empty, vain or false.” So it is like pride.  Pride causes us to be either superior or inferior. You are proud so you look down on people. This leads you to provoke people to show they are wrong and you are right. Or you are good and they are bad.

But at the same time feeling inferior comes from pride as well. It comes from finding your self worth by comparing yourself to others. When you feel inferior you see people who have something you don’t have and you want. This means you envy them.

Pride is the enemy of Gospel friendships. The Gospel is the key to Gospel friendships. Only the Gospel can make you humble and bold.  Humble because you know you are a sinner like everyone else and only saved by grace. This means you won’t feel superior and look down on others. The Gospel makes you bold because you know you are loved and so secure. This means you won’t feel inferior to others.

Conceit is the enemy of Gospel friendships. So what is the nature of Gospel friendships?

2. CARING – the nature of Gospel Friendships

Caring is the nature of Gospel friendships. In Galatian 6:1 Paul says ‘brothers.’ He is speaking to all Christians. He is speaking to everyone who is free in Christ and so has the Spirit. It is not just the appointed leaders or the Pastors who are to do the pastoral care. It is not so much pastoral care as just care. Caring is what you do for other Christians when you are friends with them.

Paul says ‘you who are spiritual.’ This is an example of ‘keeping in step with the Spirit’ referred to in Galatians 5:25. So if you are free in Christ you live by the Spirit by caring for others.

Paul says we are to ‘carry each other’s burdens.’  Tim Keller explains this by saying it means that we “stand so close to someone so that some of the burden falls on you.” Whatever that burden is. This makes me think of someone carrying a yoke that is meant for two people. One person comes next to them and takes on the weight of the yoke and the load they are carrying.

You are going to be burdened by carrying someone else’s burden. It is going to cost you. If you are doing that you are a friend. If not, you are just an acquaintance.  Paul says by this you ‘fulfil the law of Christ.’ The law of Christ that he is summed up in Galatians 5:14 as “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul is saying we need each other. We need friends. We need Gospel friends.

We don’t walk around celebrating air. We don’t talk about how good it is and how much we need it. We only start to do this when you go under the water. Then you think I need air. This is the same with friendship. We tend not to realize how much we need them until we need them. So the time to work on friendships is now.

The Gospel calls us into Spiritual Friendships. It sends you deeper into the lives of other followers of Jesus.

To need and want friendships is not a sign of weakness but maturity. It is not a sign of sickness but of health.

One thing that wasn’t good in the Garden of Eden in Genesis was that Adam was alone. Adam was not lonely because he was imperfect but because he was. The one ache for friends is not an ache because of sin. This tells us we cannot enjoy paradise without friends. We cannot enjoy life without friends.

However because of sin we think we don’t need friends. Or because of pain we say I don’t need friends anymore.

Or because of age we think it’s too hard to start again. Blokes this is a big problem for us. I’ve noticed that once we hit about 45 we start to lose our friends. There are plenty of obvious reasons for this but it means we need to work really hard on having close mates. We need  to mates who we don’t boast about our successes to each other but our failures. We need to cut the crap and be honest.

It’s easy to think it’s just not worth it. Don’t do that. You are becoming less like Jesus. Know what it is to be and have friends. To share and carry burdens.

As Aussies we are private people. We like to mind our own business and we like others to mind their own business. Of course that means we have superficial friendships.  If we want friendship you have to share.

You cannot have friendship unless you share with people. You need to share your thoughts, your things and your decisions.

Let’s think about decisions.  Any process of decision-making that leaves out talking to friends doesn’t know the power of Gospel friendship. We are never allowed to make decisions by ourselves. There is no unilateral decision making going on.  No Christian says mind your own business. You are not a friend unless you let people into your decisions. You have to let people get up close so they share the burden of decisions.  You are not a friend if you don’t allow someone to come and tell you you are absolutely wrong.

We are so fussy when it comes to friendships. We see this when we get so easily offended. Fussy is a soft way of putting it. Selfish would be a better way of putting it. When we get so easily offended it shows that we are not friends with someone for what we can give them but for what we can get from them. Getting offended is what happens when we don’t get what we want from someone. We are essentially saying you are to always treat me as I want and if you do I’ll be your friend but if not I won’t be.

Friendships are about Jesus. We are friends because Jesus did everything for us to be friends with him.

I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen people get offended and withdraw from the person. Even more than that seeing people getting offended and leaving a church.  You don’t know how many times that has been true of me and I have to repent.  We have to let ourselves need people.

Because of our individualism sometimes relationship responsibility has to be forced on us.  Take our societal relationship responsibility.  We all want a just society but we avoid jury duty. Everyone I know has tried to get out of it. Societal relational responsibility has to be legislated to get us to do it.  No one is going to force you into friendship that’s why it’s so hard and need a lot of thought and energy.

 Caring is the nature of Gospel friendships.

 3. CONFRONTING – an example of Gospel Friendships

Galatians 6:1 talks about confronting someone who is caught in sin. This is an example of what you have if you have Gospel friendships.

We read this verse with ourselves in mind as the person restoring. However, if you read this verse with yourself in mind as the person who is ‘caught in sin’ it should make you thankful this verse is in the Bible. It says that if you are caught in a sin someone is going gently help you get out of it.

It is talking about someone ‘caught in sin.’ Do not read this verse as saying that it’s normal for Christians to see someone sinning and that you’ve got to tell them about it.  Love covers a multitude of sins says 1 Peter 4: 8. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love is not easily angered and doesn’t keep a record of wrong. 1 Corinthians 13: 7 says love hopes all things; endures all things. It’s a mark of spiritual immaturity to be always telling people they are wrong.

The person is caught in a sin. It implies a pattern. The person is trapped & doing something repeatedly. They are harming themselves or others. They’re stuck so they can’t stop on their own.

If this is the case then you restore gently.  You ‘restore him gently.’ The word for restore is the same word used to put a dislocated bone back into place. Tim Keller calls this “inflicting healing pain.”

We are to do it gently or humbly. This is what Paul means by ‘watch yourself.’ You can’t do it with the attitude I would never do that. You can’t do it humbly if you feel superior.  If you are then keep your thoughts to yourself.

The Gospel calls you into friendships with people who you’ve invited to press you with the Gospel. None of us are objective about ourselves. We need people. We need people to point out where we are going wrong.

See confronting is scary. It’s scary because if we do this to someone we are inviting them to do this to us.

Imagine the impact we will have in our community if we lived this out. We don’t have to imagine because Jesus tells us. In John 13:35 he says:- “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Jesus is the greatest friend. Why? He carried our greatest burden. In His death in carried our sin, guilt and shame. When we fail our friends and our friends fail us we have Jesus. He is our faithful friend who will never fail us.

If you know you’ve got a friendship to fix up. If you’ve got something against someone. Go and fix up your friendship today.

Remember all you have in Jesus so you can give all to others in friendship and never lose. Let’s give up our fussiness. Let’s repent of being easily offended.

The Gospel calls us into Gospel friendship.

LT Hopper served as the Senior Pastor at Lakeshore Church from 2007-2015.

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