Publication: Pastoral Letter, March 2015
Dear Friend in Christ:
A high school athlete was walking home from school when he noticed a slightly built fellow student walking on the other side of the street carrying a large number of books. He thought about helping but did not. Shortly after, a group of boys ran by, knocking all of the books to the ground. Then, the athlete walked over and helped the smaller boy pick up the books and shared some of the load. As they walked, they discovered that they lived not far from each other. The athletic boy began inviting the young man over to his house to toss the ball and they exchanged visits.
Different as they were, one athletic and the other studious, they became best friends. A year later, one received a college football scholarship the other became the valedictorian of his graduating class. The valedictorian was nervously preparing to deliver his valedictory speech; his athletic friend patted him on the back and said, “Hey buddy, you’ll do OK!”
The valedictorian began his speech thanking his teachers and his parents for their support. Then he said, “But I am really here today because of a friend. You see I had cleared out my locker because I didn’t want my parents to have to do that. I was going home to do the unthinkable, but on the way home, I met a friend.” No one had known that story. We are probably all here today because of friends.
THE SWEET SOCIETY
One of my longtime friends was the late Ern Baxter, a great preacher and scholar. He used to refer to the Holy Trinity as “The Sweet Society.” Three Persons in one Godhead. God is One because of His Eternal Covenant nature; He cannot deny Himself or His Word. “Faithful and true” is His name. God, for all of His holy, unapproachable character, is a social being. He loves fellowship and created us for that purpose. He put His image in us. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (see Proverbs 18:24).
What is amazing is that He invites us into the “Sweet Society” of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see 1 John 1:3-7). He makes it possible that our fellowship with Him and one another can be a “Sweet Society.” He makes room for redeemed sinners.
I was recently receiving communion with close friends and was struck by Jesus’ words in Luke 22:15, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Even the Son of God deeply desired to be with His friends in the hour of His trial. Passover is a family meal and these were His family. He was about to make the New Covenant with them.
In John 15:15-17, Jesus had called the disciples His friends, no longer servants because servants did not know what the master was doing. But He had revealed to them all that the Father had told Him. Friends were the ones in whom He confided and the ones that He wanted near in His hour of trial.
It is sad to note that all of them but one fled during His trial and Crucifixion, but after He rose again, He re-gathered and forgave them, that is what Jesus does with His friends.
I believe that God created Adam for fellowship and then gave Eve to Adam, because it was not good for him to be alone. From the very beginning, loneliness has not been good. Genesis 3:8 says that God would walk with Adam in “the cool of the day.” We are not told exactly how long this continued but no doubt they discussed Adam’s role in overseeing the Garden and naming the animals.
There came a day when God showed up and Adam did not; and God called to Him, “Adam, where are you?” It was Adam who was hiding, not God. Adam had broken the trust, not God, and Adam realized his nakedness. The first blood was shed by God when He killed an innocent animal, took the skin, and covered Adam and Eve in their shame. It would not be the last time God would shed blood to cover a friend who had sinned.
Real friends are those who, when they fail to show up, you know something is wrong.
God still gave mankind the opportunity to walk with Him in friendship. Genesis 5:22 tells us that Enoch walked with God for 300 years, then God took Him. My father used to put it this way: “One day God and Enoch were walking a long walk out into creation. It was beautiful and pristine. Finally God said, ‘Enoch it is closer to My house than yours; come home with me.'” So Enoch was here no longer.
Real friends are those you could go home with.
Noah knew Enoch’s story. And though the world had descended into wickedness, Noah walked with God (see Genesis 6:9). One day the Lord confided in His friend Noah that there would come judgment in the form of a flood. The waters above would come down, and the waters beneath would be released. The Lord instructed Noah about how he and his family could survive by building a ship. Noah believed God and obeyed, though it took him about a hundred years. Finally, it all happened.
Real friends are those that you can believe.
James 2:23 tells us that Abraham was a “friend of God.” Genesis chapter 15 says that God made a covenant with Abraham and then told him a lot about the future of His people, Israel. Again, when the Lord was about to destroy Sodom, He said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” The Lord wouldn’t act without letting Abraham in on it (see Genesis 18:17). The Lord promised to use Abraham to bless all the families of the earth.
Real friends are those you want to bless.
Moses must have been a special friend. He gave us the first five books of the Bible, considered by us the Word of God. He spoke with the Lord face to face (see Exodus 33:11). Yet, he was a meek and humble man.
When Israel grievously sinned, Moses offered to have his own name taken out of God’s book if God would forgive Israel (see Exodus 32:32). When God said that he would no longer travel with Israel, Moses said, “If you don’t go, I won’t go.” Exodus 33:17 says that Moses found grace in God’s sight and the Lord continued on with Israel. In chapter 34, Moses saw the very glory of God.
Real friends are those who can affect our decisions. What they ask of us matters.
David was called a man after God’s own heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7; Acts 13:22). One could wonder at that statement, considering some of David’s terrible sins. Nevertheless, the very Son of God, Jesus Christ, is called the “Son of David.” No higher honor could be paid to mortal man. Jesus is promised to rule from His father David’s throne eternally.
David prepared to build God a house that was destroyed centuries later. God built David a “house” that will remain forever (see 1 Chronicles 17:1-14).
Real friends are those whose hearts you can love, even when they sin.
We think of the characters that I have mentioned as unusually great people, and they were. We might consider that only such people could be friends with God, the highest of honors. But that would be wrong. Since Adam, all have sinned. Though we have sinned, we can be restored to friendship, fellowship and walking with God.
The disciples became friends with Jesus. Once Peter told Jesus to get out of his boat because Peter knew himself to be a sinner and saw Jesus as holy. Jesus violated the notion that holy people cannot become a friend to a sinner. If Jesus could not fellowship with a sinner, what hope has the sinner? Must he or she become righteous before being introduced to Jesus? No. (See Mark 2:15-17.) Sinners are the ones that He came to seek and save. (See Luke 19:1-10.) If merit was a consideration, who could ever become a friend to the One who is the greatest of all friends?
In fact, Jesus Himself was accused of being a “glutton and a wine bibber.” Let’s get this straight, if we can only become friends with those who are worthy, how does that make us friends with the very One who not only died for sinners but died with sinners. If the Cross had occurred in a church or synagogue, the world would likely have never heard about it. But He was crucified on a hill beside a road…outside the gates.
So, how did He reach sinners? We need the answer to this eternal issue. Let’s go back to my original story of the athlete and the studious. If the athlete had only fellowshipped athletes, the studious one (nerd) would have taken his own life. So it is, if Christians only fellowship Christians, how will sinners come to know the “friend who sticks closer than a brother”, the One who is there in the bad times?
I want to be clear. I do not believe that Jesus was friendly toward sin; He made that very clear. I do not think that He was “cozy” with every sinner. He chose those to whom He would become a friend. He told the disciples, “You did not choose me but I chose you and called you” (see John 15:15-16). I think that I could say the Holy Spirit led Him to certain people who were not particularly religious or righteous. He said, “The sick need a physician.”
My father-in-law was a physician and he frequently made house calls. When I was young, many doctors made house calls. Now of course we have to go to a physician. But from a spiritual point of view, “the sick” are mostly unwilling to go to the healing place. Jesus did not wait for them to come to Him, He made “house calls.” He went where they were; can we?
Charles V. Simpson
P.S. Please continue to pray for us, and consider a special financial gift to support the mission of CSM this month. We have launched our completely new website csmpublishing.org and we would love for you to see it! And, we would love to see you in Gatlinburg at our annual CSM Leadership Conference, May 12-15. Our special guest is author Nik Ripken and our theme is “Embracing the Truth with Our Lives“. It’s not too late to register!
©2015 Charles Simpson Ministries
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Scripture Reference: Proverbs 18:24, 1 John 1:3-7, Luke 22:15, John 15:15-17, Genesis 3:8, Genesis 5:22, Genesis 6:9, James 2:23, Genesis 18:17, Exodus 33:11, Exodus 32:32 Exodus 33:17, 1 Samuel 16:7, Acts 13:22, 1 Chronicles 17:1-14, Mark 2:15-17, Luke 19:1-10, John 15:15-16
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.