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Good Friends and the Gospel

One thing I have been thinking about these past few days is what exactly makes the difference between an acquaintance or a friend and a really close, good friend?  I have many people in my life who I would consider friends.  I would go to a ball game with them or go out to eat with them.  I invite their kids to my kids' birthday parties.  There are fewer people in my life who make the cut to the next level of friendship.  These few people are my closest friends and outside of my family, the people I most treasure on this earth.  I know that I can let down my guard around these friends because they know me and I know them.  Chances are the real, unguarded me won't offend them, and if it does I know they will forgive easily.  I trust these people with my kids and that is an area I am very slow to trust in.

What makes a close friend?  What is the difference between someone who you hang out with and someone who you would trust with your life or your family?  The answer, at least in my mind, is the gospel.  In short, the more you agree on the particulars of and the importance of the gospel with someone, the greater the chance that intimate friendship will develop.  Intimacy in relationships occurs when there is agreement on the deepest things in life.  To the believer, there is nothing deeper than the gospel.

Consider these verses:

 I appeal to you, brothers,  by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. -- 1 Corinthians 1:10

 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. --  Philippians 2:1-3

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, --  Ephesians 4:11-13

In each of these verses Paul is calling for believers to be unified.  The unity is of a specific nature, however.  We are called to be united withe the same mind and judgment, the same spirit and purpose, and in the knowledge of Christ.  Unless we are unified on the nature and calling of the gospel, then there can never be true unity between believers.  Where that unity exists, however, biblical fellowship occurs.  There is no worldly substitute for the joys of biblical fellowship with other believers.

Unfortunately not every believer experiences true biblical fellowship to the extent they could.  I believe there are a couple of primary reasons for this.  The first is that too many professing Christians do not have an adequate understanding of the gospel.  They do not understand the magnitude of what took place on the cross.  Lacking that understanding, they are incapable of giving God the worship and glory He is due for their salvation.

The second reason biblical fellowship is lacking in many believers lives is they are too quick to seek fellowship from people who do not share the depth of their commitment to the gospel.  We recognize our need for community and fellowship but are often impatient in waiting for God to bring people into our lives who we have true unity in mind and judgment with.  In our impatience we seek fellowship from anyone who seems to like or appreciate us or who has interests in common with us.  In doing so we sacrifice biblical fellowship for worldly friendship which by nature cannot satisfy.

I can count the people in my life who I experience true biblical fellowship with on my two hands.  I have learned that it can be difficult to find those true friends and to hold onto them dearly when I do find them.

What about your friendships?  Are they based on common interests only?  Or are they rooted and founded in the gospel of Christ?

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