Supernatural Friendship

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Hey TD!

With so much formerly-unquestioned institutions, definitions, relationships, etc. being redefined and made hazy in our culture today (i.e. marriage, gender, sexuality, etc.), the idea of true friendship hasn’t been immune; and neither has Christian friendship.  As with everything else, we need to go back to God, the Author of friendship, for the right and proper idea and intention for friendship.

I read a great article on Christ-driven friendship this morning in Tabletalk magazine by Ryan Townsend (Executive Director of 9Marks in Washington D.C.) and thought that it would be good for the rest of you to read and consider for yourselves and for God’s honor. – Arthur

Supernatural Friendship

by Ryan Townsend

One of my favorite songs in high school was U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

It captured my youthful angst and dissatisfaction in this world and its friendships. Now, I had a great childhood, and I’ve always been a happy extrovert. But I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, and never experienced the full joy of Christian fellowship until I found Jesus—in a local, evangelical church on Capitol Hill, when I was twenty-three years old. God used friendships in this church to bring me to Christ (Matt. 5:16). Then, the Lord used (and is using) these relationships to help me grow in Christ (Col. 1:28). This has been the greatest existential joy I’ve experienced here on earth (Ps. 34:8). It makes my heart long for heaven, where we will have unending, joy-filled fellowship with God and all believers (Rev. 21:3). So, friendship is deeply important for the Christian life and ministry. And the church is foundational in all this. Here are three reasons why.

Blood-Bought Fellowship

The Apostle John tells us, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This verse captures the relationship between the gospel, the church, and friendship. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins, and we have genuine, joy-filled fellowship with God and with one another—if we walk in the light, that is; if we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus. This means that the church is a blood-bought community that grounds us in real relationship—with our Creator and with one another. It gives us real friendships that are unlike any other.

Biblical friendship, then, is a committed love that unites us in fellowship and allows us to finish the race and fight for faith together, through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). And a local church is the gospel setting in which these friendships take place and allow God’s love to reverberate into the world. The church is the community where we serve King Jesus and learn to walk in a manner worthy of Christ—together, with friends. This community thereby allows us to encourage and exhort one another in the faith through the friendships it creates.

Encouragement and Exhortation

During high school, I visited England. We were driving one afternoon in the country, and I remember seeing a flock of sheep for the first time in my life, stumbling down the road right in front of us. I had never seen sheep so closely before. I thought sheep were white, but they’re not. Up close, they’re dirty—and messy and stupid. Some were falling into the ditch by the roadside; some were going the wrong way and biting at each other. But after ten minutes or so, with the help of the shepherds and the sheepdogs, they all made it home safely to the sheepfold.

In the same way, stronger and weaker Christians need one another—for love, discipleship, and encouragement. You see, we’re often like those sheep. We snap at one another and are easily swayed off the path. We fall into ditches and go the wrong way, but, by God’s grace, by being together in a flock, we can make it down the road.

This means we’re better stuck in the middle of the flock, even if it inconveniences our lives now. Why? If you know your own heart well, you know that it is actually more dangerous to be alone or on the edge of the flock because we’re prone to wander. Older men and women in the faith are commanded by Paul to disciple and encourage younger Christians (Titus 2). Younger Christians are also called to care for and love older Christians. That means that in the church, there is no such thing as an individualistic Christian. God has bound us together as one body in Christ and commanded us to care for one another (Heb. 10:24–25).

By joining a local church, stronger and weaker Christians make their love for Christ definite by loving others in a committed fashion. These friendships become the instrument that enables us to:

Encouragement is a powerful antidote to unbelief. And friendships are a great gift of God that bring us together in covenant love.

By God’s grace, they enable us to carry out the countless “one another” commands and make disciples who image His holy, pure, unified, and loving wisdom (Eph. 3:10). This brings us to the third reason why friendships are important to the Christian life.

A Display of God’s Glory

When Christians covenant together in genuine fellowship, these friendships image God well and put His character on display as the gospel unites people across great barriers amid great diversity.

In his book Love in Hard Places, D.A. Carson tells us:

Ideally . . . the church itself is not made up of natural “friends.” It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common ancestry, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. . . . In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.

We sacrifice our comforts, preferences, resources, time, and habits to help foster unity in diversity, and serve as a picture of supernatural, God-glorifying friendships that image God in our communities, commend the gospel, and bring joyful satisfaction and blessing in our own lives.

So, ultimately, friendships are important for the Christian life and ministry because they create a supernatural, compelling community that displays and protects the gospel, transforms lives and communities, and shines as a beacon of hope in a dark world. This is God’s plan for the local church (Eph. 2:13–3:21), and He carries it out for our good and His glory.

© Tabletalk magazine. For permissions, please see our Copyright Policy

Ryan Townsend is executive director of 9Marks in Washington, D.C.

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TD Fri. – Are You Serious?

this dude means business

Hey TD,

Tomorrow at TD we will continue our summer series “Are You Serious?” and explore another poignant passage of Scripture in a fresh, dialogical, open-ended way, seeking to challenge our status quo and evaluate the way we live our “Christian” lives.  Come prepared to think thoughtfully, evaluate honestly, and question freely!  See you tomorrow!

TD Fri. – TD vs. BASIC Game Night!

Hey TD!

TD and BASIC would like to invite you all to join us for our first TD vs BASIC Game Night! We do not get much interaction between fellowship groups, and we thought it would be nice to share the night together! We also want to encourage you in TD to make connections with and care for the younger believers at our church, just as you were cared for in your youth. We hope that we can introduce the BASIC kids to TD in a fun, casual way and use this night as a sort of bridge between the junior high and high school fellowships.

All in all, we plan to have a fun, competitive time together and hope that you will join us tomorrow night! See you then! – Clara

Raw Voice Memo to Myself

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Hey TD!

Sometimes I record memos to myself on my phone when I’m not at a place that I can write those thoughts down, and I want to remember some thoughts I’ve been thinking, impressions that were made on me, or convictions I’ve developed.  I usually then type out and clean up the thoughts from the voice memo on a Word doc.

Two weeks ago, while at RZIM’s Summer Institute, I had Aha! moments all week long and came home with new focus and resolve, making some resolutions and some adjustments to my daily habits and focus.  While there in Atlanta, I made notes to myself all week (written and audio recorded).  After recently reviewing a raw voice memo I made purely for myself in my hotel room, I realized that there are items in there that I think will be helpful for most of you as well, especially as you try to grow your Christian effectiveness this summer, in preparation for the new school year.

Instead of editing and cleaning those thoughts up for you, I decided to just go ahead and share that voice memo to myself with you all in its raw, unedited form.  It’s only 7 minutes, but I think you’ll glean some insight and energy to help you take another step or two towards living for Him with excellence. – Arthur

These Verses Changed My Life

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Hey TD!

Don’t you love kids?  I do.  There is this raw, real, unpolished, unpretentious, unpackaged authenticity and realness to them, for better or for worse! 🙂  I also love young spiritual children as well (though they may be chronologically older, even adult-aged).  They too can have that wide-eyed hungry (even naive), teachable way about them that is refreshing and alive.  I love being around real life like that.  But with having children (biologically or spiritually) comes an enormous amount of spiritual responsibility.

It is when I had my first child, Nathaniel, that this hit me like a lightning bolt.  I read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and it changed my life’s focus, calling, and passion.  Here it is:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as [b]frontals [c]on your forehead.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

There they were, my marching orders from the Commander Himself.  My duty and calling as the father to my children was to first and foremost teach and train them to walk with the Lord, even before my responsibilities to train and take care of them physically, socially, academically, etc.  I have been charged to constantly bring them before the voice, heart, desires, and will of our God Almighty, through the priceless gift of His matchless Word; and I am to do it passionately, authentically, creatively, and in heavy doses.  Every chance that I get.  Waking.  Sleeping.  Walking.  Playing.  Eating.  Talking.  Traveling.  Every chance that I get.  That was really the underlying impetus behind us homeschooling them.

That’s why I get so excited when I see a young couple like Robert and Kathy take that charge to heart as well, as they begin exposing their daughter to God’s Word at her young age (these pics are the first pics of Hannah “doing” Bible study 🙂 wink, wink).  They know that even though she’s the cutest little thing (did you see her last night??? Sooooo cute!), God’s Word tells us the truth: little Hannah is a born-sinner, depraved at her core.  Little Hannah needs a Savior and needs to come to Jesus and to grow in His grace.  And that cannot happen without the power of His Word.

And you cannot grow in grace without the power of His Word either.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 applies to YOU.  YOU need to talk of His Word when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.  YOU need to bind them as a sign on your hand and as frontals on your forehead.  YOU need to write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

As a spiritual father to some of you, and a spiritual uncle to most of you, I charge you and plead with you to examine the life you’re living, who you’re living it with, the way you spend your time, the activities you engage in, the conversations you have, etc. Then, I ask you to do some re-organizing of your life to make more time to study, sit under, meditate on, pray through … God’s Word.

Do it this summer, so that by the time you return to school, more time in His Word will be ingrained into your schedule! – Arthur