RETRO – BACK TO THE BASICS
January 29-30, 2005
Mark Chapter 5:37, “He did not let anyone follow Him except Peter, James, and John….”
Luke 8:51, “When he arrived at the house of Jairus, He did not let anyone go in with Him except Peter, John, and James….”
Luke 9:28, “Jesus took Peter, John, and James with Him and went up onto a mountain to pray.”
Mark 14:32-33, “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John along with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and troubled.”
The number one emotional problem in our culture today is loneliness. One of the top selling books over the last century, next to the Bible, is a book entitled “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
When God created the heavens and the earth, he said, “It is good. It is good. It is good.” Loneliness, though, was the first thing our God labeled as not good. What did our relational God do? As we read the scriptural account, God, because of our relational turmoil, sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins, to rise again, and to rebuild this relationship between man and God.
God is a relational creature. God is a relational being. Think about his personality. Think about the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Three in one, one in three. Perfect relationship, perfect connectivity. The first recorded words of Jesus were words he uttered when he was 12 years old. He said, “I must be about my Father’s business.” He then picked three guys, his best friends. That was the common thread through all those Scripture verses I just read to you. He picked three men, people he was close to. And these men helped him and assisted him in fulfilling his mission. He said, “I must be about my Father’s business,” when he was 12. Right before he died, what did he say? “It is finished.” The perfect bookend to a perfect life.
Jesus, the second person in the Trinity, needed friends. If he needed friends, I think you need friends and I need friends as well.
We all deal with loneliness, though. We have a hole in our heart that can only be filled by a personal relationship with Christ. We also have a hole in our heart that can only be filled by human relationships, by friendships. Many times I run into people who are clueless about the God-gap in their lives. Christ has not filled that gap in their lives and they’re trying to put God-type pressure on human relationships. They’re like, “Man, if I hook up with him…. He’s rich like Bill Gates and he kind of looks like Brad Pitt. Girl, he will solve all of my loneliness, all of my relational needs.” No he won’t! He’s not God. It’s not going to happen! It’s not going to happen.
“Ah, man, she looks like this. And, wow, if I hook up with her I’ll never be lonely again and I….” She’s not God! It begins with God, our relational God. We’re made in God’s image. Once we get to know God, then we’ll get to know what relationships are all about. We’ll understand this vertical [relationship] that’s awesome. That’s the most important. And then we can live out friendships on a humanistic level. A humanistic level that is fueled by the friendship of God and is played out in the friendships we share with others.
I went to high school with Larry. Larry and I played a lot of sports together. We were friends, not close friends, but we hung out a good bit just due to that common bond. After my junior year in high school, my family and I moved from Columbia, South Carolina, all the way to Houston, Texas—1,004 miles away. I pretty much lost contact with Larry until six years later.
One night I got a phone call from one of my best friends. He said, “Ed, you remember Larry?” I said, “Yeah, I remember Larry.” He said, “Are you sitting down?” I said, “Yeah, man.” He said, “Larry just murdered someone.” And he shared with me that Larry was in the state penitentiary. I said, “Are you kidding me? Larry?” I said, “Man, I know he was having some problems and stuff back in high school, but I didn’t realize they were to that extent!” He said, “Ed, can you believe that?” And I said, “Man, that’s unreal!”
Two weeks later I found myself sitting at a picnic table in a prison yard looking across this picnic table from my friend, Larry. Tears streaming down his face, he began to tell me his story. I finally said, “Larry, where did the wheels come off, man?” I said, “Where did the problems begin?” And he told me a four word phrase I’ll never forget. He said, “I had these friends….”
“I had these friends….” If I could tell you how many times I’ve heard that four word phrase you wouldn’t believe it. Whenever I talk to people—from junior high school to high school, from high school to college, from those who are married to those who are single, from knee high to tree high—whenever I talk with someone in the throws of a drug problem or an alcohol abuse situation or violence or anger or illicit behavior or whatever, and I ask, “Okay, where did the wheels fall off? When did everything start messing up?” They always start, “I had these friends…. I had these friends….”
So often we don’t realize the sheer force in the energy, in the influence, of friends. I would say, generally speaking, that most problems we’re dealing with today in this church go back to freaky friends. It goes back to relationships. It goes back to hanging around with, rubbing shoulders with, the wrong people.
Today I’m going to throw out three statements and we’re going to unpack these statements. This is a two-part talk. I’ll continue it next time. But let’s talk about some statements concerning friendships.
DEVELOPING QUALITY FRIENDS IS INTENTIONAL, NOT ACCIDENTAL
Here’s the first one: Developing quality friends is intentional, not accidental. Developing quality friends is intentional, not accidental. We don’t just say, “Oops, I fell into a friendship. Oh, there’s one there. Oh, oh. We just started hanging out, man. It just kind of happened.” No, no, no. We don’t develop friends in a vacuum. We don’t develop friends in neutrality. We’re intentional about it. We have the freedom to choose. We step out, we connect, we hook up, we join hands. It’s something we think about. We make this choice, this decision. “Okay, I’m going to choose this friend.”
And here’s something crazy about friendships to show the sheer power and the force of friendships. Let’s say for example, right there [Ed points out a man sitting in the front row], this guy right there. I could just talk to your best friends and never even meet you or know you, and I would know all about you just by your best friends. And you could do the same in my life as well.
Well, let’s let the Bible clear that up. Proverbs 27:19 (TLB), “A mirror reflects a man’s face…” Most of us, I think, looked in the mirror this morning before we came to church. A mirror reflects our face. A mirror is shallow though, just an exterior thing. “Okay, I look all right.” “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he…” What? I can’t hear you very well? He what? “…chooses!”
We have a choice. I have a choice. God wants the best relationally for my life and your life. Do you want to see who you are? Do you ever wonder, “Who am I? Who really am I?” Look at your friends. You look at your friends, you’ll see yourself. A mirror, yeah, that’s one thing. But friends? Whoa, man! The Bible says there’s some depth to that, there’s some richness to that. We know who we are by the friends we choose.
Parents, we carry a monster mantle. We have the opportunity to guide, lead, and direct our children from the time they are born until they leave. We have that opportunity. And one of the biggest responsibilities, parents, that we have—and most of us don’t even think about this—is we can help our children select the proper friends. We can monitor our children’s relationships. We can guide, we can help them cut relational patterns today when they’re 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years of age that will carry them through junior high school, high school, single adulthood, college, marriage, children, grandparents, even until they clock out. We have that kind of responsibility, that kind of octane, that kind of power, parents! Parents, who do you run with? Who are your best friends? How are you guiding your children? How are you monitoring their lives?
Our oldest child is 18. And after reading this verse, I thought about LeeBeth’s best friends. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. LeeBeth’s best friends mirror my best friends. So, Mom and Dad, your best friends are going to be the kind of friends your children have and will have. Who are you running with? Who are you hanging out with? Who are you associating with? It’s pretty heavy, isn’t it?
Where should this play out? You might be saying, “Well, Ed, I feel you man. Friendship is a force and a force to be reckoned with. And we serve a relational God. And we want to relate with others. Where do I meet the right people? Where do I meet these friends?”
I die laughing when people tell me this. I’ve heard this several times: “You know, the church is just too social.”
That’s the point! We’re supposed to be social. Read the book of Acts, Chapter 2. The church is built on relationships—our personal relationship with God and with others. That is what is so awesome about Fellowship Church. People tell me all the time, “Fellowship Church is the friendliest church I’ve ever seen.”
We have an opportunity, as adults, as kids, to choose the right relationships. Where? In the context of the local church. Read about the local church in Acts 2. The thing was built on relationships. They met in large gatherings and temple courts. Then, during the week, they met from house to house. It was built on relationships, on friendships. What kind of friends do you have? Because your friends reflect who you are.
[People complain,] “Well, I came to church and just sat there and no one talked to me.” They won’t! They’re not going to. “I went to that HomeTeam and no one said anything to me.” Wha, wha, wha, wha, wha, wha.
THE KIND OF FRIEND THAT YOU ARE IS THE KIND OF FRIEND THAT YOU’LL ATTRACT
That brings us to the next statement about friendships. The kind of friend that you are is the kind of friend that you’ll attract. Who are you? What kind of person are you? You’re going to attract that kind of person. You want to attract friends? Be a friend.
[Ed’s shirt has a large “C3” printed on it] You like this shirt? Pretty sweet isn’t it? What does it say? I can’t hear you. C3. C3. I wore this shirt for a reason. This shirt is a relational shirt. It makes a serious relational fashion statement.
Samson was the biblical body builder. He had all that potential, all that octane, all that stuff going for him. God told him clearly, let me paraphrase, “Samson, only a associate with my people, people who love the Lord. Only hang out with them. Only date the Hebrew girls.” And so forth and so on.
What did the Biblical body builder do? He thumbed his nose in God’s face. He turned, and the Bible says—read about him in Judges 13 through Judges 16—the Bible says he went down to Timnah. He went down to Gaza. Those are two Philistines cities. The Philistines were very ungodly people, and they occupied the west coast of Palestine. The biblical beach bum. They had a corner on the iron market, if you know your history. Samson messed around with those people. God said, “Samson, your best friends, man, they need to be Hebrews. They need to be people who follow me.”
Samson was like, “God, what do you know?” What potential Samson had! What skills physically, emotionally, and intellectually. What did Samson do? Samson hung out with the wrong people.
[Ed begins drawing on the Plexiglas board.] You hang out with the wrong people, they’re going to take you to the wrong places. And you’ll end up breaking God’s principles for your life. What are God’s principles, his priorities? A relationship with him, a relationship with others, the church, work…and we go down the list.
What happened to Samson? Wasted potential. What happened to Samson? He messed around with the wrong people. They took him to the wrong places. And he broke God’s principles for his life. And the same can happen in your life or mine.
“Well, Ed, it’s not happening now, man.” It will! You roll the dice. You think you’re a big boy, a big girl? You think you can beat the odds? Just come on and try it. Because one day you’ll look at me or someone else and go, “I had these friends….”
I want to save you from the mess ups. I want to save you from the deep weeds by communicating God’s word to you. I want to help you relationally. I’ve never seen anyone beat the system, because the wrong people will take you to the wrong places, and you’ll end up breaking God’s principles for your life.
“But, Ed, what happened to Samson?” The Philistines turned on him. They captured him. They gouged his eyes out. They bound him in chains. Samson, this guy with so much potential, spent a lot of time going around and around and around grinding corn. He was doing the work of jackasses. Samson, this phenomenal guy, this guy who was so talented…and don’t you know he was rehearsing in his mind over and over again, “I hung out with the wrong people. I ditched God’s directives. They took me to the wrong places. And I’ve broken his principles.” That’s what relational sin does, friends. It blinds, it binds, and it grinds.
1 Samuel 18 through 23 talks about an amazing friendship. David, this Hebrew hick, the Bible says he had a ruddy complexion. It meant he had red hair, freckles, and pimples all over his face. That’s what it means in the Hebrew. David shows up on the front lines. He sees King Saul. Most scholars believe King Saul was 6 feet 6. He had beautiful, black, Fabio-type hair. (Do you remember Fabio? Whatever happened to him?)
Anyway. Saul was supposed to fight Goliath, but he didn’t want any part of this big man. He was undefeated, the undisputed heavy weight champion of the world. What did little David do? David said, “I’ll take him on.” And he took Goliath out. And overnight David became the toast of the town. Read about this in 1 Samuel.
David was making his way back with Saul. And everybody back home and all the women came out of the houses, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David has tens of thousands. Oh, David, you go David! You the man, David; the man of the hour. Too sweet to be sour. The tower of Hebrew power!” They loved him.
And the Bible said from that moment on, read it, Saul gave David an evil eye—the eye of envy, the eye of jealousy. Parents, we know how to give our kids the evil eye, don’t we? You know? It was not an eye like that. No, it was the eye of envy and jealousy. Saul went psycho. That’s what jealousy and envy will do to you. He went nuts. Whack-a-doodle-do!
David met Saul’s son, the heir to the throne, Jonathan. When they met, their souls, the Bible says, were knit together. They made a covenant and a commitment to each other, because of their covenant and commitment to God. They supported one another. They watched each others’ back.
Jonathan’s father, psycho Saul, was trying to kill David. Jonathan would warn David. They kept secrets. They shared stuff with each other that they shared with no one else. And, they helped each other. They built one another up.
You see, Jonathan was the heir to the throne. He was the man. God, though, went around Jonathan and anointed David the next king. What did Jonathan do when he found out his best friend was going to take the job that paid billions that he should of had? Did he say, “God, that’s not fair. I can’t believe it. Of all the stuff I’ve done for you!” No. You know what he did? “Way to go, David! Man, that is awesome. That is unbelievable!”
Real friends applaud their friends when they close the deal, when they make 10 million dollars and they don’t work half as hard as you do. A real friend says, “Way to go! That’s incredible! You went out with her?! You got that client? You closed that deal? You graduated at the top of your class? Way to go!”
And real friends also support and help and encourage when times are tough. They’ve got your back. What kind of friend are you? What kind of person are you? Because that’s what you’ll attract.
This shirt is sweet. C3. We need to become C3 people, and we need to have C3 friends. C3 people and C3 friends.
First C—Commitment. I’ve got to be committed. And I’ve got to look for that in others as I choose my friendships. We go back to Proverbs. Proverbs 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Guys would rather talk about investments. “Man, I’m going to invest. I want to invest in that company or that deal.” But before I put my money somewhere, I’m going to do some research on the company. Man, I’m going to find out about it, you know? Yeah, that’s good. Guys always talk about that. “Investments, yeah!”
How bout relationships, men? Women, how about relationships? Before you invest relational capital, you’d better research the person. What kind of commitment do they have?
“Well, Ed, you know, I’m not sure if they’re really committed.” If you’re not sure, they probably aren’t. You’ll see it. It’s like a Las Vegas sign blinking, “Commitment. God. Husband. Wife. Kids. Friends. Church. Work.” You’ll see it. You’ll see. It’s obvious. “There it is. Okay. He’s committed. She’s committed. That’s a good relational choice. I’m going to invest relational capital there.”
Do you know why so many singles are so lonely? I’m talking about Christian singles. It’s because they’re going here, they’re going there, and they never settle down in a church. They’re playing church roulette. “I think I’ll go there, and then I’ll go there. Oh, I hear the girls are really hot over there! And, oh, that’s going on over there, too.”
How will you have friends? You can’t see commitment. You’re not consistent enough in a church to see it. How can you see this person loves God and others and the church and work? You can’t! It’s a pipe dream.
Join a church! The Bible talks about it. And obviously, I’m partial to Fellowship. You know I want you to join here. But there are some awesome churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Join! Quit kicking tires. Quit messing around. Join it.
What do you want to do? Do you want to tell somebody one day, “I had these friends”? Or do you want to discover the potential that God has for you? Our friends must be committed to God in relationships and to his church and to work. And if they’re not, don’t invest.
Here’s the second C—Confidentiality. That’s hard to say. Confidentiality. Can your friends keep secrets? Can you keep secrets? Have you ever had a radio free friend? You tell them something, you know, in your life that you’re struggling with or dealing with and they’re telling everybody about it. Or maybe we call them XM Radio friends nowadays, and they’re broadcasting everything.
Sometimes I go to Barnes and Noble and have two or three shots of espresso. Starbucks, you know, is right beside Barnes and Nobles. And I’ll go to Barnes and Noble and just start looking at books. “Look at that book! Oh, yeah, look at that book over there! That’s incredible over there.” And I’m looking around, and the shelves sag with all these kiss and tell books. That’s the big thing now. It’s like my boy Don Henley sang about a long time ago. “Kick ‘em when they’re up, kick em when their down.” Dirty laundry.
But why are we attracted to that trash? Why are we attracted to tabloid television? “Oh, yeah, they’re sharing secrets. They’re sharing dirt. Oh, dirty laundry!” A friend doesn’t do that. A friend doesn’t do that. That’s what the Bible says. The Bible says in Proverbs 11:13, “A gossip….” Say the word “gossip” with me. One, two, three—gossip. You can’t say it without sounding like a snake. Sssslander. Gossssip. Ssssecrets. It just got quiet! “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Are you confidential? Is this person confidential?
Third C—Constructive. Are you a constructive person? Or are you a destructive person? This person that you’re thinking about investing relational capital in, do they build you up? Do they help you? Do they have your back? Do they encourage you? Proverbs 27:17 (NLT), “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.”
There’s so much negativity going on in the world today, I’ve got to have friends in my life who are encouragers. I don’t know about you. I don’t want negative people or whiners in my life. Life is too short to deal with them. I get enough of that just by being a pastor. Because after all, sin is my business.
We should build each other up, encourage one another. I hope you’re connecting the dots. David and Jonathan? Commitment! Confidential! Constructive!
Do you ever have any of these “Hey, Ho” friends? [They come close] Hey! [Then they back away] Ho! Hey, hey! Ho! They hang out with you for two or three months maybe a year, and then discover who you are and, “Whoooa!”
Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re the problem. Have you ever thought about that? Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s you. C3 people attracting C3 friends investing C3 capital.
FRIENDS ARE A FORCE THAT CAUSE EITHER POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE INERTIA
One more statement: Friends are a force that cause either positive or negative inertia. Friends are a force. They’re causing either positive or negative inertia. There’s a verse that I want to read. But if I read it I’ll get so excited and we’ll stay here way too long. I’ll save it for next time. But just think about that for a second. Friends are that powerful. God wants us to stand and to be on the next level. God wants us to be way up here [Ed stands on the chair] in our relationships. The world’s down here. God wants us up here. That’s the kind of relational dreams and vision that God has for your life and mine.
Hey, Eric, come out man. [Eric Orson comes out on stage.] Just for a second, put on your imaginary caps. Just for a second. Eric and I are friends. I’m not pastor Ed Young anymore. My name is Eddy B. My middle name is Barry, so I can say that. Eddy B. Okay, Eric. Man for years we’ve been running buddies, messing around, hanging out. You know what I’m talking about?
All of a sudden, Eric comes to Fellowship Church and he understands that God loves him and has a great plan for his life. He understands that he’s a sinner and he matters to God so much that God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for his sins. So Eric turns from his sin, turns to Christ, and receives Christ. And then he goes, “Wow, I understand now that God has this relational dynamic for me that’s on another level. I understand now that friendships are something I had no idea about.”
So, Eddy B. is on one level, “Man, I’m clueless about this stuff. I’m not going to church. The church is full of hypocrites, you know.” But Eric is really involved, and he goes to the next level. [Eric stands up on the chair to illustrate that his relational life is on the next level]
Eddy B’s here; Eric’s there. Look at Eric. “What’s up Eric? I’m Eddy B.” [Ed reaches up and pulls Eric down off the chair, illustrating how easy it is for friends to drag us down.] Look how easy I pulled him down. I didn’t even strain. I’m not really a good influence on him. You have got to watch Eddy B.
Get back up there, Eric. [Ed pulls Eric down again.] Come on, you’re stronger than that. Come on, Eric! [Ed pulls Eric down again.] Again, I pulled him down.
That will happen. Some of the time? No, no, no. Every time in your life. I don’t care if you’re a senior pastor of a church in Dallas/Fort Worth. I don’t care if you are a teacher or a student. I don’t care if you’re a coach. I don’t care if you make squillions of dollars. You will deal with that if you mess around with the Eddy B’s of the world.
Well, then, maybe Eric says, “You know what? I love Eddy B. I can lift Eddy B. to my level. I can bring him up. I can do it.” [Eric tries to pull Ed up on the chair.]
Come on, Eric. Let’s see it, man. Ah, come on Eric! What are you trying to do? You can’t. You can’t do that!
“Oh, I can change her. I can lift her up. I can do it.” No you can’t .
Now here’s some real tension. I’m going to mess you up right now. You’d better get ready for this. On one hand, the Bible tells me that I should only date, I should only have my best friends who are Christ followers.
“Well, man, is the Bible saying white hats, black hats? Good guys, bad guys? Cops, robbers? That’s weird, because the Bible also says that I should rub shoulders with hell-bound people, wheels-off people, Eddy B. people. Does the Bible contradict itself?”
We’ll talk about that next time. If, though, you fall into this mentality that Eric did with Eddy B., it’s a matter of time before you tell somebody, “I had these friends….”
Jot down three questions. And I want you to think about these questions over the next week as we prepare for next time.
I’m talking about friends. These are very simple questions but they have huge significance.
#1 – Who are they? I’m talking about friends. Who are they?
#2 – Whose are they?
#3 – Where are they taking you?
[Ed leads in prayer]
I want to talk about this next time. I shared in the other services, but just think about this very quickly. There’s a watch. [Ed draws a watch on the board] Okay? There are three types of friends that we all have, that we all need. And they all relate to the watch. The first one is the friends where time stops. You’re like, “Whoa, you mean its still 11:30! I thought it was at least 2:30.” You know those people, don’t you? “I’ve got to get out of here. They’re wearing me out.” And you’re looking for an exit strategy. We have friends like that, we need friends like that. Jesus had friends like that. That’s all I’ll say until next week.
The second type friend is the click clock friend. The time just cruises by normally. You give in this friendship, and you receive in this friendship. It’s kind of neutral. You know. It’s okay. Pretty good. Jesus had those friends.
The third type and the final type are those friends where time just flies. “It’s 5:00 already?! Wow! Time has just flown!”
That’s good! We’ve hit on something. Those are replenishing relationships. Here is the problem; here is the tension. We have too many level one and level two friendships and not enough level threes.
Think about that, too. Okay, I’ll see you next Sunday. Thanks for being here. You guys have a great afternoon!