Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
True friends are hard to find.
They stick closer than family, and often know you better. They pray bigger things for you than you pray for yourself. They believe with you when your faith is weak. They make space for you when life falls apart, and they rejoice with you when all is well. Most importantly, true friends remind you in every encounter who and what is most important.
The essence of Christian friendship is companionship forged in the fire of two convictions: 1) Jesus alone can satisfy the soul and 2) his kingdom alone is worth living for.
Enemies in Disguise?
Christian friendship is a treasure because it helps us cling to our greatest Treasure.
Jesus is our Bread of Life, our Living Water, our Pearl of Great Price, our Light, our Resurrection, our very Life. The greatest danger to our souls is that we might abandon abiding in him, following him, and finding our joy in him. Therefore, the best gift a friend can give is a commitment to fight for our joy in and communion with Christ.
Conversely, the worst distortion of friendship arises when a friend encourages us, consciously or unconsciously, to place our affections elsewhere. The apostle Peter unwittingly acts out this kind of distortion in Matthew 16. Jesus tells his disciples that he will die and rise again (Matthew 16:21). Peter rebukes Jesus with what was surely a well-intentioned comment from a loyal friend: “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).
It looks like the deepest, most genuine, most beautiful form of friendship, but Peter’s words put him between Jesus and his obedience to the Father. His ignorance made a friend into an enemy, at least for a moment. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matthew 16:23). What Peter thought was helpful, Jesus called a hindrance. What Peter assumed was godly friendship, Jesus called satanic opposition.
Five Marks of Christian Friendship
So, how can we avoid Peter’s mistake in our friendships? How can we be a friend who preserves and strengthens the faith of others? Here are five distinct ways that true Christian friendships bolster our love for Christ through our love for one another.
1. True friends heighten our joy in God.
Companionship always deepens joy. My favorite movie is good when watched alone, but it’s better with a friend. Somehow a great meal is more satisfying when shared. We naturally drag our friends into what we enjoy: “You have to see this movie!” “You have to come to this restaurant with me!”
But of all the joys of life, God is the greatest! We were made for him — to enjoy him and center our hearts and lives on him. And like any other joy, our joy in God will be fullest when we share it with other people. Christian friends help us enjoy God by enjoying him with us.
It’s tempting to flip and distort this formula by using God as a means to enjoy people more. If we only go to him to ask for spouses, friends, or kids to enjoy, it reveals we see God as the means to someone else. We should be doing the opposite: looking for more of him in other people. Ironically, we will enjoy our friends more, the more our friendships become a means of enjoying God.
2. True friends expose sin in us that keeps us from God.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
Sin deceives us. It darkens our understanding and makes us fools. So much so that we may be walking in sin and convinced that we are obeying God (think of the Pharisees). This is why we desperately need friends.
We need friends to lovingly show us our sin. We need friends to help us see our blind spots. We need friends to speak with brutal honesty (Matthew 18:15) and tender compassion (Galatians 6:1), telling us the truth about ourselves even when we don’t want to hear it (Ephesians 4:15).
This is a vital function of community that few people want. We’d much rather have friends who always tell us what we want to hear, who show us the false grace of excusing sin and give us false hope that we can grow closer to God without repentance. But because sin is a poison to our souls and a thief of our joy in God, we cannot afford to forsake this kind of friendship.
3. True friends encourage us to obey God.
While it is true we need friends to help us see any disobedience, we also need them to spur us on to obedience. Often, obedience to God takes more courage than we can muster alone. Without the faithful cheerleading of Christian friends, we easily shrink back into stagnant apathy, not wanting to willfully disobey, but also too afraid to step out in faith.
The encouragement we are told to give isn’t flattery, or superficial inspiration. En-courage-ment is giving courage and strength to others for the intimidating task before them. We cast a bigger vision for why their obedience matters for God’s kingdom. We affirm that their obedience glorifies God and counts in eternity.
Whatever form it takes, encouragement motivates others to continue running the specific race God has marked out for them.
4. True friends bring us to God in our weakness.
Behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. (Luke 5:18–19)
Walking through life in a God-belittling world, with our sin-ridden flesh, against a hell-bent enemy, is too hard to be attempted alone. Alone, we easily believe the lies of Satan. Alone, we buckle under the weight of our sin. Alone, we grow discouraged and weary. Like the paralytic, we need the help of other believers to carry us to God.
So, how can we bring others to God? We listen to a sister confess a hidden sin and wash her with the truth that Christ has cleansed her and made her whole. We can meet the practical needs of those enduring intense suffering in Jesus’s name. Or we can simply bring our friends to God in prayer, asking him to do greater things in their lives than we can do for them.
5. True friends love us for the glory of God.
Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The world’s idea of intimacy in friendship is making much of one another: “I can’t live without you!” Compliments and pledges of devotion quickly give a brief and false adrenaline rush of importance and significance. We certainly need to encourage and affirm one another, but Christian friends should be far more focused on God’s weight and significance — not their own or their friend’s.
Like everything else, the end goal of our friendships should be God and his glory. Since our hearts are prone to wander away and worship other things, we need these constant reminders of his glory and his worth in our friendships.
They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. – Jeremiah 6:14 NLT
People were worried and afraid. There were threats from powerful neighbors, family and economic problems, and widespread immorality. The country was hungry for answers and peace. In this environment, some spoke up promising hope. To a troubled nation urgently needing peace, these people promised peace.
But in reality, nothing changed. Their promises proved to be empty. Their claims were false. Their solutions did not work. The treatments they recommended were just “superficial,” not making any substantive changes. As a result, a discouraged people became even more discouraged.
What was particularly noticeable was that the people making promises were filled with covetousness. They were most concerned about themselves and doing what was best for themselves. And they were not sorry for mistakes they had made: “They don’t even know how to blush” (v. 15).
How did God respond? He asked them to put aside their selfish desires, to stop walking on “the road we want.” Then they were to return to His ways. “Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it” (v. 16).
The Bible reminds us that God is ready to give us His peace, to bless us, to meet our needs, and to take away our fears and burdens. We simply need to turn to Him, do things His way, apply His principles, repent of any sins, and humble ourselves before Him. We can be confident then that we “will find rest for your souls” (v. 16).
The certainty and freeness of divine grace
‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ John 6:37
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12–17
It says, ‘Him that cometh,’ and this shuts out no comer. John Newton was a blasphemer of so gross a kind, that even the sailors in the vessel in the storm said that they should never get to port with such a sinner as John Newton on board; but he came to Christ and was not cast out, but lived to preach the Word. John Bunyan was so foul a blasphemer, that even a woman of the street, who passed him by and heard him swear, said that he was enough to corrupt the whole parish; and he was astonished that a woman of so bad a character should so rebuke him. John Bunyan came to Jesus, and he was not cast out; he lived to have the honour of suffering for his Master, and to be the winner of multitudes of souls. Saul of Tarsus had stained himself with the blood of saints; he was a very wolf after Christ’s sheep. He was not satisfied with worrying them in his own land, so he obtained power to persecute them in Damascus; but when he fell upon his face and cried for mercy, he was not cast out. Manasseh was blood-red with the murder of God’s prophets. It is said that he cut the prophet Isaiah in two with a saw; and yet, when out of the low dungeon he cried for mercy, he was not cast out. So that any kind of ‘him’, though he may have been a persecutor even unto blood, though he may have been exceeding mad against God till he could not speak without blasphemies against the name of Christ, though he hated everything which is good, and despised everything held precious by believing men and women, yet if he comes to Christ, he shall not be cast out.
For meditation: Even the most scandalous of past sins will not be held against those who come to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). They are the ones who go to heaven, not those who think that they are good enough as they are (Matthew 21:31–32). Those who assume that their ‘goodness’ guarantees them a place in heaven are the sinners who will be ‘cast out’ (Matthew 8:11–12).
Streams In The Desert
By: L. B. Cowman
“I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then the Lord will give to Abraham what he promised him.” (Gen 18:19)
God wants people that He can depend upon. He could say of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children … that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken.” God can be depended upon; He wants us to be just as decided, as reliable, as stable. This is just what faith means.
God is looking for men on whom He can put the weight of all His love and power and faithful promises. God’s engines are strong enough to draw any weight we attach to them. Unfortunately the cable which we fasten to the engine is often too weak to hold the weight of our prayer; therefore God is drilling us, disciplining us to stability and certainty in the life of faith. Let us learn our lessons and stand fast.
—A. B. Simpson
God knows that you can stand that trial; He would not give it to you if you could not. It is His trust in you that explains the trials of life, however bitter they may be. God knows our strength, and He measures it to the last inch; and a trial was never given to any man that was greater than that man’s strength, through God, to bear it.