Why do we need friends and how do we meet the need?
We need friends because we are made in the image of God. Our God, the Trinity, includes 3 entities. From eternity, before the existence of the world, the 3 entities are the best of friends.
God also said it was not good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Adam needed someone suitable for him to be his helper, whom he could share, trust, and love.
It is also not good for us to be alone. So, we need friends.
What are the main attributes of a friend?
First, a friend lets us in his inner life, willing to share with us his secrets.
We should learn from Christ. He lets us in by sharing with us everything He learnt from His Father (John 15:15).
Christ lets us in by being with us. He doesn’t lay out our whole life before us and leave. Instead, through the Holy Spirit, He is in us, accompanying and guiding us along the way.
Learn to open up ourselves to others but do it slowly. Don’t force others to get into our inner life by opening up too quickly.
Second, a friend doesn’t let us down.
Christ never lets us down. There is no greater love than laying down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:3). That was what Christ did, and His sacrifice has given us life.
Christ loves us not because we are good. We are far from it, but He still loves us.
Christ treats us as His friend. Yet, we rebel against Him. We are not surprised if our enemies harm us. But it is difficult to endure insults from our close friends. Since Christ treats us as His friends, our rebellion hurts Him deeply.
Anyway, learn from Christ regarding friendship. He lets us in by opening Himself to us and by being with us. Also, Christ never lets us down. He even died for us. We should follow Him.
We need friends because we are made in God’s image. To build friendship, learn to let others in and not let them down.
Adapted from a Tim Keller sermon.
We are accountable for the lives we lead and the choices we make. But we’re quick to make excuses for our mistakes. This started since Adam and Eve, with Adam blaming Eve and Eve blaming the serpent. This tendency to shift blame still haunts us today.
On judgment day, we are accountable to God. We must give an account of ourselves to Him, including everything we have done and every empty word we have spoken. (Romans 14:12, Matthew 12:36). Our account to God also includes sins of omission—that is, the things we should have done and did not. God holds us accountable for what He has given us (Matthew 25:19, 29). Nothing is hidden from Him, with all our secrets judged (Hebrews 4:13, Romans 2:16).
Let us start today to be honest, take responsibility of our mistakes, accept our faults, and stand up again. With God’s offer of forgiveness and grace, we can have a fresh start.
One secret to successful physical training is to have partners holding us accountable. They can encourage each other and keep each other focused on their goals.
Similarly, we should have an accountability partner to help train our character and train us to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7-9).
A successful accountability relationship is difficult. It requires honesty and takes courage.
We can make our commitment with our partners to follow Christ. Confess sins to each other. Be honest and open. This will help us heal (James 5:16). Ask our partner to remind us of our commitment, and the good thing we should be doing. This can help us do what we cannot by ourselves.
Accountability can be a key factor in our progress towards godliness. It can push us toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Such an accountability partner is God’s gift for us, and since we will be accountable to God, let us start with our accountability partners today.
Summarized from a sermon by John Ortberg:
每个人在审判之日都必须向上帝交代所做的每件事，所说的每句话 (罗马书14:12; 马太福音12:36)。就是那些应该做而没有做的事也不例外。我们对上帝赐给的一切也需要负责 (马太福音25:19，29)。在上帝面前没有隐藏, 一切秘密都要接受审判（希伯来书4：13； 罗马书2：16）。
从今天就开始做一个诚实的人，接受自己的错误，承担当负的责任, 再次站起来。上帝乐意施恩，满有宽恕和恩典, 在祂里面可以有新的开始。
督责伙伴互相作出承诺跟随基督，彼此认罪，敞开心扉，诚实以待，这可以帮助我们得医治 （雅各书5:16）。 请求督责伙伴提醒自己的承诺和应做的善事，辅助我们做到单独一人很难做到的事。
The right friendship is important, as is spiritual friendship.
Before the fall in Genesis 3, everything was good, except for Adam being alone. God decided to make a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18).
God is not alone. The universe was created by God of three beings—the Trinity God. The Trinity God was there from the beginning and would be there in the new heaven and Earth.
Needing friends is healthy. Considering His disciples as His friends (John 15:15), Christ regularly expressed His inner thoughts, such as his distress, with them.
Friendship typically comes among those with common interests, passions, or goals. They become fellow travelers in life.
Spiritual friendship comes among those with a common desire and love for God. For example, look at Paul and his spiritual friends. They shared their feelings and faith. Together, they prayed, wept, embraced, and kissed (Acts 20:36). They shared their possessions, such as opening their homes to Paul and his companions (Acts 21:4).
They counseled each other. Paul’s friends urged him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4, 12). Good friends sharpen each other and make each other stronger (Proverbs 27:17).
They share their commitments. Luke was aware of Paul’s danger in Jerusalem and in Rome, yet he went with Paul (Acts 20, 21, 27 and 28).
As we age, we tend to have fewer friends. This could be due to a lack of time or some friends disappointing us. Be aware that friendship needs time to build. For example, early Christians devoted themselves to fellowship, meeting every day and eating together (Acts 2:42, 46). Such activities helped them build up spiritual friendship.
To conclude, spiritual friendship is healthy. It typically exists among those with a common desire and love for Christ. And it needs effort and time to build.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon:
他们互相劝告。保罗的朋友们敦促他不要去耶路撒冷 （使徒行传21：4，12）。好朋友彼此磨练，使对方更刚强 （箴言27:17）。
通常朋友会随着年龄的增长而减少，或许因为时间不足, 亦或是一些朋友令人失望。要意识到属灵友谊需要时间来建立。早期的基督徒献身于团契，每天见面，一起用饭 （使徒行传2:42, 46）。这些活动帮助信徒建立属灵友谊。
How to raise children? Let’s learn from Ephesians 6:4: “Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
This includes discipline or setting up firm rules, and also includes counseling, listening, and reasoning. Teach them who God is to you. Share your testimony and point them to the Lord. Pray with them and for them.
As parents, we need to live lives consistent to our beliefs and strive to strike a balance between truth and love. If we have too much discipline, we forget that they are not robots. If we focus too much on loving and nurturing, we forget that they are not adults; sometimes they must obey without fully understanding.
They need to be independent, and so we must learn to let go. Trust them and let them fail but do it progressively. Give them the support they need, and do not push them to be independent too quickly.
The above is difficult to do without the guidance of God and the Gospel.
For example, we may under-discipline, perhaps because we want their approval or are too eager for their love. But the Gospel frees us from such needs. Our approval is from God, and God loves us.
We may over-discipline, perhaps because we base our identity in them or consider them a reflection of ourselves, and so we fear their failure. Again, the Gospel frees us from such need. Our identity is in God.
Some of us may not want our children to be independent, perhaps because we want to be needed. We try to get from them what should be from God.
Or some of us may push our children to be independent too quickly. This could be because we are selfish and only think of ourselves. We forget they are blessings from God.
To conclude, we should raise our children through God and the Gospel. We must balance truth and love, dependence and independence, and point them to the Lord.
Summarized from a Tim Keller’s sermon:
我们作为父母应当生活与信念一致, 在真理与慈爱之间取得平衡。如果有太多的纪律，就会忘记儿女不是机器人。如果过多的慈爱和培育，就会忘记他们不是成年人; 因此，不要让儿女产生错觉，以为必须先完全理解，然后才可服从父母。
Friends are important. But sometimes our busy culture forces us to prioritize other things, such as family and job. Yet real friendship is crucial and picking friends randomly will ruin us (Proverbs 18:24).
What are attributes of real friends?
A real friend cares in good times and bad (Proverbs 17:17). Many want to be our friends if we are useful to them, but a real friend sticks by us even in adversity.
A real friend gives us earnest advice, bringing joy to our heart (Proverbs 27:9). Real friends sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17).
A real friend does not flatter and is candor (Proverbs 27:5-6). Open rebuke is better than secret love (Proverbs 27:5). Though he tells us as it is, he also feels our pain. A real friend should be able to feel our sorrow and joy.
A real friend always lets us in and never lets us down. That’s why a real friend is better than a sibling (Proverbs 17:17, 18:24).
Because friendship takes time and effort, it’s unwise to try having too many friends. That’s fine because particularly in today’s world, a real friend is scarce anyway.
So how do we find real friendship?
First, we should focus on something else. Real friendship is built on a common foundation and interests. A person has no fellow travelers if he does not go anywhere.
Second, we should be a real friend ourselves. This requires us to have the capacity to give.
Christ exemplifies real, perfect friendship. He lets us in, by revealing Himself to us (John 14-17, 15:15). Also, irrespective of what we do, He cares for us to the point of sacrificing Himself for us. He does not let us down.
With Christ as our real friend, we have no fear of being let down by others. This gives us the capacity to give.
A real friend probably has to be discovered. Once we find a real friend, we have to strengthen it, as our highly mobile society is quick to move people apart.
In conclusion, we must let Christ be the friend our hearts desire, and in turn we will build real friendship with others. When we focus on following Christ, we can be real friends, and that is how we will have real friends.
Adapted from a Tim Keller sermon.
Today, we look into our relationships with our parents and our children.
The Ten Commandments teach us to honor our parents—not love, not trust, not admire, not enjoy, and not obey, but honor them.
Some parents are obnoxious and make it difficult to love or enjoy them. Some parents are not trustworthy. Some parents are not admirable. Some parents are not safe to obey. Also, one day, a child should leave the parents’ authority and be united with his or her spouse (Genesis 2:24).
But we are still called to honor our parents, no matter how flawed they are. This is a choice and is not sentimental. We are commanded to treat our parents with dignity, courtesy, and respect. We should try to follow the custom because what is considered respectful differs by culture.
To honor them, sometimes we need to forgive them, particularly when they are really bad or manipulative.
To honor is different than seeking their approval. Many yearn for their parents’ approval, but we must remember that our parents can’t be our God. We mustn’t let our need to please them dominate us, lest their approval become an idol.
Remember that we have God’s unconditional acceptance. We don’t have to prove that we are good. That knowledge can empower us to freely honor our parents.
As to our children, Ephesians 6:4 teaches us to bring them up in the training and instruction of God—again not love, trust, admire, enjoy, or obey. Training involves discipline, and instruction involves teaching and counseling.
In traditional families, fathers have absolute authority. After the industrial revolution, many parents now leave home to earn a living, and they delegate others to bring up their children. But parents should not have absolute authority and should not delegate.
Parents need to bring their children up. This is a kind of servant leadership. The bringing up is in the discipline and teaching of God.
To conclude, we don’t need to get our approval or acceptance from our parents or our children. Our approval and acceptance are from God. This will free us to honor our parents and to bring up our children in God’s training and instruction.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon:
以弗所书6：4教导当在上帝的训练和指导下抚养儿女。 同样地，不是爱，信任，欣赏，享受或服从。而是在上帝的训练(意味着纪律) 和指导(包含教导和辅导) 下抚养。