************ Sermon on Proverbs 18:24 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on July 24, 2016

Proverbs Selections
Proverbs 18:24
"A Friend Closer Than a Brother"

We've been looking at wisdom. Wisdom is knowing how to live rightly before God. Wisdom, we've been saying, impacts every area of life. We need wisdom as we deal with a world filled with violence. We need wisdom in family relationships. We need wisdom to handle wealth and poverty. We need wisdom when it comes to work and play. Today, we discover we need wisdom when it comes to friendship.

I Friendship Begins with God
A As we look at friendship, I need to remind you of the theme verse of Proverbs: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps 11:10; cf Prov 1:7). Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. If you don't know and love Jesus, you won't have wisdom and you won't find wisdom and your life will be a mess. But even if you do know and love Jesus, wisdom is not a sure thing because you need to put your life, your thoughts, your words, your heart under the control of King Jesus. You need to spend time with His Word.

Meaning what when it comes to friendship? Meaning that friendship begins with God.

B The teaching of the Bible is that God is our friend in and through Christ. Do you remember what Jesus said one day?
(Jn 15:13) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus laid down His life for us. Therefore, we are His friends. He actually says this in one of the next verses:
(Jn 15:15) I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends ...

In the Old Testament it was an honor to be called "the servant of the Lord." That privilege did not belong to just anyone. That title belonged to prophets, priests, and kings. But it is an even higher honor to be called the Lord's friend. Consider what we are told about Moses: "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Ex 33:11). No one else could get that close. But now, because of Christ, you and I have been made friends of God. God, in grace, befriends us, includes us, and draws us in to Himself. Do you hear what we are being told? We are being told that friendship began in heaven and not on earth. And, friendship has come down to earth through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God makes us who are His enemies into His friends. Isn't this amazing and wonderful?!

II Proverbs 13:20
A "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm" (Prov 13:20).

When I drive on Highway 198 either towards Lemoore or Three Rivers, I can't help but notice various signs for psychic palm readers and astrology. Both claim to foretell my future. Proverbs 13:20 makes a similar claim. But it doesn't use things like psychic hotlines, horoscopes, crystal balls, tea leaves, and palm-reading. Rather, it claims to know our future by looking at our friends.

According to the Bible, the wrong kind of friends can wreck your life. I told you in my first message that proverbs are scattered throughout the Bible. Here is a proverb from 1 Corinthians:
(1 Cor 15:33) Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."
Corinthians warns us about having the wrong kinds of friends. Proverbs 13 talks about the effects of good friends and bad friends:
(Prov 13:20) He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
There you have it: good friends leads to wisdom; bad friends leads to harm.

B Before going any further, you need to realize that proverbs are not promises. God does not promise that every teenager with the right kind of friends will turn out okay. Nor, does God threaten that every young married couple with the wrong kind of friends will have their marriage end up in divorce. Proverbs, rather, are general observations on life. A proverb says something that is generally true; but it may not be true for any and every situation. With this in mind, we can safely say that the wrong kind of friends will corrupt your character. And the right kind of friends will lead to wisdom.

C "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm" (Prov 13:20). Take a hard look at your friends. If your friends are leading you to wreck your life you need to get other friends. That's what the Bible is saying to us.

Let's say you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. You are not going to break free from this problem if you keep hanging around with others who drink too much or use drugs. So I say to you, get other friends, people who don't get drunk and don't use drugs.

Let's say you are head over heels in debt because you want to keep up with your friends. When they get a new SUV, you get a new SUV. When they buy a computer, you buy a computer. When they redo their living room, you redo your living room. When they purchase a boat or a motor home, you purchase a boat or a motor home. When they take expensive trips or go for weekends to the beach, you take expensive trips or go for weekends to the beach. When they get the newest iPhone you get the newest iPhone. If you are caught in this kind of trap, the only advice I can give to you is this: get other friends. Get other friends, friends who are not materialistic, friends who accept you for who you are rather than for what you have.

Let's say your faith life and prayer life and church attendance are not what they should be. If you hang around with people who do not pray and do not go to church, people who make fun of God or never think about Him or let sports and recreation come first, your faith life and prayer life and church attendance cannot improve; in fact, they can only get worse. To improve your level of spirituality you need to get other friends, people who love the Lord Jesus and read the Bible and faithfully attend both worship services.

Let's say your problem is with bad language or pornography or telling dirty jokes and stories. If you are buddies with people who do the same sort of thing, you can only be dragged further and further down the sewer. In such a situation you need other friends, people who don't use bad language, people who talk respectfully about the opposite sex, people who never use pornography.

D I want to ask you to take a close look at the kind of people you hang around with. I want to ask you to take a close look at your friends. Tell me, are you a companion of fools whose company is leading you into harm and is corrupting your character, or are you friends with the wise whose company is good for your soul and spirit?

The words of Psalm 1 apply here. Listen to these words of the psalmist:
(Ps 1:1-2) Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
According to the psalmist, that man is blessed who avoids bad companions and makes the law of the Lord his companion.

What kind of people do you pick to be friends with? Boys and girls, are your friends kids who obey their parents and teachers? Or, do you pick friends who talk bad about their parents, their teachers, and all other grownups? Young People and Young Adults, are your friends people who study hard and stay out of trouble? Or do you pick friends who get drunk every weekend? Do you pick as friends members of youth group or do you choose those who hang around in vacant parking lots? Do your friends encourage you to do Bible reading and prayer or do they introduce you to sex and drugs and alcohol? And grownups, are your friends focused on God and His kingdom and His righteousness, or do they emphasize big houses, lavish decorations, and expensive vacations?

Don't forget what Proverbs says to us: "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm" (Prov 13:20). This means that if your friends are not the right kind of friends, you need to get other friends.

E What is true of friendship in general, is especially true of romantic friendship. If you date or marry a godly person -- like I did -- you will grow wise. If you date or marry a fool, you will suffer great harm. Words cannot describe the grief and misery that usually results when a Christian marries a non-Christian. While dating, the unbeliever is often willing to go to church. But things change right after the wedding. Then the unbeliever becomes angry if you ask them to go to church and accuse you of nagging. Then they become angry because you always seem to go to church. To keep them happy you stop attending the second service, no longer teach Sunday School, quit the choir, and no longer give any money to the church -- this actually happened to someone in one of the churches I served. You started your marriage with prayer and Bible reading at the supper table but pretty soon you find yourself praying and reading by yourself and then you find you rarely or never do it anymore. The children go to church with you when they are small, but as they get older they give you trouble and want to stay home with the other parent and you have nothing to say. Do you see what happens? "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm" (Prov 13:20).

III Proverbs 17:17
A "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Prov 17:17).

Because friendship begins with God, it is God Who shows us the true nature of friendship.

Let me illustrate this with a negative example -- King Nebuchadnezzar. He was walking on the roof of his palace. From there he could look over the city of Babylon, the capital of his kingdom. He said to himself, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan 4:30). My guess is, he did not have many friends. Self-important, self-serving, self-promoting people don't.

God is far more important than Nebuchadnezzar. After all, He revealed Himself to Moses as the great "I AM" (Ex 3:14). He is the founder and source of all life and being and existence. But what does the "I AM" do with His great and mighty being? He says, "I will be with you" (Ex 3:12). That is a friend. A friend is there for you.

B "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Prov 17:17).

A faithful friend who loves at all times -- that person is rare. So rare, in fact, that in another verse Proverbs asks, "a faithful man who can find?" (Prov 20:6).

Proverbs contrasts a friend with a brother. A brother is stuck with you and you are stuck with him. A brother is obligated to help. That is what family is for. But a friend chooses you. When someone loves you at all times, good and bad, and they don't have to but choose to -- that person is a friend. A true, rock-solid friend. How many people like that do you know? "Many a man claims to have unfailing love," says Proverbs (Prob 20:6). But when you find a friend, a true friend, prize him or her. When God gives you a friend like that, tested and true, cherish that friend. Never let him or her go.

Doesn't this describe the love of Jesus? I think of what is said about Jesus in the gospel of John:
(Jn 13:1) It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
He loved us. He loved us fully. And, not because we deserved it. Not because we are worthy of it. Just like He loved Peter who denied Him so He loves us who are His enemies.

That is true friendship: Total acceptance, Total forgiveness! A true friend knows who you really are and does not walk away.

IV Proverbs 27:17
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Prov 27:17). I have always loved and appreciated these words.

Two men were the best of friends in one of the churches I served. After church they would make a point of talking to visitors and others but always made sure they also talked to each other. One day one of them admonished the other for something he saw. This was not appreciated. They didn't talk for a couple of months. But eventually the one who was corrected realized it was for his own good and they resumed their friendship.

This is also part of being a true friend -- someone who is bluntly honest. Real friendship is like sharpening the blade of a sword, says Proverbs, because God wants every one of us to be sharp for Him. By ourselves we become dull and blunted and lose our edge. Every one of us needs a friend who will not flatter us but will refine us. Not someone who runs off at the mouth as a self-appointed critic but someone who wants to make you better. Hebrews says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Heb 10:24). A real friend will provoke you and challenge you and improve you.

We all need that. We all need to improve. We all need to become better. That's what friends are for. But, it can be painful at times. You see, when iron sharpens iron, it creates friction. I had to sharpen one of my tools yesterday. I spent about five minutes using a file to sharpen the edge. When I felt it afterwards the edge was hot and sharp. When iron sharpens iron, it creates friction and heat. When a friend sharpens you, it hurts, as it did with the two men I mentioned. But it is meant for your good.

V Proverbs 25:17
"Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house-- too much of you, and he will hate you" (Prov 25:17). More than once I have quoted these words to friends and neighbors. Friends need time together. And, friends need time apart from each other. Ben Franklin said a proverb about this: "Guests, like fish, stink after three days." So true.

I want to end by focusing for a few moments on our text: "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Prov 18:24).

In this life and on this earth we all have friends who let us down, who disappoint us, who disappear on us, who turn on us. But we also have a Friend Who sticks closer than a brother, a Friend Who never lets us down, a Friend Who is always there.

The Apostle Paul experienced this first-hand. When he was put on trial before Caesar, all his friends deserted him (2 Tim 4:16). But Paul could keep going. Why? Because "the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength" (2 Tim 4:17).

Jesus stands by our side, even though He was forsaken by all -- including the Father. Jesus stands by our side so we will never be forsaken. Is any friend so faithful and true as Jesus? Jesus is the Friend Who cares for you, Who loves you, Who cares about your future, Who cares about your sin. You are not alone. By grace, accept that Jesus is your Friend.
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