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The Vocation of Friend Will Invariably Include 'The Wounds of A Friend' (Proverbs 27:5-6)

A couple of days ago, we looked at 1 Thessalonians 5:23 since it came up in some conversations I had with some friends, and we examined what it truly teaches us as opposed to what many would like you to believe that it teaches.

Today, I'd like to revisit a heartbreaking and painful exchange I had with another dear brother in Christ recently and point out how it connects to our study of 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Here's a devotional I came across that's based on that one verse.


1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
May God himself...sanctify you through and through. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23

TODAY IN THE WORD


Talk-show host Dr. Laura gives her listeners “to-the-point” advice. On air, Dr. Laura unabashedly criticizes and challenges her callers, ignoring political correctness in her admonishment. Many people seem to welcome this admonition, as her show is second in popularity only to Rush Limbaugh.

What is biblical admonition? Two words in our reading from today mean “to admonish.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:12 it is translated as “admonish” and in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 as “warn.” The second translation gives a sense of how this word admonish is different from simply teach (cf. Colossians 3:16). As Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary states, admonish “has mainly in view the things that are wrong and call for warning.”

With yesterday's reading we began to explore how God's faithfulness impacts our sanctification. It is, in fact, the ultimate guarantee of its completion. Today's passage emphasizes this (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). But as we've already seen in past readings and as we'll see again today, admonishment is a tool we must wield in the body of Christ.

First, those in spiritual authority over us have the right and responsibility to warn and instruct us (1 Thessalonians 5:12). They might call into question our motives, challenge us toward certain spiritual disciplines, question our interpretations of Scripture, or confront us when we choose to deliberately sin. Admonishment is not easy for our leaders to give nor for us to receive. By respecting their authority and recognizing their hard work (1 Thessalonians 5:13), we can lessen our own defensiveness.

Second, everyone in the body of Christ must admonish his brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Our words need not be unnecessarily harsh. Instead, taking into account each person's individual situation, we can admonish by warning, encouraging, and helping. Patience and kindness should flavor all godly admonition (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).


TODAY ALONG THE WAY

There's a real lack of accountability, or admonishment, in the church today. One Christian Author was quoted as saying,“We really don't have accountability; we only have disclosure. [Someone] is often willing to disclose personal struggles and decisions, but there usually is no invitation to challenge the choices or to hold the person accountable to an objective standard.” Is this true in your Christian relationships? When was the last time you admonished someone or invited someone to admonish you?


Isn't that just great? I absolutely love that.
  

Something for all of us to pray about for sure.

I wanted to share it with you because I found it to be quite relevant to that recent conversation I had with a friend from church who told me I should definitely look for a new church to attend after I revealed to him my many concerns about the distinctly non-Lutheran beliefs, teachings, and confessions that have been allowed to take up residence in our LCMS Church for the past couple of years now.

Sadly, he has played a major role in letting the wolves in and then asking everyone to pet them one-by-one. Worse, when people like me have tried to express our fears of the wolves (and rightfully so) and then have refused to take part in the "fellowship-building church activity," he has responded by trying to slip some "Liquid Drano" into the coffee and baked goods we all enjoy throughout the day on Sundays.

I wasn't surprised to find more admonitions to speak "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) in 1 Thessalonians, but I'm always surprised when those fellow believers who are often so highly esteemed as the kind of Christians within a congregation that people need to be imitating can be so ignorant of what the Word of God says in these circumstances.

Anyway, it all led me to an article by Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller about the Vocation of Friend as it stems from Proverbs 27:5-6.



Proverbs 27:5-6 (ESV) 5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

The Vocation of Friend 
What’s a Vocation? The teaching of vocation is one of the most wonderful in the Scriptures. Our vocations are more than our job, they are our calling, our station in life; they are the way we fit into this world. 
We all have multiple vocations. I am a Christian, a son, a husband, a father, a pastor, a citizen, etc. Every vocation defines who my neighbor is. As a Christian I am a neighbor to all people with on obligation to love all. As a son I have my father and mother to honor. As a husband I have Keri to love and cherish. As father I have Hannah, Andrew, Daniel and Isaac to love and provide for. As a Pastor I have you, the members of Hope Lutheran to love and care for with the Word of God and the Sacraments. 
Your vocation puts a name on the neighbor that Jesus commands to love as yourself. And God is at work in our vocation. When we ask our Father in Heaven to provide us daily bread, we are praying for those who have the vocation of farmer and miller and baker and grocery store manager, etc. God is behind all these various vocations answering our prayers. 
We do well to consider our various vocations in light of the Scriptures to see how the Lord has ordered this world and put is in it. The Table of Duties in the Small Catechism is a good place to start; it outlines the various different callings in life and provides Scriptures for each one. 
The Vocation of Friend 
There is, though, a vocation that I have never seen discussed: the vocation of friend. Our vocation of friend is a wonderful gift from God. We all have a friend, and this is pleasing in the eyes of God. It is good, then, for us to consider the Scriptures instruction regarding friendship. 
Consider, then, a few of the Bible’s insight regarding being a friend: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24, See also Proverbs 27:6-10). 
Friends are acquainted with good council. A friend is close enough to say what needs to be said. A friend is a trusted advisor. A friend sticks with you, even when the world begins to fall apart. 
Our friends are the biggest influence on our behavior. Our peers are the biggest influence on our conscience. St Paul gives this marvelous instruction to the Corinthians: ‘Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals,’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Good friends speak the Gospel to us, help keep us in the faith, and encourage us toward love and good works. Other friendships tempt us away from the Scriptures, away from the Church, away from the Lord’s joy and comfort. We pray for good friends, and that we might be good to our friends. 
Jesus, A Friend 
One of the most stunning things the Bible teaches about friendship is the God Himself is pleased to be called our friend. Abraham is esteemed in the Scriptures as the “friend of God” (see 2 Chronicles 20:7, James 4:4). Moses is given the highest gift of speaking to God “face-to-face as one speaks to a friend,” (Exodus 33:11). 
This gift of being a friend of God is extended to us in the New Testament. Jesus was reviled by His enemies as a “friend of sinners” (see Matthew 11:19), but Jesus rejoices in this title, in this vocation. This is exactly why He came to this world, to be our friend. 
Consider these words of Jesus: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you, (John 15:13-15). 
Jesus calls us His friend, and this is the most wonderful gift, the most wonderful vocation of all. Amen. 
Lord’s Blessings, 
Pastor Wolfmueller


As wonderful as that is, it sets the stage for another Lutheran article on the topic that cuts to the heart of the matter as we've been discussing it here since it happened.

I came across this piece from a December 2009 Newsletter published by Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in their "From The Flock" section and written by Joshua David Viggers that's certainly worth sharing as an exclamation point here.



True Love & Giving True Friendship  
I will follow Christ for eternity, and I pray that someday Christ will come again to bring this world to its knees in reverence for Him; but until then I wish only to study His Word and walk according to His ways, gently instructing others of the Truths he has made clear to me. I wish to Love all as he has Loved and commanded, that is precisely why Love must be defined. 
Recently the idea of “friendship” surfaced in my life, much to the possible detriment of some relationships that I foster. I was asked to accept someone’s shaded sinful lifestyle in order to prove myself a “true” friend. But, the Holy Spirit called to me and told me to stay strong in my faith. I wrestled with the concept of acceptance, and what Jesus would do. 
I’m reminded of a passage from John when I think of Jesus “accepting” (or rather not) sin. In John 8:1-11 Jesus stops a mob of people from persecuting a prostitute. Although this passage is usually highlighted to emphasize the fact that we are not to judge one another because we are all sinful, another truth can be gained. Jesus declared “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) This is a crucial part to my faith in Christ. Love is not accepting sin, but openly rebuking it, and helping those caught in the Devil’s twisted games to escape and triumph.  
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father‟s commands and remain in his love…My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:9-14). 
This is not to say that the Son and the Father are speaking two different Truths, but rather Christ is stating more simply what the Father has always said. If Jesus is One with the Father, (see John 10:30) then His commandments are the same as Our Fathers. Jesus says that the greatest two commandments are these “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind… and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus does not replace the Laws of Moses and God, but rather sums them together as one command: Love. 
Many churches today say that accepting everyone, regardless of their sins is the way to adhere to this command. But the Bible states otherwise. Although I agree that everyone is welcome in the house of prayer, unrepentant sins are to be rebuked. By watering down the Gospel and stating otherwise is heresy. A time will come when Christ will come again to judge us accordingly. We are living in the end times for a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4). 
Prominent “New Testament Only Theologians” (as I like to call them) say that the Hebrew Bible (commonly known as the Old Testament) is only a record of the laws and teachings that the Israelites needed to adhere to before Christ’s appearance. But I have found in the New Testament proof that the B.C. Laws should be upheld, for even Christ died a lawful Jew. People often state that faith alone guarantees them a place in the Kingdom of God. I speak the truth of God when I say that this is not true. These believers hang to Romans 6:14 when it says for sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. This verse seems to discredit the entire law, but if we read just one line more we can receive the true revelation. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). We are freed from the law, and Jesus has completed the law within us. 
We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says “I know Him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God‟s love is truly made complete in Him. This is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to love in Him must walk as Jesus did [a follower of the laws]. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning (1 John 2:3-7). It is by God’s grace that we are saved, but we are to follow His commands because we are sinful beings. In Romans 7:7-25, Paul explains how we would not have known what sin was except through the law. Because of Adam's original sin we were cast out of the perfect Garden of Eden, and now are prisoner[s] of the law of sin. It is by Christ’s blood alone that we are set free, but I fear in this modern age we have boldly stated Christ’s power, but have willingly lived subject to our sins. We have placed the shackles back on our wrists and blindly say that they are comfortable. Christ will surely come again soon to open our eyes. 
“It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 17). Jesus himself states that the Law is good, and shall not parish despite the “New Testament Only Theologian” perspective. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22). 
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? ... You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone (James 2:20, 24). James reveals to us here that it is faith in Christ that saves us, but deeds that justify who we are. For when we are brought before our King in Heaven, our deeds will be judged (see Revelation 20:13). I personally will forever be ashamed of the sins I have committed against myself, others, and God. I know that in Christ I am forgiven, but I am prepared to suffer the consequences for my sins when I am brought before The Judge. (See 1 Peter 4:1-11).This brings me to my second topic: Friendship. 
I was told that “true friendship” was accepting others no matter their status, and supporting them in all of their decisions. I know now that this idea of “friendship” is not of Christ, not of the Bible, and not of me. When Christ died for us, he did not die in order that we should continue to sin. Instead, as he stated to the prostitute, we should leave our lives of sin. A TRUE friend is one that will lead another to God, no matter what; for in the end, nothing matters but Him. God placed friends in our life so that we may build each other up when we are down, carry each other when we stumble, hold each other accountable, and die for each other as Christ died for us. 
In a way, part of me has died. In giving my whole heart to this truth about friendship I have lost (or will potentially lose) some very close people in my life. In showing True Love and staying firm we must be prepared to lose the ones we love. We must be prepared to die, and lose the part of us that previously took comfort in others and the sin in order to show them The Christ. True Love is willing to sacrifice fake friendship (acceptance under all conditions) in order to give True Friendship.  
We Christians must be prepared to point out the speck of sawdust in [our] brother's eye (Matthew 7:3) – granted, we have removed the plank from our own. Take courage in your convictions to help out a blind brother my fellow Christians, for it is our duty as faithful friends to help each other. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). Do not be fooled – sometimes when the hammer strikes, the sword will not want to bend. It is better to be a loathed hammer of Christ than a weak friend who watches as the friend parishes for his defects. 
Better is open rebuke than hidden love (Proverbs 27:5). In truly Loving one another, we must be willing to rebuke the shaded sins of our brother. When these sins go unnoticed, we are denying Christ’s power to triumph over them, and are hiding the Love He commanded us to give. 
The world will forever give favor to a false “accepting” love. In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul eludes to the fact that true believers will be hated for their adherence to the Truth. “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:21-23). (See John 15:18-16:4). We cannot be friends to the world. We cannot accept God and sin at once. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? (James 4:4). Wounds from a friend (a True Friend who is not afraid to give iron blows) can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:6). 
Finally, I must state that not all people who call Jesus the Messiah will enter the Kingdom of God. I say this not on my own authority. Christ stated, “Not everyone who says to me, „Lord, Lord,‟ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, „Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name perform many miracles?‟ Then I will tell them plainly, „I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!‟” (Matthew 7:21-23). For it is written, the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). No immoral, impure or greedy person –such a man is an idolater- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5). 
Christ does not state this because we are doomed if ever we sin, but because those of us who continue to sin, unrepentantly, will not inherit His Kingdom. We will be full of every desire here on earth which comes from Satan. We will feel things we ought not feel, say things we ought not say, and do things we ought not do. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25). We are given the choice when faced with these temptations to follow the desires of our flesh or the desires of the Spirit. We were once sinners in every temptation, choosing the way of the flesh time and time again, but [we] were washed, [we] were sanctified, [we] were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11); thus we must put away the deeds of our childish former lives and take up the path (and cross) of Jesus. 
No greater Love have I ever known than that which comes from the Father through Jesus. I know that even now there are those who disagree with me, but this is necessary in order for the prophesies to be fulfilled, for the end is near. Yet I will not sit idly by and watch those that I love, those that I wish to give True Friendship to, play in the fires of the devil. I would rather give them a love they don’t fully understand with an iron hammer than allow them to foster sinful desires and later watch as Christ’s sword strikes. So should be the will of all who call themselves Friends of Christ, Children of God, born of Love (for God is Love). 
To My Brothers & Sisters in Christ, 
Joshua David Viggers


I think that's more than enough to communicate to you how I've been feeling lately.

It's a difficult place to be when your so-called "friends" will shun you for telling them the truth, especially when they are supposed to be your "Christian friends" who should know better and appreciate your desire and willingness to have a difficult conversation with them about a sensitive subject.

Yet, when the very same concerns are brought up repeatedly (spanning an entire year!) and they are met with the same attitude of apathy and indifference, then what else can you do except respond like Pastor Wolfmueller and Mr. Viggers says the Bible tells us we should, and distance yourself while continuing to pray for them?

But I don't want to have a pity party for myself. After all, I may be alone in this earthly realm when it comes to these legitimate concerns of mine, but I have Christ and His Words to comfort me in this situation.


Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV) 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


In a Lutheran layman's terms, "true love is willing to sacrifice fake friendship (acceptance under all conditions) in order to give true friendship."

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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