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Best Friend of All

Jesus walking beside a man on the beach

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 NIV)

I never had a brother growing up. I had two sisters. We were close, but I never experienced the bond of having a little brother (I was the first born). But I have been privileged to have friends who have stuck closer than a brother.

My best friend in high school was Lewis. We had a lot in common and spent a lot of time together, along with a few other friends, including my now-wife, Shirley. Lewis and I knew we could count on each other - and we did. Sadly, our lives went different directions after high school and we have drifted apart.

In working together at church camp and being appointed to serve churches ten minutes from each other, God brought my best friend in ministry, Mike, into my life. Interestingly, Mike was also married to a Shirley, so the Mikes and the Shirley's were quite a foursome when we had lunch together on our day off most every Friday and lived life together. Mike was a second-career pastor, having been a high school band director before becoming a pastor. I still have his baton in my office to remind me of a friend who tragically died far too young.

I am convinced, however, that the friend who sticks closer than a brother mentioned in Proverbs 18:24 is pointing to our friendship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. In all my life Jesus has remained faithful, even when I wasn't. In my darkest hours, He has never abandoned me. In my greatest joys, I have always known they were blessings from my Savior who loves me with an everlasting love. I have never regretted the night when I was fifteen years old and asked Jesus to come into my heart and direct my life.

Jesus is the best Friend of all. And friendship with Jesus - a deep, personal relationship with Him - is the most important friendship any person can have. Earthly friends, even best friends like Lewis, can drift apart, which was just as much my fault as his. Or worse, they can fail us or betray us. It is the effect of the fall and sin that human beings struggle to overcome the innate selfishness of our sin nature. Earthly friends, like my friend Mike, will one day die and the friendship will be broken (at least until I see him again in heaven). One of the reasons Jesus is the best Friend of all is that His friendship will never fail.

The other reason Jesus is the best Friend of all is that no one, not even my parents or wife or children, has ever loved me like Jesus loves me. Here is the startling truth of Scripture:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:6-18 NIV)

God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus. God's love is not if love - I will love you If you obey me. Jesus' love is not because love - I love you because you please me. No, the love of Jesus is in spite of love. The God who created me loves me in spite of all my sins and failures, because He is love. And God's love is unconditional, sacrificial love.

Jesus left the glory of heaven and humbled Himself to take on a human body in which He showed us the heart of God and taught us the truth of God. Then, in that human body, He laid down His life on the cross to pay for the sins of the world, including mine. He died in my place, taking the penalty of my sin on Himself. Romans 6:23 captures it in a nutshell: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When I was fifteen and I gave my life to Jesus, I had no idea where it would take me. But I was convinced of His love for me and trusted that my life would be more with Jesus as my Lord, directing my life, than without Him. My life has been full. I have had loving friendships in every church I have been privileged to serve as pastor. I have overcome heartache and brokenness. I have seen miracles. My life has been far from perfect. I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and I have faced the attacks of the enemy of our souls in my own heart and in the ministry I have been called to. And I can testify to this: Jesus never fails. He is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.

One final thought today. John 3:18 is both important and sobering. "Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." By trusting in Jesus for my salvation and making Him the Lord of my life, I have moved out from under the condemnation of my sin into His great redemption. The Apostle Paul picks up this truth and says it this way:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

It is important to grasp and live in the truth that the guilt is gone and I am not condemned. It is the second part of John 3:18 that is sobering: "...but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." We live under the penalty and guilt of our sin until we come into a relationship with God by entrusting our lives to Jesus, His Son.

Some people carry a lot of guilt and shame in life. There is good news for you, if you are one of them. You can move into Christ and the condemnation is nailed to the cross. Others carry the common delusion that "I am a good person. I'm not a sinner like murderers and abusers." Without Jesus, we stand condemned already because we have not believed in Him. There is not-so-good news for you if you are one of those who are trusting that your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds. That's not the way God keeps score. We are all sinners who need a Savior - and that's Jesus. So without Him, we cannot save ourselves.

Whoever you are as you read this, whatever your current relationship with God, the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for you. God did give His one and only Son. Jesus did lay down His life for you on the cross. You can be filled with the Holy Spirit and live your life as God's beloved child, free from condemnation. And one day when you die, heaven will be waiting. Jesus is the best Friend of all. And we can all either enter that friendship by trusting Him, or go deeper into that friendship by following Him.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!


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