Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Spiritual" Friends

Being a part of the body of Christ means that you don't have to walk this life's journey alone. (That's a comforting thought, huh?) The Bible talks in many places about our "mystical union" with Jesus Christ (cf. John 15; Romans 1:6; 12:4-5). God presently indwells all true believers (2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Ephesians 1:13-14). This new relationship, which begins when we place our trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, is the foundation of what we Christians commonly call "eternal life". Eternal life is not simply "never-ending life", though this is certainly true. Eternal life is more than that. It is the sort of life which matures over time and seeks daily to conform to God's will for God's glory and His pleasure.

Further, and by extension, through our position "in Christ" and participation in His body, we are connected to all people who recognize their need for Christ and believe in His name. We are literally one GIGANTIC family in God (Ephesians 2:18-22; 1 Peter 2:9-10). This is a tremendous reality. However, in practice, there is often a huge disconnect in how we live this out. Where there should be unity, we often find discord. Where there should be sacrifice, we often find selfishness. And where we would expect to find closeness, we often, and sadly, find distance. However, a consequence of our failings in living out our "shared life" in Jesus Christ is that we miss out on many of the blessings of godly love, care, and wisdom.

All of that was simply to set a context for you. This morning I had breakfast with one of my "spiritual" friends. A "spiritual" friend is anyone who takes a genuine interest in your devotion to God. These are the people with whom your conversations go deeper than the normal, "How 'bout today's weather?", or, "Did you happen to catch the Phillies game last night?" You may have one or one hundred "spiritual" friends. Your relationships with these friends may take a formal or informal shape. You may meet once per week, once per month, or far more (or less) frequently.

How do you know if you are currently in a "spiritual friendship"? Can you answer "Yes" to any of these questions: Is there someone with whom you can be honest about your relationship with God? Is there someone who asks you tough questions about your devotion to God and your family? Is there someone for whom and with whom you regularly pray? Is there someone in your life who gives you consistent, godly counsel? Is there someone in your life who helps you follow Jesus Christ?

Frequently I am privileged to be able to sit down over a meal or a cup of coffee with another brother-in-Christ. Over the years I have had numerous "spiritual" friends. During various seasons of life God brings certain people into our lives who help to encourage, guide, or challenge our journey with Jesus. I've grown to view these relationships as tremendously beneficial and important for my growth in discipleship. To be honest, I have come to view these relationships as essential to my growth as a Christian.

How about you? Do you have any "spiritual" friends? You may have many people with whom you associate at church, but are they truly your "spiritual" friends? Are you developing the sort of relationship with someone else in life--maybe a spouse or a leader at your church--that is centered on growing to glorify Christ more and more each day? If you don't, then I encourage you to pray that God might you lead to someone. We all need "a fellow pilgrim" who helps to pick us up along this bumpy road.

What is your experience with having a "spiritual" friend?

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