Let us pray: Dear Savior, teach us today to both value and to seek out Christian friends. Teach us to view them as wonderful blessings that You provide, people who don’t have hidden agendas, people who always look after our welfare, and people from whom we can grow in both our faith and our appreciation of life, itself. And also teach us to emulate them and become such friends to others. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR BEST AND MOST TRUSTED FRIEND OF ALL!
TEXT: 2 Timothy 1: 3-14
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
How many of you know what a “hallmark” is? And no, I’m not referring to the greeting card company! A hallmark is an engraved symbol found on the underside of good silver—usually sterling silver. It can be a numbered sequence and/or some sort of design which marks the shop of its maker. If you’ve ever watched “Antiques Roadshow” you know that the silver experts look for such hallmarks to date, identify and price a piece.
Since hallmarks are a means of identification that is basically infallible, and since God’s inspired Word written by St. Paul here is also infallible, today I want to lay out for you:
THE HALLMARKS OF A CHRISTIAN FRIEND
St. Paul was like a father-figure to young Pastor Timothy. He had known Timothy for years before Paul ordained him into the ministry. He had probably stayed at his home on missionary journeys where he got to know Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, both fine Christian women. Now Paul writes Timothy to encourage him in his ministry. Paul is imprisoned in Rome and realizes that his time on earth is growing shorter each day. And in this letter of encouragement, St. Paul lays out 4 hallmarks of a wonderful Christian friend.
The first hallmark is laid out in this verse. “I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience.” Nothing in life is better than a clear conscience. It not only helps you sleep at night, but it energizes you for effective service to God. A guilty conscience paralyzes, while a clear one gives you inner strength.
Shakespeare once wrote about a troubled conscience with these words: “My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale. And every tale condemns me for a villain.”
Various schools of psychotherapists all stress the value of a clean conscience. They all stress the important role that freedom from a sense of guilt plays in our mental health. Guilt over the past, guilt over sins committed, is both paralyzing and crushing. When we’re guilt-ridden we don’t want to trust another, we don’t want to open up to another, we don’t want to be hurt again, or to hurt another person. I believe it is a truism that dysfunctional people are usually guilt-ridden people who have failed to come to grips with their past. Well, Paul isn’t guilt-ridden or dysfunctional. He’s forgiven of all his sins by Jesus Christ. He knew that Christ died on a cross to save him. God’s Son died to take away his guilt—including standing by while others murdered St. Stephen. Now, inside, Paul is pure and clean as any new snow. Now, he is both honest and truthful about himself and therefore can be honest and truthful with other sinners who need God’s help. Now, armed with a clean conscience he’s unafraid of anything! O to have such a friend to care and look out for us!
“I constantly remember you in my prayers.” Here’s the second hallmark of a Christian friend, prayer. All great Christians are people of prayer. I know all of you pray. We talk to God right here at church each Sunday. But we both need to and should also pray to God literally “all the time.” Paul writes elsewhere: “Pray constantly.” There it is! Talk to God each day. Don’t be afraid you’ll burden Him. You cannot! He has infinite random access memory and unlimited server capacity! Prayer causes you to step outside your own little world into God’s realm. And when you pray for others, you’re enlarged in spades. They may never know the extent of you caring, but God does and God always answers our prayers. St. Paul was acutely aware of what James wrote: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” That’s because prayer taps into God’s power. Having friends who pray for you means they really do have your very best interest at heart and they are actively proving it!
If I got a letter which enclosed the following tender emotions, I’d be touched to my core. “Recalling your tears (apparently at their last departure), I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands (ordination). For did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
Hardly a day went by that Paul didn’t think of Timothy and yearn for his presence. Christians like to be with their Christian friends. We uplift each other. That’s one of the great benefits of regular worship and fellowship. To stifle our emotions, as we often do, is to deny expression to a vital facet of the human personality, not to mention the whole list of spiritual fruits: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Just as the Lord wept at Lazarus’ tomb, and was felt inner pain at the plight of the masses and those in need of His healing touch, so emotional energy is never a waste. It is a blessing. It shows the heart. It shows reality.
And that brings us to the final hallmark: deep-seated Godly conviction for His truth. And the truths that Paul speaks of here are these: 1. God saved us for a life of holiness and not sin or dysfunctionality. 2. God’s purpose in so doing was pure love—unearned and undeserved by us. 3. Before time began God chose to give to us personally this gift of grace in Christ. 4. That Christ has destroyed death and given us life and immortality. And 5. That God is all-powerful and His shield of protection extends to every one of His faith-filled best friends—us.
Would you like a friend like St. Paul? Who wouldn’t? But don’t forget, you have such friends, they surround you, and are sitting in the pew next to you today. Likewise, you can be such a friend and mentor of others by using God’s power, literally His dynamite, which changes all for the better because the Spirit stands behind it. So, as Paul concludes: “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” And, I might add, be energized to use it every day! Amen