This sermon is part of the sermon series "Living Close". See series.
For the past couple of weeks we've been talking about friendship. And what we're learning is that our friendships play an important role in forming us; spiritual friendships are significant, because they form the deepest parts of who we are. So friendships usually do their work over time—moment by moment, encounter after encounter, conversation after conversation. Most of the time, we don't even realize that they're having an effect on us. They are like water that slowly carves its way through rock, carving away one fraction of a millimeter at a time, until years later a deep gorge is carved into the rock bed. Or like wind that blows through the terrain of sandstone, creating a work of art as it carves intricate patterns throughout the landscape. That's what friendship does to us slowly over time.
But it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes God uses a friend in our life to transform us, seemingly overnight, a friend who speaks a word of challenge that, if responded to favorably by us, has the potential to help us grow exponentially. The tricky part is that a challenge like this also has the potential to test the limits of our friendship. Have you ever had an experience like that? It often comes as an intervention of sorts, a conversation, a letter, an interaction that challenges us to move beyond the threshold of our comfort zone and to step out into an area of living that we're not accustomed to, that tests us, tries our patience or our selflessness.
Spiritual friends challenge each other
Well, nestled in the pages of the New Testament is an interesting little document. It's on one thin piece of paper that is sandwiched between Titus and Hebrews. It's a six-paragraph letter that gives us a window into ...
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