Photo by Perri Costley (Copywrite Tent for Teens)
The Nature of Conviction
Jesus assured His disciples that it was to their advantage that He go away so that the Helper could come (John 16:7)--God sends Him to convict people of their sin. Since the Holy Spirit is unlimited by time or space, He can reach out to every individual on the planet. However, His work differs with regard to believers and unbelievers.

With regard to unbelievers, God's Spirit penetrates the heart and brings awareness of wrongdoing. He reveals that according to God's holy standard, they have sinned and stand condemned by their transgression. Unbelief is the greatest sin against God, so every prick of the heart is meant to point out their need for the Savior.

As for believers, the Holy Spirit deals with them on the basis of their relationship with Jesus Christ and convicts us of disobedience to Him. In other words, He makes us aware of specific sins and the Lord's attitude about them. But He also prompts us to be accountable before Christ for our wrongdoing by confessing it and repenting.

Convicting believers of sin is an important part of the Holy Spirit's job, but He is equally delighted to make them aware of the Lord's approval. God commends righteous living, obedient actions, and loving acts done in His name.
While conviction is often uncomfortable for unbelievers and believers alike, it's a beautiful demonstration of God's love. He desires to bring us into the center of His will and keep us there for our good and His glory. The Holy Spirit's work makes that possible, if we choose to follow His promptings.


Photo by Katlyn Howard
How to Cultivate True Friendships
All people long to be in genuine relationships. God created us with this need, as we were not meant to live in isolation.

Our world is so driven by technology that many people today try to ease their loneliness through computer relationships. However, this can never satisfy or compare to the human fellowship that the Creator designed. But healthy friendships don't just happen. They require intentional effort.

Yesterday, in looking to Jonathan and David for a biblical model of godly companions, we saw how mutual respect is vital in a healthy friendship. Now, let's look at two more aspects of their relationship. These two men had an emotional love for one another; their hearts were knit together (1 Sam. 18:1). When one man experienced joy or sadness, the other man felt it too.

They also had genuine devotion to each other, which is a type of commitment that involves giving: to show loyalty, Jonathan gave his friend material items--his robe and weapon. But these two men also selflessly offered more: Jonathan even risked his life and future kingship in order to save David from execution. Notice, too, that Jonathan was often the initiator, and the one who gave more. He was a prince, whereas David was a lowly shepherd. Social status shouldn't interfere with cultivating a true friendship.

We were designed for true companionship based on mutual respect, genuine love, and commitment. This requires not only time and selfless devotion but also transparency--which means being real, even about our faults. Taking such a risk requires trust. Such relationships are well worth the effort.


Photo by Haley Howard
Building Lasting Friendship
How many true friends do you have? At first, a lot of names may come to mind, but the longer you consider the question, the more likely the number is to dwindle. The reality is that we do not have many genuine friends--the ones who remain loyal no matter what circumstances arise.

This dependable, intimate closeness is what the Lord wants for us, but it's a rare treasure. The biblical account of Jonathan and David can help us learn how to foster this kind of relationship (1 Samuel 18-20). Their story demonstrates that genuine friendships are built upon a foundation of mutual respect, emotional love, and genuine commitment. Today, let's explore the first component.

For true companionship, there must be appreciation by both parties of the other's godly qualities. This starts with an attitude of valuing all people, knowing that they were created in God's image and are loved by Him. After all, if Jesus chose to die for them, they certainly have worth. But at the same time, the regard that David and Jonathan displayed toward one another was greater than mere respect; it revealed admiration for attributes commended in Scripture. These included loyalty to the nation of Israel, courage in battle, and strong faith in God.
Consider the question I asked earlier about the people you deem "true friends." Do these individuals exhibit godly characteristics that you respect? And do they, in turn, have admiration for the biblical qualities they see in you? This mutual, scriptural respect is a necessary foundation for genuine friendship.


Our Growth as Christians
There's a goal to the Christian life, which God expresses this way: "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29). This refining process is called sanctification. And there are several identifiable stages to this goal, but sadly, most believers are unfamiliar with them. Let me offer some definitions so you can identify where you are on the journey and understand what to expect.
Salvation is the first stage of the Christian life. This describes our redemption from sinfulness through Jesus' atoning sacrifice. What results is forgiveness of sin, which lets us have a relationship with Almighty God.

Next, God GIVES US OPPORTUNITY to serve (Eph. 2:10). We were created to do good works in Jesus' name.

But at some point, we notice something isn't working. This is the start to stage three: frustrated inadequacy. This unpleasant but necessary part of the journey can last varying amounts of time. Without it, we'd undoubtedly experience self-sufficiency and pride. But we should recognize this difficult phase as beautiful because it leads us into the best part of our spiritual lives: total dependency upon Jesus as Lord of our life. And we will be fulfilling our ultimate goal: becoming a reflection of Christ.
Sadly, many Christians don't reach a point of complete reliance on the Lord. Pride, discouragement, and distraction can ruin focus and perseverance. Paul reminds us to fix our eyes on the goal of maturity in Christ (Phil. 3:14). Learning to die to self is painful, but ironically, it's the only true way to life.


Making Disciples

Scripture teaches us to tell others about Jesus Christ. And while sharing the gospel is awesome, it is simply not enough. We should continue to encourage and invest in new believers. Many don't know where to begin reading in the Bible or how to spend time with their heavenly Father.

Of course, God takes each person's spiritual journey seriously, and He won't leave a seeking heart unsatisfied. At the same time, we have a responsibility to invest in the lives of spiritual brothers and sisters by sharing our understanding and experience.

This type of teaching is called discipleship, and it is both an honor and a great responsibility. As you commence this type of relationship, consider the following points.

First, make sure to continually spend time with the Lord so that you are growing and in tune with His Spirit. Second, be prepared with a plan. Your friend needs to understand the basics, such as how to read the Bible, what prayer is, and where to find fellowship. New believers will have questions--answers are important, as is your ability to find resources when you are unsure of how to reply. Third, help the individual understand generally what to expect as he embarks on his Christian walk. Tomorrow, we will explore the stages of a believer's journey.
Most of us learned, struggled, and learned some more till we began to understand the basics of life in Christ. Godly mentors can be a tremendous help. And remember, no matter how long we've believed, we never stop needing advice and encouragement from those farther along in the journey.
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