Friendship with God
With human friends, sometimes we're left wondering, 'what do they really think about us?'. Even in a friendship as close as marriage, and even after years of marriage, sometimes where unsure exactly where we stand with our spouse. Or what it is that they want.
Jesus doesn't leave us in the dark. In John 15:12-17, Jesus tells us exactly how to be his friend. He gives us four marks of a friend of God; if we have this four things going in our lives, we're going to be doing pretty well with God.
1. The Salvation of God
Jesus says that 'Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends'. Later, he says, 'You did not choose me, but I chose you'. These are his ways of saying that 'salvation comes from the Lord' (Psalm 3:8; see also Psalm 62:1). The point is that we can't save ourselves. Salvation - deliverance from the bondage and penalty of sin and deliverance into eternal life with God comes through what Jesus did. He died a death in our place on the cross, bearing the penalty of our sin. If we could save ourselves, we wouldn't need a Saviour. The foundation of friendship with God is receiving the salvation that only he can give.
2. The Word of God
Jesus says, 'You are my friends if you do what I command you'. Unlike the picture for this blog, friendship with Jesus is not the coming together of equals; Jesus is the head, the boss, the one in charge; he runs the show. Friendship with him happens in submission to his Lordship, his kingship, his rulership. There is no friendship with God without submitting to his authority. In Colossians 2:6, Paul tells these 1st century Christians that 'as they have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him'. In other words, our walk (lifestyle) should reflect Christ's Lordship,
But what does Lordship mean, practically? Very simply, it means obeying the Bible. Jesus said to do what he commands us. What has he commanded us? All of his teaching is preserved in Scripture, especially in the gospels and epistles. As we obey his word, we walk in his Lordship, and enjoy the benefits of his friendship.
3. The People of God
As if obeying Jesus generally is not difficult enough, he gives us an even greater challenge in John 15:12: to love one another as he has loved us. And in case we missed the point, he comes back and mentions it again in John 15:17. Loving each other is part of the command by which we live out our friendship with God.
Remember: salvation is not just from sin and judgment; salvation is into the eternal fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is, God brings us into participation with the perfect, unified loving relationship of the Trinity. His desire is that we reflect that in our relationships with each other. Jesus said the the world will know we are [genuine] Christians by our love for each other (John 13:35). Loving each other is a key mark of friendship with God.
4. The Mission of God.
In one of the most remarkable statements in the Bible, Jesus says that, rather than treating us like uninformed servants, he has made known to us the Father's plans. That is, we has invited us into the board room, into the executive chambers, and he's brought us into his plans. What's the plan? To fill the earth with his glory. How? By making disciples - whole-hearted followers of Jesus - through the ministry of the gospel. The whole earth will be filled with the glory of God as we plant Christ-centred, Spirit-empowered, Socially responsible churches in every city.
To underline our mission involvement, Jesus says that we didn't choose him, but he chose us. He wanted us to be on his team. We didn't recruit ourselves. The God of eternity has drawn us into participation - not only in his Trinitarian fellowship - but in his Trinitarian mission of expanding the number of participants in that fellowship through the gospel.
Someone once said, 'It's not what you know, but who you know'. With God, it's what we know about God (that is, what He has revealed to us about himself) that makes the prospect of knowing him so amazing. And rather than remaing aloof, Jesus has spelled out exactly how we can be his friends: receive his salvation, submit to the authority of his word, love his people as much as he loves us, and devote ourselves to his mission. If it were easy, everyone would be doing. But while these aren't the easiest instructions to obey, they are cyrstal clear.
Holy Spirit: cultivate in us a passion to be the friends of God through Jesus, and empower us to obey the instructions Jesus has given.