In John 15 Jesus makes a remarkable statement to all of us who believe in Him for salvation. He calls us friends! Do you know what that means? Do you know the implications that holds for us -- both now and eternally? In this message Stephen reminds you.
“Becoming A Close Friend of Christ”
Now if you remember, Jesus, in chapter 15 is in the process of turning the tables on conventional Christian thinking.
We were first invited to a busy palestinian vineyard in John 15:1. We ultimately learned that we are considered branches and Christ is the vine. We would naturally think that since we belong to the Body of Christ that we are now going to be able to produce some rather amazing things. . .like the fruit of the Spirit. . .and so we give it our best shot.
We list out the fruit of the Spirit and put them on our refrigerator door with fruity magnets - we set the list on our dash next to our fruit of the Spirit coffee mug. "Let's see, this week it's joy week; Lord, I'm going to develop the characteristic of joy this week in my life." About that time, the car in front of you slams on his brakes - you swerve out of the way tipping over your coffee mug and coffee spills all over your fruit of the spirit list. And whatever joy you think you had, you just lost it! You drive past that crazy person and you give him a piece of your mind . . . a piece you cannot afford to lose.
You know God's grace won't allow you to be able to do something by yourself that He has already said, only He can do in you and through you.
All you and I can be are available branches - connected to the vine - and branches cannot produce - remember? But branches can bear fruit - fruit that is produced from the life of the vine flowing into branch.
Jesus is turning the tables - and He says, now that you are a Christian - now that you abide in the vine - you need to know that you can do certain things - somethings - look 15:5. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
You remember the point that everyone of us in here as believers are not just slightly handicapped when it comes to fruit bearing - we are totally paralyzed.
The point is - Through the life of Jesus Christ, which we allow to flow in and through us; His life in us will produce fruit which then clings from our lives as grapes cling to a branch.
Now in the next paragraph, Jesus continues to turn the tables in a wonderful way. We move from the palestinian vineyard into a typical palestinian home.
In the vineyard, we discovered the privilege of fruitbearing. Now in the home we'll discover the prize of relationship/friendship. In the last part of this chapter we'll move from the home into the village and experience the pain being forsaken.
Fruitbearing, friendship, forsaken. . . three experiences common to disciples of Christ.
Now. . .if we were going to die at 10:00 tomorrow morning, I imagine our thoughts and concerns would be about ourselves. I find it fascinating that just 24 hours away from the cruel cross, yet Jesus Christ is concerned about his disciples; not his needs - theirs; not his rights...How could that be. . .John doesn't leave it up to our imaginiation:
Go back for a moment to chapter 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, He loved them to the end."
LOVE! Everlasting, unchangeable, unswayable, agape.
Now, let's slip back into the upper room and listen in as their conversation continues: 15:12. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
13. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
14. You are My friends, if you do what I command you.
15. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
16. You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask in My name, He may give to you.
I have read that if a person could name more than two people anywhere in the world, whom he considered to be a close friend, he would be in rare company. Truth is, friends are hard to find. . .that is the kind of friend that comes in when everybody else walks out.
One pastor wrote, "loneliness doesn't exist only in the world, but it is found within the church as well. Consider the words of one older woman who wrote to me, "I sit in the pew next to a warm body every week, but I feel no heat. I'm in the faith, but I draw no active love. I sing the hymns with those next to me, but I hear only my own voice. When the service is finished, I leave as I came in - hungry for someone to touch me, to tell me that I'm a person worth something to somebody. Just a smile would do it, or perhaps some gesture, some sign that I am not a stranger here."
Frankly, lonliness is no respector of persons. It doesn't matter if your poor or rich; sick or healthy; in the public eye or hidden from view.
Alfred Lord Tennyson visited the Queen of England. Afterward, this great poet said, "Up there, in all her glory and splendor, she was lonely."
Thomas Wolfe, the famous American novelist wrote, "The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness is the central and inevitable fact of human existence."
Jesus Christ will and has turned the tables on that fact.
24 hours before the King of Kings would die - he is intensley interested in his disciples catching some truths that would carry them for life.
He tells that small band of disciples and He tells every believer here today - "You can consider me your closest friend - and I consider you my friend as well."
Now someone could go to verse 14 and say, "Yea but, look at the condition..."You are My friends, if you do what I command you."
Man alive, who can keep all the commandments. This is too much!
Well, remember to interpret the word "command" in light of the context - did you notice verse 12. "This is My commandment, that you love one another."
In other words, "You can't hate each other and then consider yourself my friend." But if you will obey my command to love one another, then you and I will be able to experience the depth of my love.
John re-emphaisized this truth in I John 14:20. Turn there - If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whome has has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen...and this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also."
Go back to John 15. You see, that's the same point here! Literally, "You can't be my friend and hate each other...but if you'll love each other than we can be friends too."
Now the next question to ask could be, "How can you be commanded to love someone?" John 15:12 is not a suggestion, "Listen, it'd be great if you folks could get along civil like while I'm away - just give it your best shot. . .oh no! It's a command, 12. This is my commandment that you love one another.
How can you command someone to love? I could understand if Jesus had said, "See that Christian over there - invite them to your home." Yes sir! "See that woman over there, paint her house. . .see that young person, buy them a winter coat." YES SIR I CAN DO THAT!
No. . .He says, "See that Christian brother/sister over there. . .love them." But you say, "Lord, I can't generate feelings for that man or woman."
You know why Jesus can command us to agape/love. . . you know how can he command a husband to love his wife, a wife to love her husband, fathers to love their children. . .because agape/love is not a feeling; it is an act of the will. It is a decision in the mind with which the body follows through. And the proof of our love is not in our feelings but in our actions. The good news is that loving actions produce loving feelings.
Truth is, feelings in a home, a church or in a marriage can be wrotn thin at times. The command remains - illustrated best by that couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. Several hundred friends and relatives were on hand for the celebration. As they were cutting the cake, photographs snapping away, Henry decided to give his bride a speech - "Ethyl, after 60 years of marriage, I've found you tried and true." "Eh?!" she said, hard of hearing...harumphed, "Well, Henry after 60 years of marriage, I'm tired of you too."
Now notice how Jesus turns the tables in verse 15. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
Proabably what Jesus referred to here when He told them that He no longer called them servants was the in relation to the fact that in Christ's day the disciples of any rabbi or teacher were considered his servants. In fact, they gladly acted the role as they met their teachers basic needs, provided for his food.
If you broadened the idea of servant to include the common lot for slaves of the emperor (Christ, soon to be enthroned in heaven)...well, during the time of Christ, the life of an emperors slave, or any slave for that matter, was a horrible existence.
Its estimated that in the first century Roman empire, there were 60 million slaves. Conditions were unbearable - Roman law allowed the slave owner absloute right over the slave - a slave could be beaten, sold, abused, starved, and even killed without any recourse.
Likewise the slave of the emperor were not considered a person but a thing. He lived only if the emperor allowed it.
You see, a slave had no right to enter the presence of his royal master - at best they would catch a glimpse of him as he passed by on some impressive occasion. They were never permitted to eat at the same table as their masters. Slaves had separate quarters and were never invited to participate in family discuusions.
Here is a wonderful truth - becuase of the foundation of love, Christ considers us his closest friends. The Greek word here in verse 15 for "friend" and I suggest you write it into your margin...it literally means "a friend of the court." It described the intimate, inner circle of friends around the emperor or king.
We are the friend of the king. In this culture, the friends of the king/emperor had immediate access to the king. They had the right to even approach him in his dressing room at the beginning of the day. The emperor talked to them before he talked to his generals, his rulers, his statesmen.
Notice again v. 15. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doig; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from
My Father I have made known to you. . ." In other words, you're part of the family discussion!
The Lord Jesus considers us His closest friends."
Now everybody knows that only close friends share secrets...right?
David understood intimacy with God when he wrote, "The secret of the Lord is for those who worship Him, and He will cause them to understand the meaning of His covenant. Ps. 25:14
He wrote in Psalm 103:7, "He made known his ways unto Moses; His acts unto the children of Israel." You understand, the children of Israel saw only the miraculous acts of God - Moses was able to know the plans of God
Truth is, becuase of Jesus Christ death and resurrection - becuase of His intercession for us and our prize of friendship, we stand nearer to God that Moses did . . . we know more than David knew.
To think - God is our friend.
An atheist pamphlet mocked God becuase of His supposed close relationships with old Testament heroes. The tract correctly noted that Although Abraham lied on several occasions in the Biblical record, he was still called the "friend of God." Although Jacob was a cheating scoundrel he was called "a prince with God." Although Moses was guilty of violent murder, he was still given the privilege of recieving from God the 10 commandments - one of which was "thou shalt not kill", thus making him a hypocrite for delivering a message he didn't keep. David was called a man close to God's heart even though he was guilty of murder and adultery. The tract went on to say, "If there really were a God, what kind of God would associate with these people?"
The answer of course is that God the Son would come and die for their sins and the sins of the whole world, that if anyone would place their faith in Him, their sins would be forgiven and forgotten and they could be considered His friend.
What an incredible prize! A slave...a sinner...now we are is closest friend!
But that's not all. . .love is the foundation. The results are 1) we're considered His closest friend ... we discover here that we are also
2) We're appointed His personal representative. 15:16. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit..."
Now think about this - it's one thing to consider us friends - that's something we can say about, just about anybody...but to let that person represent you - to speak for you - to be entrusted with your reputation - now that's serious!
Trouble is, we're really not amazed that God would appoint us becuase we're fairly convinced we're already somewhat deserving. Isn't it interesting that when someone you work with gets a promotion you automatically feel they just got lucky. When you get a promotion, you deserved it?!
One author wrote it this way...Have you ever noticed:
When the other fellow is set in his ways, he's obstinate - when we refuse to change, we're just firm. When your neighbor doesn't like you frined, he's prejudiced; when you don't like his friend, you are a good judge of human nature. When he tries to treat someone especially well, he's patronizing; when you try it, you are just being thoughtful. When he takes time to do things well, he's lazy or slow; when you do, you are deliberate and careful. When he spends a lot, he is a spend thrift; when you do, you're generous. When someone picks up flaws in people, he's critical; when you do you're just insightful; when he is mild-mannered, you call him weak; when you are, it is graciousness. When someone dresses especially well, that person is extravagant; when you do, it's tasteful. And when he says what he thinks, he's cruel and tactless; when you say what you think, you are being transparant and open.
Rarely do we like to be exposed for who we really are.
I like the story of the stingy man who was finally caught in the act. He was Christmas shopping, but everything he saw was too expensive except a $50.00 vase that was on sale for $2.00 becuase the handle had been broken off. He bought it and then told the salesman to wrap it and ship it by mail so that his friend would think he had paid full price for this expensive vase and that it had just accidently broken during shipment. A week after Christmas he recieved a thank you note from his friend, "Thank you for the lovely vase" the letter read, "it was so nice of you to wrap each piece separately."
In case we think God has been fooled; in case we get carried away with ourselves. . .take another look at verse 16. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you." Guess how you became one of my closest friends - becuase I chose you - it was the grace of God that gave me the gift of faith so that I, in turn, could place my faith in Jesus Christ, therefore becoming His friend.
Verse 16 goes on to say, "...I chose you and appointed you..." You and I have recieved an appointment - again, becuase we deserve it - no! Becuase He loves us! And He has chosen to appoint us.
The word "appoint" is different than the word "chosen". It means "to appoint for special service" or "to send for a special reason."
Turn over a page to chapter 17:18 where John clarifies our appointment...
Jesus is praying to the Father, "As Thou has sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."
Matthew 28 gives us one of the final commands from the Lord, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I've commanded you..."
This is our commission - we are chosen to salvation
we are appointed to service
There's more! We're not only his friend; his representative...we're also considered to be His personal advertisement.
Notice verse 16b. I appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.
We represent Christ and are appointed to bear fruit - that is we are to win the world...how?
In what way could we most effectivally advertize for heaven?!
Rebecca Pippert in her fascinating book entitled, "Out of the Saltshaker" told the story about when she had first arrived in Portland, Oregon. She met a student on one of the campuses where she worked;a brilliant young man whose hair was always mussy, and she said, the entire time she knew him she had never seen him wear a pair of shoes. One day, Bill decided to attend a well-dressed middle-class church across the street from the campus that had wanted to develop more of a ministry ot the students. He walked into church, wearing his blue jeans, tee shirt and, of course, no shoes. People looked a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything. So, Bill begn walking down the aisle looking for a seat. The church was quite crowded that Sunday, so as he got down to the front pew and realized there were no seats, he just sat downon the darpet, in the middle of the aisle, crossed his legs and just began to look around. The tension in the air became so thick one could slice it. People were cranning their necks to see this visitor. Suddently, an elderly man began walking down the aisle toward the boy...one of the pillars of the church. Rebecca's friends, who saw the man approaching and told her about this event recalled thinking; "Well, you can't blame him for what he's going to do...he is disrupting worship." As the man kept walking slowly down the aisle, the church becmae utterly silent, all eyes focused on him, you could not hear anyone breathe. When the man reached Bill, with some difficulty he lowered himself and sat down next to the young man on the carpet...crossed his legs, shared his hymnal...and worshipped there on the floor that Sunday - advertizing for heaven.
Jesus Christ considers us His representatives. . .and we are to win the world. . .how?
Do we debate them into the kingdom; do we scare them in...bribe them...threaten them in? No, we're to attract them. How? By our love for each other, and by the fruit that we bear that resembles the character of God himself.
By the way, I like the promise that is usually overlooked; v. 16b. "I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and (what?) - that your fruit should remain."
There aren't many things that spoil more quickly than fruit, even if it's kept cool and dry. Those bananas on top of our refrigerator go from yellow to brown in a matter of days. Yet, here Jesus promises that we can bear a different kind of fruit that lasts forever.
We are advertisments of an eternal King, for an eternal purpose, with eternal power and with eternal results.
How'd we get so lucky? It wasn't luck - it was grace. It was Jesus choosing you to be His friend, forever.
Are you enjoying His friendship? Can you relax in His acceptance and love.
Do you feel comfortable in His presence?
One author wrote, "O the comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts or measure words, but to pour them all our just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping and, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away."
That's the kind of friend He is to you.
And did you notice the little promise tucked away in the last part of this verse. . .16c. "And whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He amy give to you. . ." In other words, since you're my friend, you can talk to any member of my family any time you want.
Jesus is turning the tables - you're no longer a slave but His closest friend; you, the disciple are His personal representatives, you are His special advertisement.
Joseph Scrivin was born in Dublin Ireland in 1820. After graduating from Trinity College, he had great expectations and plans. He would marry his lovely Irish sweetheart and together theywould begin a Christian home. He would put to use the fine training he had been getting at the college in starting his own business. Wedding plans were made, business ventures decided upon. . .but then tragedy struck. His bride-to-be accidentlaly drowned the day before their wedding. His world fell apart. In hope of forgetting, which he never did, Scrivin went to Canada and lived his life, a missionary bachelor, alone yet driven to help the unfortunate as a missionary. Years later, when his mother became seriously ill, he was unable to be with her, instead he sat down and wrote her a poem. He made a copy for himself, scribbled on scratch paper, it ws discovered by someone who had come to visit him. It would become a poem, set to music that would encourage the church for more than a 150 years. Frankly, it seems motivated by the truth we've just discovered from John 15. LISTEN
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everthing to God in prayer
O what peace we often forfeit, O what neeless pain we bear,
All becuase we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to theLord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee, thou will find a solace there.
Joseph Scriven, to onlookers would have seemed to be living a lonely life. With unfulfilled dreams and a broken heart. It was after Joseph Scriven's death, ironically also by drowning, that his poem began to circulate and the true strength of Scriven was understood.
His closest friend was Jesus.
I don't know what you're facing - I don't know about your trials and temptations, your load of care. . .but from this morning on, remember, Jesus, on the night before He died for you whispered into the ear of his frightened disciples. . ."I considerl you my closest friends - you can call me your friend too!"
And as your friend, He will never leave you...forsake you...He is your friend - forever!