Monday, July 19, 2010

Being The Friend of God

Jesus called his disciples in John 15:14-15, "my friends." He expounded what this meant in just a few short phrases: "You are my friends if you do what I command." "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:14 NIV)

In the Gospel of John chapters 13-15, there can be seen a development of an intimate relationship between our Lord and His disciples. In John 13, Christ refers to the disciples as "servants" while in the John 15 text he calls them something closer, "friends." (The John 13 text does not use the word "servant" but shows a servant-master reference and relationship.) In John 15, the text clears up the point: "from now on," or "henceforth," Jesus says He no longer calls them servants but, instead, friends. And how has this qualitative difference in the Lord and servants, now friends, relationship occurred? "…if you do what I command you," says Jesus in 15:14.

Abraham is used as an example of this in the Old Testament. "My friend" is used as a descriptive of God's relationship with Abraham (Isaiah 41:8: 2 Chronicles. 20:7). The reason Abraham was called "the friend of God" was the same reason for which Jesus called His disciples His friends. The disciples and Abraham obeyed the Word of the Living God. Jesus told His disciples that they were His friends if they obeyed Him; Abraham was called God's friend because he acted on faith (Heb. 11:8; Romans 4:18-21; Heb. 11:17-19). God calls those friends who act in obedience without reservation. Related passages bearing on the same idea are: 1 John 2:1-6: 1 John 5:1-3.

A thought not to be missed in the John 15:14 text is what can be discerned from the Greek text: "You are my friends if you do what I command you." The phrase, if you do, in the present active subjunctive carries the idea of "if you keep at it," "if you keep on doing the action" and not just for a moment in time or as an impulsive action (Robinson). It is obedience and a constant obeying of God's commandments over and over again. Those are the friends of God.

Also note in verse 15 of John 15: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (ESV) The phrase, I have called you friends, is a perfect active indicative phrase indicating a "permanent state of new dignity." What an amazing life-changing idea!


I spend a great deal of time self-evaluating. This can be a good thing if done with the Bible open to the pages of Scripture and praying thoughtfully through them. It was in February 2010 that I began to sense a need in my life to begin a new re-acquaintance with God. I had fallen into a kind of habitual despairing of my physical illness-laden life. I suffer from a disease called Fibromyalgia Syndrome that afflicts me with unrelenting pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. I've had this illness for twenty years and had fallen into a defeatist attitude about it. The symptoms were ruling me and once I realized this had been going on for years, I sought God's wisdom and guidance.

The first thing I did was begin a new study program with a Bible Institute in Australia. It is a correspondence school, of sorts, via the Internet. As I cruised through the Certificate program in Biblical Studies, I was constantly reminded that my relationship with God was not meant to be one of despair. That even in the midst of valleys, and I was in some valleys, I could be on top emotionally. Where and how the devil would hit me, and hit me hard, was in my emotional reaction to severe pain from my illness. The more and more I dwelt on the things of God, the less and less, it seemed to me, I was wallowing in the despair over my disabilities.

I believe that each time I obey God's Word to rejoice in all things, to give thanks, to count it joy, to be anxious for nothing in the specific trials and tribulations in my life, I am counted more and more in a progressive sense a "friend of God." It begins, I believe, in never leaving the Word of God. This is the medium in which the Spirit bends your will to an inclination to obey Him. When you see that it is not only possible to "put the death" the deeds of the flesh, but also that the Word reveals that God works in us both the willing and doing of His good pleasure, then you are spurred on in a kind of Spirit excitement to do just that.

Addressing Obstacles

A pattern in my life has been that when I begin to become lazy about immersing myself in the Word of God, the habitual sin of despair seems to creep back into my life in an insidious intrusion. What keeps despair at bay is a constant, daily saturation in the Scripture and a prayerful mediation on specific Bible verses and passages.

What I am prayerfully considering is returning to school via the Internet in Biblical Studies. I would like to earn a degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in Biblical Languages. It is not that I think this is something everyone should do, but it is something I should do. It would keep me busy for a number of years, which would keep my mind off my illness. And, it would keep me in an environment devoted to eternal things rather than earthly things. And so, what happens when the degree is finished? Hopefully, I will have earned some more developed skills in Bible Study and teaching. I would teach through the medium of writing.

The point of being God's friend is obedience; doing what He says. This is a calling I wanted to answer a long time ago.

It is never too late.