We are called to have a close personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples had the wonderful blessing of being with Jesus and learning from Him throughout His ministry, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). What use is it to follow Jesus’ teaching yet not have a real relationship with Him? How many Christians have lived a life of obedience to God’s word, but do not know Him as their closest Friend?
“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:14-15). The plain teaching here is that a servant might be obedient to the letter of the word, but does not know the Lord in any intimate way. Though we are Christ’s servants, we actually serve Him as His friends. This calls for love and loyalty as well as obedience. This is the relationship that Jesus has called us to experience. Simply put, Jesus wants to be our Friend. “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Jesus the Faithful Friend
“I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5, see also Hebrews 13:5). His abiding presence is the foundation of our relationship with Christ. It is God who established this form of fellowship between Himself and man. All the false gods demand religious observance to rules and regulations. They are based upon fear, servitude and submission. The very word “Islam” means “submission” and you will never read in the Koran that there is a possibility of a loving relationship between the Muslim god and his followers. The cults find it hard to understand the idea that we can be the friends of God too. In all false religions their deity is a distant and unapproachable figure. Only the Bible reveals that man can enjoy a relationship with God through friendship rather than fear. The Lord Jesus Christ did not come to set up a new religion, but instead to re-establish friendship between God and man. He was known by the religious leaders as the sinner’s friend (see Matthew 11:19). “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Ephesians 2:16) and “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
As our Faithful Friend we can be assured that Jesus will never deceive or disappoint us. He always keeps His promises. “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). The Lord is faithful, not because we believe Him to be, but because He is, “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Almost the very last statement that Jesus made to His followers reveals that He, as their Friend, would be close to them always, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). We have a Friend that we can call upon when times get tough, or when we are troubled and discouraged. The knowledge that He is with us is the remedy for all life’s problems.
Are we His friends?
Servants, once they have done their duty, clock-off and go to do their own thing. Friends do not put a time limit on service. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Therefore our obedience is based on relationship rather than rules. A true friend of Christ is willing to lay down his life for the Gospel, just as He did for us, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). A friend always has the other’s best interests at heart. A friend is sacrificial, seeks no reward, and goes the extra mile. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
The idea that there can be friendship between God and man is not just a New Testament teaching, but it finds its foundation in the Old. “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend” (Isaiah 41:8). “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23).