This month I would like to share about a rather unfamiliar topic: Being “friends with God.” (This is still a part of our Reflections of His Image series.)
In the last Personal Update, we talked about the importance of abiding in the Lord (John 15) in order to bring forth the “fruit” of the Spirit; i.e., God’s Love. We all receive His Love when we first come to Him, but if we don’t “abide” there (re-main in His presence), we will quench that Love, not only for ourselves, but also for others.
John 15:14 goes on to tell us that if we continue to remain in His presence, carrying His Love to others, then we will be His “friends.” “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatever I command you.” Another beautiful Scripture that validates this is Proverbs 22:11: “He that loveth pureness of heart...the King shall be his friend.”
Abraham is a good example of this and he is remembered in Scripture as one who “walked with God” and was His “friend.” Abraham had that intimate relationship with the Lord that we all desire. He saw Him “face to face.” Staying clean and pure, remaining in and resting in God’s Love is the only way to achieve this union.
The key here is having a pure heart. Why? Because only then can God’s Love flow freely from our hearts out into our lives. Having His Love not only in our hearts, but also flowing from our lives is proof that we are, indeed, abiding in Him. And, this is what makes us His friends. Ones who live His Love.
As we look around us—at our churches, our families, our friends, and our kids—we see that many of us have been caught up in specific issues of ministry like: prophecy, gifts of the Spirit, witnessing, healing, miracles, faith, signs and wonders, etc. But, if we look closely at the results of these movements, one must ask: where’s God’s Love? How can we be Spirit-filled and yet not Love-filled? Aren’t they the very same thing? God’s Love is the glue that ties us all together and what’s so scary is that these days it’s absent from so many churches, ministries and individual believers.
Matthew 24:12 gives us the simple Scriptural answer. Speaking about these end times, it says: “And because iniquity shall abound, the Agape Love of many will grow cold.”
God’s Love Is Growing Cold
God’s Love doesn’t just fall out of heaven. His Love comes through us. We are extensions of His Love to one another. All He wants from us is a willing body—arms and legs—to pour His Love through. This is what will make us “friends with God.” Ones who live His Love.
Larry Crabb’s book called Inside Out shares that Christians can spend years in Bible study developing a real love for the truth; but, if they come away without God’s Love for people, then they will have wasted their entire time. The whole purpose of Bible study is to make us more loving, not more scholarly.
David Needham (Birthright) confirms this same thought, by saying: “the big task is not the finding of the truth, but the living of it!” This, to me, says it all!
It’s only Jesus’ Love through us that will bring our families, our husbands, our children, our neighbors, and our bosses to the feet of Jesus. Since God is Love, the only way these people will ever know that we are indeed Christians is by the real Love (the “fruit”) they see and feel coming from us. Abiding in the Lord’s presence is the only thing that will produce this kind of Love.
It’s fascinating to me that unbelievers seem to know the authentic and real Christians even before fellow believers do. They seem to spot the phonies a mile away; whereas, we Christians are often fooled by our so-called “brothers and sisters.” Only God’s authentic Love through us will touch these unbelievers and bring them to Jesus. Our flowery and empty words about Jesus are not enough. Our actions must match our words in order for it to be “fruit bearing.” In other words, we must be living examples of Jesus’ Love! Ones who live His Love! These are the ones who are “friends of God.”
Two Extreme Examples
A believer who is actually abiding in Christ goes outside of himself to be Christ-like. He opens himself up, stretches out his arms and loses himself in God. The result is that he finds himself in loving others.
I spoke with a young Christian man yesterday who has be-come very depressed and discouraged because of a debilitating illness. He said he no longer can see any purpose in living. He is so self-consumed at this moment that he cannot see that, yes, he is losing himself. But, not in God. He is losing himself in his own problems. And because of this, he has lost the will to live.
Now, I must be the first to admit that I have never been so ill that I’ve felt hopeless and purposeless. Therefore I confess that it’s easy for me to say the things I am about to say because I’ve never truly experienced them for myself. And perhaps if I was in this young man’s shoes, I would feel the same way he does.
But the Bible says that no matter how sick we are, no matter what our circumstances are and no matter what others have done to us, the only way we can find ourselves is by loving God first and then, loving others. The whole of God’s Word is summed up in these two commandments. (Matthew 22:40) So, no matter where we are in life, God says His Love is the answer. This, again, is what will make us His friends.
This young man has a family who loves him: he has parents who have given up everything for him, a wife who adores him and children who look up to him. He has people all around him who love him and will do anything they can to make life easier for him. Isn’t that enough to keep him hanging on? And, even if he doesn’t “feel” like it, God has given him the authority and power to make faith choices—non-feeling choices to overcome his natural feelings in order to have the attitude that God desires.
On the other hand, I have another dear friend, Cindy, who is in the same situation as the above gentleman. She has had 50 heart operations, the last one a total heart transplant. Unfortunately, the heart she received had cancer. As a result, she has had to undergo months of chemotherapy on top of every-thing else.
The difference between these two is that Cindy continually makes faith choices to stand strong and let the Lord use her regardless of what is physically going on in her life. She has lost herself in God. She has been ill for almost five years and her prognosis is still very uncertain.
But, in spite of all this, Cindy has chosen to be a vessel of God’s Love—not only to her husband and son, but to all of us who know her. We work with her every day and we are blessed by her unwavering commitment to the Lord. She has found herself in loving others. What an example of Christ she is for all of us; always a smile, always a touch and always a concern for others! Truly, she is the queen of fruit bearers! And, a true friend of God!
Jesus is the Fruit of Love
Christianity, then, is a religion of Love. If only we could love the way Jesus intends, everyone would see that He is the answer they are looking for. Jesus is that Love. And He has called us to be His co-workers—His co-laborers and His partners—in spreading His gospel of Love to the world. Our life is not simply something to be enjoyed or derive happiness from, but an opportunity to pass along God’s Love, to live His Love.
1 John 3:14 warns us, “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” This Scripture says that if we are not loving, then we are dying. The young man with the serious illness that we just spoke about—he’s dying because he’s separated from the true meaning of his life, which is Love. In other words, God’s Spirit in his heart is quenched and blocked because of his own doubt and unbelief. Thus, God’s Love is unable to penetrate his soul, let alone flow through him to others. Abiding in God’s Love not only means receiving it from the Father, but also giving it to others.
Abiding in Christ is what leads us to reflecting His image. (1 John 2:6) “The fruit of a life in Christ is a life like Christ,” says Andrew Murray in his book, Abiding in Christ. Power and Love come only from abiding in Him. This lifts us above men’s approval and gives us a teachable spirit. (1 John 3:18-19, 21-24) And those with a teachable spirit will continue to be changed more and more into Christ’s image. Abiding, there-fore, must always precede being friends with Him.
The apostle John notes in his thesis on abiding that the heaviest-laden branches seem to be the ones that always bear the most fruit. As we esteem others better than ourselves; as we seek nothing for ourselves; as we live only for God; as we choose to be humble; as we take no offence; as we are always ready to serve; as we don’t allow sin to have dominion over us; and as we are alive only to God and lose sight of ourselves, we will bear much fruit.
And be His friend....
To be continued next month: “Spiritual Warfare.” This article has been excerpted from Nan’s book Reflections of His Image: The Purpose of our Lives.