He Calls Us “Friend”
I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.(John 15:15)
On the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus assured His little band of followers that although He was leaving them, He would continue to manifest Himself to all who loved Him. Then a disciple asked Him just the right question.(John14:22) How would this manifesting take place? Jesus reply was that He and His Father would come and make Their home with them.(John 14:23)
This abiding of the Son and Father in the faithful heart certainly involves conscious communication or conversation, in a manner and a measure our Lord Himself considers to be appropriate. It is simply beyond belief that two persons so intimately related as indicated in Jesus answer in John 14:23 would not explicitly speak to one another. The Spirit who inhabits us is not mute, restricting Himself to an occasional nudge, a hot flash, a brilliant image, or a case of goosebumps.
Such simple reasonings add further weight to the examples set by well-known Christians that confirm the thought that ideally we should be engaged in personal communion with God. We might well ask “How could there be a personal relationship, a personal walk with God- or with anyone else- without individualized communication?”
Sometimes today it seems that our personal relationship with God is treated as no more than a mere arrangement or understanding that Jesus and His Father have about us. Our personal relationship then means only that each believer has hid or her own unique account in heaven, which allows them to draw on the merits of Christ to pay their sin bills. Or possibly it means that God’s general providence for His creation is adequate to provide for each person.
But who does not think there should be much more to a personal relationship than that? A mere benefactor, however powerful, kind, and thoughtful, is not the same thing as a friend.
How we perceive God and our relationship defines our interaction with Him. If we see Him only as our rescuer, then we will only come to Him when we’re beyond our ability to manage life. If we see Him only as master, then our relationship with Him becomes one of service only. If we see Him as only holy, we will find Him unapproachable. If we see Him only as provider, the our coming to Him will be to tap into His storehouse. You get the picture.
What kind of a relationship does God wish to have with us? I realize that most of us have formed an opinion about this. Some have done so from how their parents or other influences have described the kind of relationship that works with God. Some have a relationship with the church and church family but not with God personally. Some have a long distance relationship with God, they hold Him at arms link. But what kind of a relationship does God pursue? Let’s look a few examples and teachings from the Bible.
In the very beginning, God had a close, personal relationship with Adam and Eve.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” then the Lord God formed [that is, created the body of] man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being [an individual complete in body and spirit]. And the Lord God planted a garden (oasis) in the east, in Eden (delight, land of happiness); and He put the man whom He had formed (created) there. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [afternoon breeze] of the day, so the man and his wife hid and kept themselves hidden from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to Adam, and said to him, “Where are you?”
God had a very personal relationship with Abraham.
“Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” So Abram built an altar there to [honor] the Lord who had appeared to him. The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had left him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are standing, northward and southward and eastward and westward; When he raised his eyes and looked up, behold, three men were standing [a little distance] from him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed down [with his face] to the ground, and Abraham said, “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass by your servant [without stopping to visit]. Please let a little water be brought [by one of my servants] and [you may] wash your feet, and recline and rest comfortably under the tree. And I will bring a piece of bread to refresh and sustain you; after that you may go on, since you have come to your servant.” And they replied, “Do as you have said.” Then the men got up from there, and looked toward Sodom; and Abraham walked with them to send them on the way. The Lord said, “Shall I keep secret from Abraham [My friend and servant] what I am going to do, since Abraham is destined to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him? For I have known (chosen, acknowledged) him [as My own], so that he may teach and command his children and [the sons of] his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is righteous and just, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has promised him.” Abraham approached [the Lord ] and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous (those who do right) with the wicked (those who do evil)?”
Moses had a personal relationship with God.
“Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each at his tent door, and look at Moses until he entered the tent. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the doorway of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tent door, all the people would rise and worship, each at his tent door. And so the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his attendant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray you, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways so that I may know You [becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, recognizing and understanding Your ways more clearly] and that I may find grace and favor in Your sight. And consider also, that this nation is Your people.” And the Lord said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest [by bringing you and the people into the promised land].” And Moses said to Him, “If Your presence does not go [with me], do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that Your people and I have found favor in Your sight? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we are distinguished, Your people and I, from all the [other] people on the face of the earth?” The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have found favor (lovingkindness, mercy) in My sight and I have known you [personally] by name.” Then Moses said, “Please, show me Your glory!” And God said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the Name of the Lord before you; for I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion (lovingkindness) on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man shall see Me and live!” Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place beside Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and while My glory is passing by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and protectively cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle).” And the three of them came out. The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tabernacle, and He called Aaron and Miriam, and they came forward. And He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision And I will speak to him in a dream. “But it is not so with My servant Moses; He is entrusted and faithful in all My house. “With him I speak mouth to mouth [directly], Clearly and openly and not in riddles; And he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?”
We could speak of Samuel, David, Jeremiah and a host of others who the Bible records had an intimate relationship with God. The question then is what about us? Can we also have an intimate relationship with God as these did.
In the NT, Jesus taught that God was our Father. He described Him as being more than the Creator but One who was involved in the life of His created beings in the same manner as an earthly father and child. In the parable of the Prodigal, the elder brother perceived the relationship between him and the father as servant/ master which was the Jewish concept of God/human relationship. The response of the father to that son is amazing.
28 But the elder brother became angry and deeply resentful and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 But he said to his father, ‘Look! These many years I have served you, and I have never neglected or disobeyed your command. Yet you have never given me [so much as] a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this [other] son of yours arrived, who has devoured your estate with immoral women, you slaughtered that fattened calf for him!’ 31 The father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But it was fitting to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was [as good as] dead and has begun to live. He was lost and has been found.’”
As Jesus is with the disciples in those last hours before crucifixion, He describes God’s desire.
9 I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in My love [and do not doubt My love for you]. 13 No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you keep on doing what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you [My] friends, because I have revealed to you everything that I have heard from My Father. 16 You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.
Wow, God chooses you and I to be His friend. Not even the angels get this opportunity though they stand before the Lord every day. How amazing that the Creator and Owner of all, chooses little ole us to be His friend.
The apostle Paul takes this relationship even deeper from friend to chosen child.
“For all who are allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God’s judgment], but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [the Spirit producing sonship] by which we [joyfully] cry, “ Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.”
Finally John describes the ultimate place where our relationship with God is headed.
“See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory].”
1 John 3:1-2
There was a song that came out in the 70’s that asked a question, “ Why can’t we be friends?” That’s the question. Why can’t we be friends with God? You know what I’m talking about. That one you enjoy being with, sharing your darkest secrets, understanding and understood, and communication with, both verbal and non-verbal. The one who loves you just the way you are but will be quick to correct you when you’re going the wrong way. The one you can spend hours with that seem like seconds and the one when you’re waiting to see again, seconds feel like days. He has chosen us to be His friend and child. Can we not choose Him to be our friend and father?
Dr. John Thompson