21 September 2014

HE CALLS ME FRIEND



John 15:12-16

Let me begin by saying "that there is not one person in this sanctuary that doesn’t need, care or desire for a companion or friend to turn to." Every person, every loving Christian would give anything for one good friendship. I can remember growing up and my best friend who I considered being more like a brother than a friend, but he was a friend none the less. We were inseparable and sometimes that wasn't so good…maybe we should have been apart, so that we wouldn't get into trouble like we use to. But the one thing I knew about our friendship is that I knew he would always be there for me no matter what or where I ended up. That’s a true friend! See a friend is someone you can……Always count on and call upon at any time to help you through whatever is going on in your life.
Trust with your deepest thoughts or secrets. Won’t stab you in the back or hurt you intentionally. Respect, because they care about you and your well-being. Again that’s a friend! Not only did I have that kind of friend growing up but the Lord has blessed me again with my very best friend in my wife Julie. God is good and he knows we can’t and shouldn’t be alone in this evil world system. We need one another…in the family…in the church ….in our Christian lives. “Friend” by definition “is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard” according to Dictionary.com. That’s nice and simple, right? But according to the bible when it comes to “friendship” We’re told that friends love at all times. Prov 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity." A prime example of this is found in David and Jonathan. They were well-known for their close friendship. 1 Samuel 18:1-5 talks about the knitting of the two men's souls. Jonathan gave his robe and armor to David, essentially honoring David above himself and stripping himself of his kingly position. A position which was rightfully his, since his father was King Saul. But his love for David and the friendship they had was more important than power or fame.

A FRIEND ACCORDING TO PROVERBS IS MORE LOYAL THAN FAMILY AT TIMES. Prov 18: 24 says “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

A FRIEND CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH GOOD WISDOM. Prov 13:20 speaks about this “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

A FRIEND WILL WILLINGLY SACRIFICE THEMSELVES FOR THEIR FRIENDS. John 15:13 we read Jesus saying “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”

That’s what a true friend by definition is! This is what Jesus is telling us this morning. That sacrificial love that cares and has wisdom to bring to the table and selflessly seeks the interest of their friend over themselves continually day in and day out. We see this kind of friendship displayed in the life of Christ in His incarnate form. Not only did He display this type of love but He calls us out of darkness to do the same towards one another. If we went back to the Old Testament we see this same love demonstrated towards Abraham by God Himself. The bible says Abraham was “a friend of God” In 2 Chron 20:7 we read “Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?” The Letter by James we are reminded of that truth! James 2:23 it says “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS." And he was called the friend of God.” The extraordinary friendship Abraham had with God was special and it was a friendship that would last forever just as it does for us under the gospel of Christ. Again this was no ordinary friendship and the same rule applies to us today. This kind of friendship that Abraham had to be called “a friend  of God” is the same thing as or carries the same meaning as “we are His adopted children” This was only possible through the shedding of blood on a cross through Christ, who laid down his life to preserve and keep us for all eternity by pleasing the Father’s wrath. That’s off the charts love……that’s off the charts friendship. This is the same kind of love Christ wants us to exemplify towards one another not only to the world but to the family of God. Everyone who is attached to the Vine is a branch through the saving working and power of God through the gospel. See not only are we to love Christ [which is a no brainer] but we are to love the branches that He prunes and prepares to produce more fruit. It’s a sacrificial love for the true church….the fellow branches saved by His sovereign grace.Genuine friendship that Jesus describes to His disciples is to exist among the family of God. Everything we read in this chapter alone tells…screams to us how we’re to live with one another. The very beginning of this chapter we see how our relationship begins and ends with Christ. For without Him we can do NOTHING! Then we see how we are to love one another in the branches in this portion that we are going to look at this morning. Then we see the end of the chapter how we’re to love and live in this world that not only hates Christ but you and me the true church. How are we to love one another according to what Jesus is saying before He leaves He’s disciples and this earth to go to His Father? We can demonstrate this through sacrificial love…willing to lay your life down for your friend.

SACRIFICE IS ESSENTIAL FOR GENUINE FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE (V12-V13)

Jesus demonstrated that to the world on the cross of Calvary. Always understand! That Jesus did not die for Himself, but so that others might live. Do you remember what Paul wrote……“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:6-8. The greatest sacrifice given to mankind is the plumb line where we’re to sacrifice for the sake of His glory and His precious gospel.See! Sacrificing for one another goes along way and builds many things. For example! Longer-lasting and happier relationship. It builds trust and brings honor to the friendship. It says “I care so much about you. That I’m willing to take your place.” Relationships like that are more likely to last when people are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the relationship. See! Sacrifice has been grafted into the Christian’s DNA. Paul wrote “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom 12:1. We must sacrifice ourselves for one another. Sacrifice is the essence of godly love. "Service" is the last word in the verse, and sacrifice is our reasonable, logical, rational, spiritual service. This is the way we minister to one another and exhibit godly love.

IT’S ONLY THE GOSPEL THAT MAKES THIS ALL POSSIBLE FOR YOU AND ME (V14-V16)

Jesus says “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” See we always need to understand! Jesus would never command us to do what is impossible for us to do. The secret, of course, is that we are to love, he says, "as I have loved you." And it’s through this kind of love relationship that Jesus had with the Father that makes it possible for Jesus to love us. In this same manner, and from the same foundation, we are to love one another with the same quality of love towards those who are attached to the Vine. The bible calls those who know and love Christ by many names……..
  • Beloved of God ……Rom 1:7
  • Beloved brethren…….1 Cor15:58
  • The called…… Rom 1:6
  • Children of God……John 1:12
  • Children of promise…….Gal 4:28
  • Sons of the Resurrection…….Luke 20:36
  • Heirs of God……Gal 3:29
  • Vessels of Honor……2 Tim 2:21
  • Vessels of Mercy…..Rom 9:23
  • Slaves of Christ…… 1 Cor 7:22

And the list is endless…..

But “friend” captures a very unique relationship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ. See God has “appointed” you friend, which means “set apart, ordained for special service to do His will. He doesn’t call us servants! Servants didn’t have a close relationship with their earthly masters. Servants didn’t usually know what their master was doing because they were on a need to know basis. Servants were to be instructed and had no right to the Masters purposes and plans. But we are not called “servants” we’re called “friend” which is a more exalting title then being called “a disciple”. God has called us friends to live in a way that exemplifies the Lord in and through our lives. Demonstrating what a true friend looks like as we love one another sacrificially under the grace that was given in Christ. He chose us out of darkness to be a people that are different in how we live, speak and act with one another. He chose us to live sacrificially every day for the sake of this name and His precious gospel.

How?

By being a friend of honor, mercy and love to the branches that are attached to the Vine. Not trying to be the Vinedresser by cutting and tearing people done. Not by being self-centered and unloving or trying to get people to more like you. Jesus died for your wickedness and we deserve His wrath and through His grace He became for us the greatest friend a person could ever know. And Jesus graciously grants this access to His friends through the gospel truth. As He has “made known to you” (v15) God’s divine truth revealed to the heart so that you’re able to fulfill this command given in (v12-v13). When the disciples asked Jesus why do you speak in parables? Jesus responded with this answer! “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Matt 13:11. The word “mystery,” in the Bible, properly means a thing that is “concealed,” or that “has been concealed.” We’re a blessed people for Him to call us His friend. A friend to whom the truth has been revealed to. And we need to bless the family of God with that same love and grace that was given to us. We are to graciously do likewise with one another! Why? That’s what friends are for and Christ means everything to me and you. Right? This is how we know love, all because of what Christ did on our behalf. A friend of Jesus knows divine truth and wants to share that truth with others. A friend of Jesus has been chosen by Christ Himself and wants to open up and love others as Christ loved us. Again this has been put into the Christians DNA for a reason! The exemplify Christ in and through our lives.

What does that look like for you and me? There was a man named Deng Jinjie saw people struggling in the water of the Sunshui River in the Hunan province of China, he didn’t just walk by. In an act of bravery, he jumped into the water and helped save four members of a family. Unfortunately, the family left the area while he was still in the water. Sadly, Jinjie, exhausted from his rescue efforts, was overwhelmed and swept away by the river current and drowned. When we were drowning in our sin, Jesus Christ gave His life to come to our aid. We were the ones He came to rescue. He came down from heaven above and pulled us to safety. Jesus’ sacrificial love for us now inspires us to show genuine love for one another. Genuine love for a friend has a cost! The cost is sacrificial love and seeking the interest of others above you. This is a command to you and me "fellow branches".

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