Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmerwere the six actors in the TV series… that’s right – Friends. It is hard to believe Friends first aired 24 years ago and lasted 10 seasons. You either loved it or hated it. If you’re a fan, you probably binge-watched Friends growing up. And in 2004 you may have bought the exclusive, limited edition “Friends are Forever” season finale from Warner Brothers and possibly even the Friends Party Pack which enabled you to host the perfect evening to watch the final episode with your own friends, complete with the Friends party invitations, a commemorative serving tray, coffee, party recipes, coasters and trivia card game.What made Friends as a series so popular? I don’t think it was simply the acting, the folksy humour or even the static between six young and attractive men and women living in close proximity. I think what made Friends so popular as a series was because friendship and companionship touches our deepest need. And in this fictional encounter between six different people who became friends, millions of people have lived out their own hopes, struggles and dreams. While millions without Netflicks may have mourned the end of the series, the amazing truth of the Bible is that God wants to be your best friend forever.
The Bible reveals the Lord God, King of the Universe, to be our Creator, Lord and Master, our Judge, Redeemer, Father and Saviour. But, wonder or wonders, the scriptures also reveal that he yearns to be our Friend. From the beginning of creation we see God’s intended a relationship with us. We were made to live in God’s continual presence. In the Garden of Eden there were no rituals, no ceremonies or indeed religion – “just a simple loving relationship between God and the people he created. Unhindered by guilt or fear, Adam and Eve delighted in God, and he delighted in them.” Although the Fall destroyed the basis for that communion, it is still God’s will that we live in his presence. That is why Jesus came to make that friendship possible again by taking away the just penalty for our sin and rebellion, by dying in our place. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul put it like this, “All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends.”(2 Corinthians 5:18 TEV). However hard it may be to comprehend, Jesus explains in John 15 how we can become friends with God. In our gospel reading today, in John 15:15, Jesus says, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). The word ‘friend’ Jesus uses here means much more than a passing acquaintance. It means a close, trusted friend.
Jesus loves you so much he died for you. John 15:13, “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
I want us to consider, four ways Jesus weaves together in this beautiful passage that will help us develop our friendship with God. Amazingly, we become best friends with God,
We become friends with God through faithful obedience
“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete … You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:10-11, 14)
“Every time you trust God’s wisdom and do whatever he says, even when you don’t understand it, you deepen your friendship with God.” We don’t usually see obedience as a sign of friendship – we usually think in terms of the kind of relationship we have with a boss or a parent but not a friend. But Jesus insists that “obedience is a condition of intimacy with God.” “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14).
”We obey God, not out of duty or fear or compulsion, but because we love him and trust him that he knows what is best for us. We want to follow Christ out of gratitude for all he has done for us, and the closer we follow him, the deeper our friendship becomes … Because we have been forgiven and set free, we obey out of love.” Notice also that Jesus only expects of us, what he does himself. His obedient relationship with his Father is the model for our friendship with him. Jesus did whatever the Father asked him to do-out of love. We become friends with God through faithful obedience.
We become friends with God through sacrificial love
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends … This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:12-13, 17)
Real friendship isn’t passive; it is active. When Jesus asks us to love others, for example, to speak up for the oppressed, protect the vulnerable, provide for widows and orphans, offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us, love motivates us to obey. Real friends care about what is important to each other. The more we care about the things that God cares about, the more we “grieve over the things he grieves over, and rejoice over the things that bring pleasure to him” the closer friends we will become. “What does God care about most? He wants his lost children found! That’s the whole reason Jesus came to earth. “The dearest thing to the heart of God is the death of his Son. The second dearest thing is when his children share that news with others.” To be a friend of God, we must care about the people around us because God cares.
Rick Warren says, “Friends of God tell their friends about God.” That’s what I signed up for. We become best friends of God through faithful obedience and through sacrificial love.
We become friends with God through knowing His word
“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 15:15)
“It is impossible to be God’s friend apart from knowing what he says. You can’t love God unless you know him, and you can’t know him without knowing his word.” Jesus has made known everything we need to know God. How well we know God, therefore, will depend on how well we know His word. “While we cannot spend all day studying the Bible, you can think about it throughout the day.” When I was at university I had a summer job each year working in a bank. For about half an hour at the beginning of each day my job was to bring 8 or 9 cashiers tills up from the bank safe in the basement and then return them to the safe at the end of the day. I used the time it took the lift to come up and go down 8 times to memorise key verses of the Bible. I probably memorised more bible passages during those monotonous times each day than at any other time in my life.
The most mundane times became the most productive spiritually. “Meditation is often misunderstood as some difficult, mysterious ritual practices by isolated monks and mystics. But meditation is simply focused thinking- a skill anyone can learn and use anywhere. When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that’s called worry. When you think about God’s Word over and over in your mind that’s meditation. If you know how to worry you know how to meditate! You just need to switch your attention from your problems to Bible verses. The more you meditate on God’s Word, the less you will have to worry about.” Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Hold a Bible and God’s perfect will for your life is in your hands. Get to know God’s word better and his purposes for you will become increasingly plain. We become best friends of God through faithful obedience, through sacrificial love and by meditating on God’s word.
We become friends with God through conversation with Him
”You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16)
“You will never grow a close relationship with God by just attending Church once a week or having a daily quiet time, [although that’s a good start]. Friendship with God is built on sharing all your life experiences with him … He wants to be included in every activity, every conversation, every problem, and even every thought.” The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray continuously”. This means having an open-ended conversation with God throughout the day, what ever you are doing or thinking, sharing it with God.
One of the most helpful books I have read is by Brother Lawrence. Its called “Practising the Presence of God”. Brother Lawrence lived in the 17thCentury. He was just a cook in a French Monastery but he learnt to turn the preparation of food, the cooking and washing up into opportunities to worship God, to share his burdens and seek God’s guidance.
“The key to friendship with God, he said, is not changing what we do, but changing your attitude toward what you do.”
This led Brother Lawrence to pray shorter conversational prayers continually during the day rather than trying to pray for long periods at set times. Rick Warren recommends what he calls “breath prayers” – that is short simple prayers you can say with one breath. For example, “You are with me” or “Help me trust you” or “”Thank you for my lunch.” He warns, “If you are seeking an experience of God’s presence through all of this, you have missed the point. We don’t praise God to feel good but to do good. Your goal is not a feeling, but a continual awareness of the reality that God is always present.
Becoming best friends with God. That is God’s desire for you and I. We become a friend of God through faithful obedience, through sacrificial love, by meditating on God’s word and through continual conversation with God. We become friends with God when we choose friendship with Him above all other friendships, above all other friends, above all else.
Ultimately, “you are as close to God as you choose to be. Intimate friendship with God is a choice, not an accident. You must intentionally seek it”
So let me ask you, do you really want to become best friends with God? More than anything else? What is it worth to you? What is it worth giving up for? God promised through the prophet Jeremiah “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) There is therefore nothing – absolutely nothing – more important than developing a friendship with God – [so remember] – you are as close as you choose to be.
We have discovered from Jesus how to become friends of God. Four ways – through faithful obedience, through sacrificial love, by meditating on God’s word and through continual conversation with God. Lets pray.
Inspired by a variety of sources but primarily, Rick Warren’s “Becoming Best Friends with God” in The Purpose Driven Life, pp.85-99. Unless otherwise stated, quotations are taken from the book.