Friend of God Back to all sermons

Date: February 25, 2011

Speaker: Pastor Chris Bruce

Category: Friday

Scripture: James 2:17–2:24

Introduction: The text today has two parts: A teaching and a by-line, both are understood through the context of the book.  The author is presumed to be James,  the leader of the church in Jerusalem and one of the four brothers of Jesus.  In the book of Acts he see that he and Paul had different views on the need for works which was discussed at the Apostolic Council and resolved through Acts 21.  He fully believed that we are saved by grace but that once saved our faith would lead to good works, and a sign of faith was the works that a person did.  To prove his point he used the example of Abraham, which was most familiar with his church (the church in Jerusalem) and presumably his audience. To further validate his proof, he quotes from Isaiah 41:8

“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend,”

That by-line, validation, off hand remark is what I want to focus on today, although at Bible College they will tell you not to preach on this type of verse, I do believe we can learn from it more topically. Abraham was considered God’s friend.  Can we today have that same consideration? Acts 10:34 explains that God has no favourites, thus we can say that if Abraham could be God’s friend then so can we.  The real question is how?

Body: 1) Amos 3:3 “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”

Friendship means both people agreeing with one another. The world tells us that “Opposites attract” and while that may be true for attraction, for people to remain friends there needs to be similarities. If two people disagree about everything, there leaves no room for friendship.  I love the picture of an old married couple who have been together for over 40 years, they start to look alike, they think the same, responding to situations in the same way, they complete each other’s sentences.  How will our relationship be with God after 40 years, would we start to look like him, would people say, “That person is like a son of God.”  Would we think the same and respond in the same way? God responds with the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Would we complete each other’s sentences: God’s Word is the sentences of God, Are we able to memorise and reciting the verses needed for the situations we are in and the situations those we are talking to are in?

Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (NKJV)Sometimes we don’t agree on important things, and so our friends need to discipline us and bring us to correction, true friends don’t disregard discipline but recognise it’s value, who said it and the heart in which it was said.  As friends of God, we need to hear and respond to God’s correction.

Abraham agreed with God, when God told him to leave his country and go to a land that He would show him as seen in Genesis 12:1-4,

“The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.”

Abraham accepted the correction of God, in Genesis 17, where God rebukes Abraham for trying to fulfil God’s promises through Ishmael, and commands everyone to be circumcised, Abraham was 99 years old, when he followed through with God’s command.

  1. Proverbs 18:24, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother..” and Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Friends tend to sacrifice for each other.

At school, when I was growing up, our Heads of Departments and Principals were allowed to cane boys who misbehaved, At times I would be on the receiving end of the cane as would my friends, but there were times when our group of friends would misbehave and only one was caught, the principal would give an option, tell him the names of the other perpetrators and receive 1 caning, or receive five (If we received 6 in a day, government rules said we could go home).  I don’t remember a time when that threat worked in our group of friends, one of us would rather receive the full punishment than get others in trouble.  Now I’m not saying get into trouble, what I am saying is sacrifice for your friends.  I wish I could say the same for the brother and sisters, I was the responsible one in my house, if something went wrong I was responsible and my siblings weren’t shy to tell my parents.

If God is our friend, how much are we willing to sacrifice for him?  Would we sacrifice ten minutes extra driving time to Dubai by keeping to the speed limits, would we sacrifice some of our cash, by not taking illegal tax rebates or at some point not even paying Caesar what Caesar is due?  Would we choose not to get into a relationship that is out of God’s plan, as in do not be unequally yoked?  Would we follow God as Abraham did to another country away from our friends and families?  Pastor Cam preached last year a series of messages the book of Esther, in which he brought out the fact that we are “agents in place”  The nations around us are in turmoil, would you risk deportation, arrest, or possible death for the gospel’s sake?

Abraham was given a tough task in Genesis 22, he finally had the son of promise, and God says in verse 2, “Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” ” Did Abraham hesitate, No! Verse 3 says, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.” No hesitation, and when Isaac asked him about the offering he simply says in verse 8, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Abraham knew God as friend and as a friend would not ask him to do anything He himself would not do, he also knew before it was written Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Abraham knew God as friend
3) Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” and Matthew 22:36,37, ““Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Friends love each other, How do we show love? Gary Chapman, the author of, The Five Love Languages says Love is expressed by: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch

I think in loving God, all five of these are important, but I’ll start with Time. Gary Chapman says quality time is much better than quantity time, and so I’ve heard people say that they have quality time with God while driving in rush hour, or in the toilet first thing in the morning, or the first email they open in a daily devotional, even before they go to sleep they commit the their last thoughts to God, and while these may work for some people, they can be used as a cop out. Last week the crew from the Logos Hope was around and one of them said that for single people the only place where they can be alone is in the bathroom stall, I’ve heard others tell me that if they have to sit in traffic for an hour, their mood is better when that hour is given to God, still others saying Work starts to early for a devotional time but the evenings before lying down in bed works for them.  All these are true and so don’t think I’m saying your time with God isn’t the right way. But some people have become religious in their devotions: Read 1 passage of the Bible- check, Read what someone says about passage - check, 30 second prayer - remember ACTS Adore, Confess, Thank, Supplication and some more supplication - check.  God wants quality time as in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing” time.  Another author Brother Lawrence, in his book, Practice of the Presence of God. “The key to to friendship with God is not changing what you do, but changing your attitude towards what you do!” or as the Bible says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Whether driving, shopping, accepting tea/coffee from someone, reprimanding your children, or students, do it as unto the Lord. God doesn’t just want quality time, He wants all your time, but that doesn’t mean don’t have that quality time with God, when it is just you and Him, that is the time for giving God love through the other love languages: Words of Affirmation, or Adoration, along with words comes listening, hearing what God has to say through His Word and through His Spirit. The last three languages God receives through other people as Matthew 25:40 tells us: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” God receives gifts, acts of service and physical touch as we give, help and reach out to the least of our brothers.  We are to love people as 1 John 4:7,8 tells us: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” How did Abraham show this love to God? Let’s read Genesis 18:1-14:

1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3 He said, “If I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” 7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. 10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure? 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Can you picture this in a Majalis and instead of curds and milk, dates and coffee, with some hot Iranian Bread, spending time with God in the cool of the day, when we read on the rest of the chapter I’m amazed at God’s relationship with Abraham, he decides to share with Abraham his plans for Sodom and Gomorrah, and allows Abraham the discussion of changing His mind. Abraham was truly a friend of God.

Conclusion: In conclusion I’d like to read a few more passages: John 15:13-15, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 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.” At some point in reading verse 13 I thought Jesus was a bully, you know the kind, you can be my friend if you do my homework, or wash my car etc etc.  But His instructions are not like that as the verse continues, Jesus is not giving us instruction for His own advantage but for ours as we read earlier in Romans 8:28 and also in Psalm 84:11: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” God commands are for our own good.

Jesus has called us His friends, only Abraham in the whole Old Testament was called a Friend of God, Adam had the opportunity, Moses was spoken to like a friend, David was a man after God’s own heart, but only Abraham is said to be God’s friend, but Jesus who is God has called all of us to be His friends.  He want s be one with us in unity, John 17:20,21, ““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” He chose to sacrifice himself for us John 10:17,18: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” and He loves us with an everlasting love, that no one can take away. Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus truly is our friend!

QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION

  1. You shouldn’t have trouble finding things to discuss from this passage or message. But here are a few questions to get you started.
  2. How are some ways not shown in the message that we show friends that we are true friends, How can we parallel that to God?
  3. Think of some ways Jesus showed His friendship to His disciples, after discussing various scriptures, look at how He treated Judas Iscariot differently to the other disciples, think about How God views our mistakes based on these instances.
  4. John 15:13-15 - Jesus describes friendship based on obedience, What are some things we can practically do that show this obedience.
  5. Based on Acts 21 and the preceding context, how were James and Paul's views different on faith and works?