The Terms of Our Faithful Friendship with Jesus

(I have taught this way, on the subject of holiness, in many other articles, but at the start of the year, the message is worth repeating from a different angle.)

What a friend we have in Jesus, but what kind of a friend are we? Let us consider what a friend Jesus is – and therefore, in response, what kind of a friend we really need to become. We are Jesus’ faithful friends only when we indeed do what he commands of us otherwise we still walk in darkness and ignorance of the will of God. Friendship is an association of complete sincerity, love, respect and trust. 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept 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. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 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. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:8-17).

The day before commencing to write this blog article, I had actually begun working on another (related) article, (which will be forthcoming), entitled, “The Analogy of the Scapegoat”.

The article on, “The Analogy of the Scapegoat”, refers to the whole of Leviticus chapter 16 where, in verse 2, the LORD said to Moses, “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die.”

Seldom set foot in your neighbour’s house— too much of you, and they will hate you (Proverbs 25:17) – and said another way, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Surely, there is nothing more annoying and disappointing than one who calls themselves a friend but who has no sensitivity or awareness of your feelings and of when they are in fact treating you with a degree of presumption and contempt. I fear that too many professing Christians have become too familiar in their perception of their relationship with God to the extent that they have in fact neglected the proper reverence and fear of his majestic glory. We cannot say that we are friends of God if we insult him and offend him by our sin.

Jesus loved all the disciples, even though Judas betrayed him.

If someone asks, “What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends” (Zechariah 13:6).

When we become sincere, loyal and faithful friends of Jesus, so too should we expect to be hated and even persecuted on account of his Name – and we will share in his suffering.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil,because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

The apostle John knew Jesus as a friend, (with regard to Jesus in his humanity in the flesh). John formed a very close bond of friendship so that he was referred to as the disciple whom Jesus especially loved. However, when John encountered Jesus in his heavenly majestic glory, with the veil of the flesh removed, he fell at Jesus’ feet in reverent fear as though dead. Jesus befriends us through his humility, having taken upon himself flesh and blood, like us. But in so doing, he temporarily left the glory which he always shared with God in the heavenly realm. 

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water (John 21:7, cf. John 13:23; 19:26, 21:20).

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus entered the realm of the flesh, not to indulge the flesh, but to set us free from the realm of the flesh through death and resurrection to a new life in the Spirit. Our faithful friendship with Jesus requires more than a denial of the life in the flesh, it requires that we too, take up our cross and put to death the deeds of the flesh. The devil has control of humanity in the realm of the flesh. If we are friends of Jesus, we cannot be enemies of the cross.

As I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:18-20).

We cannot see Jesus glorified without sharing in his humiliation of the cross through which – he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3).

Jesus is now glorified, exalted and seated upon the highest throne in heaven – our friend and brother, is Lord and King of kings. We no longer relate to him as a casual, familiar friend in the flesh from the point of view of this present world. John knew Jesus in the flesh, but then, in the time of great tribulation, saw Jesus glorified.

“I [John] turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades’” (Revelation 1:12-18). 

Many professing Christians have made God’s grace into a license for sin and they rejoice that Jesus came to dwell among us and that he was a “friend” of sinners, including prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus was not  a friend of prostitutes in that he approved of – or overlooked – their sin, he was a friend in that he came to set sinners free from sin so that they may be reconciled to God who is holy. 

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:36-39).

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds” (Matthew 11:16-19).

Jesus is our High Priest and he is the mediator between humanity and God. As High Priest and mediator, he has come to show us the way to be reconciled with God who is (the) Spirit. Pretentious, two-faced people may have many superficial  “friends” – but true friendship is based upon sincerity and truth. We worship God in spirit and in truth.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

There are terms upon which Jesus is our friend, brother and Lord and those terms and conditions are according to our obedience that comes through genuine faith. We are being called to enter God’s holy presence – now. I feel constrained to pose this troubling question: If we do not put off the old nature and enter God’s presence now by faith, then why should we presume that we should enter when we die? If we live as enemies of the cross, we cannot presume to be friends with Jesus.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Many will claim to have “known” Jesus as their friend and perhaps they even referred to him as Lord, but Jesus will say to all those who do not obey him, “You say you knew me, but I never knew you“.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Paul wrote to the Galatians saying, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God —how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?” (Galatians 4:8-9).

Consider why Paul, after saying, “Now that you know God”, then went on to say, “Or rather are known by God.” We may think we know God and Jesus according to our estimation and understanding of who we have heard him to be. We may indeed know many things about him and his character, but for us to be known by him is only when he has put his Spirit in us so that we have indeed become a new creation and a new humanity.

Jesus is not a friend of the world and his kingdom is not of this world. We are not friends of Jesus according to the point of view – and friendships  – of the world.

From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

Our friendship with God is only sincere when our minds are no longer under the control of the flesh. Many who continue to live in the flesh, may believe in Jesus and anticipate the new creation to come in the future when they die – and so they do not live by the Spirit now. For them, the old life has not gone, it still consumes them and occupies all of their attention. 

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you (Romans 8:7-11).

Many people will claim to have known Jesus and God, but if they will have continued living as they had before they “knew” him, without the obedience that comes from genuine faith, then Jesus may say to them, “But – I never knew you“.

Aaron was told that he may not approach God casually whenever he wanted to, but only in the manner befitting of a priest and clothed in the appropriate garments for a priest and according to proper protocol.

Through the New Covenant and the work of the Holy Spirit, we have become a royal priesthood clothed in righteousness with Christ, our High Priest. 

Jesus, in his humanity, as the High Priest entered the true tabernacle in heaven by his own blood. He put off the veil of the flesh, for no flesh will inherit the kingdom of God. He entered the tabernacle in heaven as our high priest, but some may suppose that because he entered on our behalf, that we may now boldly enter even while still clothed in the dirty rags of the flesh. The old life of the flesh keeps people out of God’s holy presence and it must be put off – put to death, so that we may worship in spirit and in truth.

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest,  who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle  set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being (Hebrews 8:1-2).

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance —now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (Hebrews 9:11-15).

We are set free from the consequence of sin by having indeed been set free from sin.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Many unholy, professing Christians, who have not put to death the old nature in the flesh, are however, too overly confident that they will obviously be finally done with their old life in the flesh only when they actually die. They continue to live as enemies of God believing that when they die, then they may stand confidently and unashamedly in the holy presence of the Lord. But to walk according to the true faith, is to put off the old nature now and to be clothed with the new.

The way into God’s presence has already been opened for us and we are already required to put off the old person in the flesh and to put on the new humanity by humbly submitting to the Holy Spirit. 

As Paul taught, So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body (Ephesians 4:17-25).

Quite clearly, we do not approach the Lord, “just as we are”. We may firstly come to Jesus just as we are, but when we receive the Holy Spirit and know the power of God working within us, then we do not – and cannot – remain just as we once were

Paul taught that we are to put off the old man (the old nature of humanity in the flesh) and put on the new man (being clothed in the new man, the new humanity in the spirit).

Do not hide in the darkness with secret, unconfessed sins which will keep you in bondage. Do not try to cover your sin with external and apparent good deeds. Do not, when you are really naked and ashamed, try be clothed with a cloak of hypocrisy in the eyes of men, when God knows your nakedness. Clothe yourself with the garment of righteousness by drawing near to Jesus.

Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:15-18).   

The writer to the Hebrews also taught that without holiness, no one will see God. You may not enter God’s holy presence unless you are appropriately clothed in the white clothes which Jesus gives to those who hear his voice and respond in obedience which comes through faith.

If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 3:3-6).

I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).

To which church (assembly) do we belong, those wearing the new white robes of righteousness by the obedience that comes through faith, or those who are still clothed in the dirty rags of the flesh?

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for [or is symbolic of] the righteous acts of God’s holy people) (Revelation 19:6-8).

[If this message makes us feel uncomfortable because we are not properly clothed, then we need to act in faithful obedience and repent, put off the old nature and cry out to the Lord to clothe us in righteousness by moving us to obey him through the power of the Holy Spirit.] 

Jesus taught the parable of those of humanity who casually thought they were friends of the groom but who were not clothed in the appropriate wedding garments. How should we interpret and understand this parable? Are the friends of Jesus chosen in spite of not having been clothed in the righteousness that comes through genuine faithfulness? Are we chosen in spite of remaining clothed in the dirty rags of the flesh and of the old humanity? 

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. [The gospel was first announced in Jerusalem, but many Jews did not believe and they remained enslaved to sin.]

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. [God’s wrath came first upon the Jews and Jerusalem was made desolate and the temple destroyed in 70 AD].

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. [As Jude taught, many false believers have slipped into the church.] 

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend ?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:1-14).

Professing Christians, who superficially responded to the gospel, but who are not clothed in the righteousness that comes through genuine faith, may often reduce Christianity to the same thing as Old Covenant Judaism. That is, they reduce it to an inadequate religion with external rules and regulations applying to the flesh, but which are powerless to change the heart. The flesh will never be made righteous nor become a friend of God. The message of the cross is that we too, take up the cross and put to death the deeds of the flesh, for the mind controlled by the flesh is always and only hostile to God.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:1-9). 

Christianity ought to be the undeniable evidence of a new humanity. External rules and regulations, such as the Law of Moses, are only able to restrain the sinner and to convict them of their sin and guilt. The Law was put in place until the New Covenant faith was made known by the power of the Holy Spirit. No sinful flesh will be reconciled to God by trying to observe external rules and regulations. Those who profess to be righteous according to the Law are still enemies of Christ and of the cross.

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:21-29).

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body (Ephesians 4:17-25).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27).

We are counted as Jesus’ friends if we obey him in faithfulness, but not if we betray him through sin, neglect and wickedness, in which  case we would still be at enmity with God. Friendship with the world and compromise with the world is to be at enmity against God.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? (James 4:4-5).

To live and walk in the faithfulness of Abraham is to listen to and obey Jesus the Messiah. The faithfulness of Abraham is the loyal obedience to Jesus which is the only basis of a true and sincere friendship.

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone (James 2:21-24).

Be a faithful friend of Jesus, draw near to God and let it be said of you, 

“The disciple whom Jesus loved.”

1 thought on “The Terms of Our Faithful Friendship with Jesus”

  1. Andrea Lesley Richardson

    Thank you my brother,,this is good to think about,I can relate to many things ,like people thinking I’m friends when I’m not,but just because Christ told us to love our enemies some presume to think I’m a friend ,its some times difficult to love enemies yet still not agree with their sinful behaviours,, I have experienced not having a wedding garment before it was very shameful, if I felt so much shame on a human level I cannot imagine being in God presence like this,,,,many who say they are the friends of Jesus are behaving more like Judas,betraying him in their lives I must too watch my own life in this,, i often see Christians with everything going for them and wonder about it ,because I see only if I compromise only if I give in only if I am friends with the world and remain silent about Jesus can I succeed in this life ,,the thing thats been on my mind .is Jesus story about counting the cost of discipleship. And as you titled the blog ,the terms of our faithfully friendship with Jesus, almost at every moment Jesus is asking LOVEST THOU ME ?as he did to Peter.I have to walk away ,close a door ,say no.to the world,its a constant battle we need to die daily and truely clothe ourselves well ,fully in the righteousness of Christ as we walk in the spirit,, its hard to understand that we are being made like him …its quite increasable,one time I lost a lot of blood from something that happened to me ,and it really brought home Christ’s blood ahead for us his humanity ,and the preciousness .we are not cleansed by the blood of bulls and goats but by the precious blood of Christ his life was poured out for us as an offering to our father holy and acceptable once and for all .thank you my beloved brother in Christ ,may Jesu’s peace be with you.

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