The Friends of Jesus
Abiding in Christ
The Friends of Jesus
John 15:12-16
Tonight we return to John 15 and our studying of Abiding in Christ, and I will admit to you that these verses, at first glance, seem a little misplaced.  Jesus has been talking about vines and branches and bearing fruit, then He jumps into how friends acts toward one another.
And I struggled a little bit with making the connection, and hopefully, by the time I’m finished it will be clear to you.
Now keep in mind, Jesus is talking to his remaining eleven disciples.  Even as he speaks, Judas is perpetrating his deed of betrayal.  The abiding branches from the analogy in the last few verses that we've studied are there with him.
They are sad because they are awaiting the departure of Jesus. He’s told them He will be leaving them and their hearts are filled with sorrow. They know he is going to leave them and in this kind of farewell speech that He is making, He is attempting to comfort them.
And in the course of that comfort, He begins to talk to them as personal, intimate, beloved friends.  Now of all the things He said to them, this has to be one of the greatest comforts of all. 
The key to the passage is found in verse 15
That's the basic thought of this particular passage. He calls his true disciples, the abiding branches, the 'for‑real' remaining, fruit‑bearing believers, friends. In the fullest sense of all that word implies, Jesus uses it in reference to his relationship to the disciples.
As I thought about that, my mind began to go back to many of the things that Jesus calls those of us who love him. In some places in the New Testament, he calls us 'Sons of God,' or 'Children of God'. In other places we are called, 'Brothers of Jesus Christ.' The writer of Hebrews says, "He is not ashamed to call us brothers." We are even called in one passage, 'The sisters, brothers, and mother of Jesus Christ,' again implying intimacy.
We are called disciples which means learners, We are called 'sheep' those who follow. In all of these things, the message is a message of intimacy. The message is that one who personally knows and loves Jesus Christ has a personal, intimate, love relationship with the Son of God, which is a fantastic concept.
And the dimensions of that concept have to be measured by our understanding of the person of God.  The only way to fully appreciate the privilege of having an intimate relationship with Christ is to understand how great and glorious Christ is. 
And not just to have a relationship with Him, but here He calls us His friends.  There's a very special meaning implied in this. He says, "I'm not going to call you 'servants anymore," in Verse 15, "I'm going to call you friends."
The word servant is the word that means slave. And what he is saying to them is, "You are no longer slaves you're friends" Now that's quite an elevation. That's quite a step up.
Now I think it important to understand the word which means servant or slave wasn’t a shameful thing.  It very often is used Scripturally to describe those who served God.  Moses was called a servant of God, and it's certainly not a degrading term. Joshua and David, both, were called servants of God.
In the New Testament, the‑apostle Paul, counted it an honor, as he said in Titus, Chapter 1, Verse 1, "To be a servant of God." James said the same thing in James 1:1, "That he was excited about being a servant of God."
So the contrast is not seen so much in honor versus dishonor, but more in intimacy and closeness.  We are not just the servants or slaves of God, as honorable as that is.  We are friends of the Son of God. 
This is something new. This is a unique intimacy. Just to compare, in the Old Testament, only Abraham is called the friend of God. Now Abraham had a unique relationship to God. He was the father of Israel. And so Jesus Christ is saying to these blessed disciples, he is saying, "Men, I am about to establish with you a brand new kind of intimacy that is not unlike the kind of relationship God Himself enjoyed with Abraham.
From a historical setting, in the court of the Roman Emperor at that time there was a very select group of men. These men were kind of like what we would call the president’s cabinet in America, except that they were intimate men. They were not just advisors who were schooled politically; they were dear friends of the King or the Emperor.
They were his protectors as well as his advisors. They were the ones who cared for his life, and at all times, they had immediate access to the King. They could enter into his bed chamber anytime they wanted. They could be with him whenever they needed to be with him. They had to gain no entrance from anybody because they were called the friends of the King.
He talked with them before he talked with his generals. He talked with them before he talked with any other rulers of other nations or any other statesman. The friends of the King were those who had the closest possible relationship with the ruler. They had an intimate connection with him, and they had the right to enter his presence at any time.
And that's exactly what Jesus is saying to us. You don't need any particular authority. You don't have to pass any particular formality. You have immediate and instant access into my presence at all time because you're my friends.
We're not like slaves who have no right to enter the presence of the master. We're not like subjects who crowd the sides of the street and watch the King pass by and hope, once in a while, we catch a glimpse of his robe flapping in the breeze.
We have a complete and total intimacy with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That's what it means to be a friend of Jesus. And he gives a clear cut condition for being his friend in Verse 14, he says, "You are my friends if you do whatever I command you." That's the key. The key to being a friend of Jesus is obedience.
And we'll get into this in detail. But isn't it interesting that the friendship with Jesus is predicated on obedience to what he says because that's always the standard for every relationship. And there’s where we find the connection between branches and friends.
In the early part of John 15, we are branches, and he is the vine.  But we are real branches only if we are obedient.
Verse 10
The only real, true, abiding branch is an obedient one. So obedience is the key to being a branch in the vine.
It’s interesting that every time Jesus spoke of intimacy in relationship He always mentions obedience.  To be a legitimate child of God, a Son of God, we must be obedient. Let me show you a couple of examples.
1 John 3:9
As an example look at Mark 3:31-35
To be intimately connected with Jesus Christ, as intimately as a brother, sister, mother relationship; as a son relationship; as a branch in a vine; the standard is always the same; it is obedience to his commands‑‑doing his will. It is not that you become that by obedience, it is that if you are that, it is visible because of your obedience. Obedience is the proof that you are intimately connected to Jesus Christ.
In John 10, we are called 'sheep who follow him,' and in Verse 27, we read this, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Again obedience, the standard of a relationship to Jesus Christ.
In John 8:31, we are‑called, "disciples," and there Jesus says this; "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples for real."
In every case where the New Testament talks about a relationship to Jesus Christ, that relationship is visible or made visible by obedience.
A true branch; a true son; a true brother, sister, mother; a true sheep; a true disciple; will obey Christ. That's the standard. That's not how you become saved, that's the evidence of it. And so it is that in every relationship with Jesus Christ, the mark is obedience.
And that’s true in regard to friends as well. 
Verse 14
We are in a beautiful intimacy with Jesus Christ, marked by our obedience. The world can tell who we are because we obey him. It's a fantastic thing to realize this friendship.
Next time you're in a group where somebody's dropping the names of their friends, drop that name. Tell them you're a personal friend of the Son of God.
Now in these verses Christ gives us five characteristics of His friends. This is not how you become a friend of Jesus.  This is how it becomes visible that you are his friend.
And I will tell you before we look at them, they are almost beyond imagination.  The privileges that come with being a friend of God are almost beyond description.  So let’s look at them one at a time, and we won’t have enough time to really get into them, but hopefully it will encourage you to explore more of the concept of being a personal friend of Jesus.
Now remember John’s pattern.   John always puts it down in black and white. This is how it is, just as simple as that. John wastes no time on the exception to the rule. He deals purely with the general pattern. Here’s how an unbeliever behaves and here’s how a believer behaves.  And that’s what he does with these characteristics.  Let’s look at them just briefly.
1.  Friends Love Each Other
verses 12-13
A true believer has a legitimate, deep, honest, love for other believers.
Now obviously there are some exceptions. But John's not concerned about exceptions. He is stating the general pattern. A true Christian is one who loves other followers of Christ. 
That is a wonderful characteristic because in a world that is seeking and hungry for love, we experience love and demonstrate love and offer love. 
We experience love. We bask in it. We live in it. What a tremendous privilege!!! And the true believer shares it with the other believers. You can't be a true believer in Jesus Christ and not have a love for other believers.
Listen to how John covers that subject in 1 John:
1 John 2:9
1 John 5:1
Did you get that? You can take that all the way down the pecking order.  If you love Christ, you'll love the Father, and if you love Christ, you'll love the ones that he begot. There's no such thing as loving God without loving Christ and there's no such thing as loving God and Christ without loving other believers begotten by God and Christ. It is characteristic of a true friend of Jesus that he loves the other friends of Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:9
It’s just a part of being a believer that we love other believers.  You have to violate your nature in Christ not to love somebody. You've got to conjure up sin to turn off the love that is there.
Jesus says, "I want you to love as I loved you." Now obviously you and I can’t love to a point of redeeming the whole world.  And we can't love with the pure undefiled total love that Christ can love with, but we can love in character as he loves, and we can love with a sacrificial giving kind of love, and that's what he's saying.
He's not expecting you to love in the quantity and dimension with which Christ loves, but in type and example.  And here’s the point:  The disciples are not merely to attach themselves to one another externally and be devoted and helpful to each other. They are to love like Jesus loved. They are to love with total self‑giving.  That’s what verse 13 is all about.   
And that’s true of the church as well.  You are to look at your brother in Christ, not as somebody who's to be kind of your external acquaintance, not some kind of a superficial relationship. You're to look at your brother in Christ and to see him like Jesus would see him. You're to see him in terms of his soul's need. You're to see him in terms of eternal interests. You're to see him in terms of what is his deep heart cry and the anguish of his soul. You're to see him in terms of a self‑giving, comforting, spiritually instructing, and burdening‑bearing kind of love because that’s what friends of Jesus do.
Jesus says, "My friends love each other.
Second characteristic, Jesus' friends
2. Know Divine Truth
Verse 15
Is that not unbelievable? Everything that Jesus heard from the Father he tells us. That is the privilege of friendship.  That doesn’t happen with slaves. His master never told him why he just told him what.  The master didn't disclose all of his goals, and all of his passions, and all of his loves, and all of his purpose to the slave, he just went out and said, you go over here and do this, and you go over there and do that.
But we who are Jesus' friends are not blindly obeying; we are in on the details. We share his heart. We share his plans. We share his motives. We share his purposes. Slaves serve so to earn their keep and if they could be released they would. 
That is not the nature of friendship.  We're not doing what we do because we have no choice in the matter.  We’re no working to earn anything.  We're working because it's our heart's desire to do it; because we know the whole plan from beginning to end. He's revealed it to us past, present, and future.
We have an inside scoop on divine truth. For those who are the friends of Jesus, there is an intimacy of knowledge that came from the Father through the Son to us. It first came to those apostles and to Paul and they passed it to us in the pages of the word of God. They learned it straight from Jesus and passed it to us.
It's right here in the book. We have it in Scripture. We know things no one else knows. All the philosophers and all the scientists, of our world, searching and seeking for truth, are like babes in the woods, compared to the simplest Christian, who is exposed to the revelation of God through the word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
We take it for granted, don't we? I don't think we really appreciate what it is to know what we know. Jesus never expected his friends to be blindly obeying him and just kind of groping our way along through life.  He lets us in on what is going on.  There are no secrets betweens friends.  Friends of Jesus love each and they know divine truth.
Thirdly, Jesus' friends are
3. Especially Chosen
Verses 16, 19
There are three words in those two verses that help us see the scope of His calling.  First, Jesus says, “I chose you”.  That speaks of our salvation.  I don’t understand all I know about that, but I know the only way to get saved is to be chosen.  Ephesians 1:4 says, "According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world."
Before anyone ever chooses to be saved, God ahs already chosen to speak to that person and initiate the salvation experience.  And I know this, no one will ever stand before God and say, “I wanted to be saved and you wouldn’t let me.” 
Jesus says of His friends, “I chose you”. 
Then I want you to see another word in that verse.  He says, “Not only did I choose you, I appointed you.”
Now that's a Greek word that means to be set apart for special service or a special reason. Several places in the New Testament talk about certain individuals being appointed or being ordained. It’s an extremely important word because it introduces to us here a very important concept.
Whereas being chosen speaks of our salvation, being appointed speaks of our service.  Jesus is telling us His friends are especially chosen, but they are chosen to serve.  I’ll come back to that in a moment, but before we go there I want us to see the third word. 
It’s found in verse 19 where we are told Jesus’ friends are chosen out of the world.  That's the distinction of being a Christian.  We are in the world, but not of the world. 
So Jesus says, “I have chosen you; that is to salvation. I have appointed you; that is to service.  And we are chosen out of the world, to special service.
Now I want you to see what they're chosen for, and I love this. First of all he says, "You are chosen and appointed that you should “go". That is significant.  No Christian was ever chosen to stop or sit or stand around and watch.  We are chosen, appointed and called out of the world to go.
Unfortunately a lot of Christians believe that, but we were chosen to go.
The world isn't about to come, we have to go. The Bible doesn't say, "Hey, all you in the world, come to the Church." Instead it says, "Go out on the highways and the byways and compel them to come in." Jesus said. "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Jesus said, "After the spirit of God has come upon you, you should be my witnesses, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth."
And the friends of Jesus were chosen, not to come to church, but to go to the world. 
So Jesus' friends love each other, know divine truth, and are especially chosen.
And fourthly, Jesus' friends
4. Bear Eternal Fruit
Verse 16
One of the greatest things about being a Christian is having purpose in life.  Do you realize that when you go out and communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to somebody and they receive Christ, you have brought about an eternal transaction?
There is nothing else in life, outside of our relationship with Christ that is eternal.  Everything else is just temporary and passing.  We get so caught up is things that are so insignificant like sports and jobs and hobbies and interests that have no eternal, lasting value whatsoever. 
Just look at life apart from Jesus Christ and see how people live.  Their lives just are just meaningless.  They dwindle away, day after day, with no results and no effect on anybody for any time at all and then compare that with the life of a believer, a friend of Jesus, who bears fruit that is eternal.  What a fantastic realization!
Just like the ripples in the pond when a rock goes in, your life will ripple throughout all eternity with fruit, born in time, to the Glory of God What a wonderful promise it is that a friend of Jesus Christ bears fruit that lasts for eternity!
And remember what we learned last week about what fruit is.  It's Christ likeness and praise and generosity and blessing others with our words. It's living our lives in a way that honors God and ultimately leading people to salvation in Jesus Christ.  All of that is fruit and your fruit and my fruit is eternal.
You say, "Well, I don't have any eternal fruit. I never led anybody to Jesus. Well maybe you never had the final result or reaped the harvest, but every time somebody saw love or joy or any other fruits of the spirit in your life, you were planting the seeds of the gospel and God was there and when that person came to Christ, you were part of the experience. And it was your fruit as well.
And when you've taught somebody else the word of God and enriched their Christian life, which gives more Glory to God, you have born eternal fruit. I'll tell you, it's wonderful to have a life that has products going on forever.
What an amazing to realize that you're not just a little insignificant dot in the universe.  You have eternal purpose attached to your life just by virtue of being a friend of Jesus. 
You affect eternity, forever. The things that you do for God never pass away. We bear eternal fruit. 
Lastly, Jesus' friends
5. Have Their Prayers Answered
Look at the end of Verse 16, "That whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." Isn't that exciting? A true friend of Jesus has his prayers answered. We talked about that last week from the earlier verses so I’m not going to spend much time there this evening. 
Just note the phrase, “In my Name”.  It simply means to say, I'm asking this because this is what Jesus would want. It is a selfless prayer.  It’s not about us; it’s about Him.  I'm asking on behalf of Jesus because this is what he would want, and God will answer.
So these are the characteristics of those who are the friends of Jesus. They love each other. They know divine truth.  They have a special calling apart from the world to go back into the world. They bear fruit that is eternal and they have their prayers answered when they pray in the name of Jesus Christ. That's what it means to be a friend of Jesus.
Now, let me add one thought and then I’m through. 
These are all characteristics of those who know Christ. But in every case, even though these are yours by the general pattern and by your position in Christ, the New Testament takes it a step further and encourages you to really operate on those principles.
For instance, friends of Jesus love each other and yet the Bible says we much love each other fervently, pushing us to the extreme.
Friends of Jesus know divine truth and yet the Bible says, “Study to show yourself approved, rightly dividing the Word of Truth”.
The friend of Jesus has been called out of this world and yet the word of God reminds us to walk worthy of such a high calling.
A true friend of Jesus bears eternal fruit and yet the Bible says seek to bear more fruit in response to the purging of the Father.
The friend of Jesus prays and God answers.  But the Bible encourages us to pray fervently, pray effectually, and pray without ceasing.
In every one of these patterns and positional truths, there is that practical implementation, to get in on all that there is available. And I think the thought is this:
Since we are so privileged to be the friends of Jesus Christ, we ought never be satisfied with just getting by and living an average, mundane, kind of Christian life.  
If you're Jesus' friends, then doesn’t that deserve the very highest in commitment and fervency and loyalty and passion? 
So for some of us, the call is to a deeper friendship and commitment. 
And what about those who aren't his friends?  Well, Jesus said, "He that is not my friend, he that is not with me, is against me."
Are you searching for love? Are you searching for truth? Are you longing for purpose, to live for something, to be a part of some plan? Are you longing for a meaningful, productive life? Are you searching for supernatural resources to all your needs? Then I say to you simply, be a friend of Jesus and you'll have them all.
You say, Can I?  I thought Jesus chose his own friends." He does and if he's speaking in your heart right now, and calling you to himself, He’s choosing you and the time is now for you to respond personally and individually.
Let’s pray.
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