Are you a friend of God? Have you ever thought of what that might mean? Or, did you even know that all of us are supposed to be God’s friends? Abraham was called the friend of God. Jesus called his disciples his friends. The idea is thoroughly biblical and is very striking, since it isn’t a topic of daily conversation and is not found in other religions.
The grounds for our friendship with God and Jesus are clear and profound: Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3). This doesn’t mean that Abraham simply “believed in God,” which is no great achievement, and gains no points with God. No, Abraham completely believed God’s words and promises. He totally trusted in the words and character of God, and he expressed that trust with observable obedience. That’s what this special friendship meant.
Jesus said that anyone who obeyed his commandments was no longer called his servant, but his friend. Nowhere in Scripture does this mean that God or Jesus are to become our “pals” or “buddies,” for there are some clear conditions to our friendship. Trust and obedience are the two central factors, and they are two sides of the same coin. From the biblical point of view, you can’t have one without the other. Belief, trust, and obedience are all aspects of the word “faith.” That’s why Jesus used the unusual language of “doing the truth.”
That’s only the first half of the point about friendship. The second is that, as God is our friend, so we are to act as reflections of this friendship to others. Just as there is a job description to being God’s friend, so there is also one to being a friend to others. Putting together various references from the New Testament, we can say that a friend of God acts in the following ways: prefers others over themselves, sacrifices for others, forgives them, gives generously to them, loves them, is patient towards them, is kind to them, and makes known to them what we’ve learned from the Son, just as Jesus made known to us what he learned from the Father (John 15).
It becomes obvious that what we’re talking about here is exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), as living out what we could call a “reflective friendship.” We are to reflect the character of God to those around us. And the most obvious thing about exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit is that we can’t even come close to fulfilling Jesus’ expectations without his power operating in and through us. Don’t even try. It’s absolutely impossible! This kind of life comes only by supernatural help.
But it’s guaranteed to happen if we are daily “abiding in the vine,” drawing from his great power to bear visible fruit, fruit that will outlast us, as Jesus taught in John 15. Armed with this unique and life-altering truth, let’s move into this new year with the confidence that a Spirit-empowered friendship with God can transform “just another year,” into one we can tell our children and grandchildren about.