20 May The Friends of God, By John Bevere
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:14
A Revealed Facet of God
Immediately following this, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram caught in the thicket, and out of his heart came the cry, “Jehovah Jireh!” (Which means, “the Lord who provides.”) He was the first to ever know God as Jehovah Jireh. God revealed this facet of Himself that no man had ever known before in response to Abraham’s reverence and obedience.
You may know me as “John Bevere the author.” Some of you may know me as “John Bevere the speaker.” But there is another her name is Lisa, and she knows me a “John the husband.” She is my intimate friend as well as wife and I share secrets with her no one else knows. There are sons who know me as “John the daddy.” I interact with them in ways only a father and sons share. You have such people in your life as well. God is no different.
Go shared with Abraham things no one else knew. The Lord even shared His plans with Abraham and allowed him to interject his opinions. They discussed it together. One such situation was Sodom and Gomorrah. God said, “Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” (Gen. 18:17 NLT). The Lord approached Abraham to discuss this situation and God valued and heeded his input. Sodom would now be spared if there were ten righteous men residing in it. Yet, there weren’t even ten!
CLUELESS TO GOD’S PLAN
It is amazing that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, whom the Bible call “righteous” (see 2 Peter 2:7) was so different. He started with Abraham but whenever flesh dwells with spirit there will eventually be a conflict. Abraham being more interested in the things of God than what this world had to offer, presents Lot a choice. Abraham would take the leftovers, which unknown to both men would eventually be the most fruitful, for it would be the land flowing with milk and honey.
We read, “Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley” (Gen. 13:10 NLT). At the time it was the most desirable and fruitful land. Why a long look? He knew the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were full of wickedness. This long look probably entailed trying to figure a way to enjoy their abundance without being caught up in their influence. He decided to pitch his tent on the plains of Sodom, rather than dwell within the city. This way he could maintain a distance from the epicenter of its wickedness, but still enjoy the abundance of the area. We read, “Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom” (Gen. 13:12 NLT). However, no matter how well you plan to stay away from sin, if you don’t fear God you’ll eventually gravitate toward it. This was true of Lot; he started out in a tent on the plains, but six chapters later he had a house inside the gates of Sodom (see Gen. 19:2).
Sodom was thriving and prosperous. They had no idea they were only hours away from being wiped of the face of the earth. This should not surprise us. What is alarming though is that Lot was unaware as well. God sends angels to warn him, messengers of mercy. In contrast is Abraham, who fears God and knows His intimate council before it is even finalized, while Lot is just as clueless as the sinners of Sodom. Abraham is God’s friend, because he feared Him!
THE REAL JESUS?
While examining the lives of Moses and Abraham in the light of the fear of the Lord we further expand the definition. The fear of the Lord encompasses the love of what God loves as well as to hate what He hates. What’s important to Him becomes important to us, and what is not so important to Him is not so important to us. We make His priorities and desires, our own. The manifestation of the fear of the Lord is unwavering obedience to the desires and will of God.
According to Scripture, as we embrace the fear of the Lord, God draws closer. One He is encountered intimately, the intensity of our love for Him grows. We love the revealed true and living God, not just a perception of Him. Without a deep and abiding fear of the Lord we merely profess a love without a true intimate knowledge of Him. We know about Him but do not know Him; therefore our affection is directed toward an image of “Jesus” formed within our imagination, rather than the actual One seated at the right hand of the Father.
It could be compared to the way fans look at Hollywood stars or great athletes. They love the image the media portrays of these superstars by way of interviews and newspaper articles. Their names become common in American households. I have heard fans speak as though these celebrities were close friends. I’ve seen their emotions caught up in celebrities’ personal affairs as though they were family. But if they were to meet them in person they might find the real person very different from the marketed image. The relationship between celebrities and fans is one-way. If they met there would be little common ground, and even less to talk about, because they don’t truly know each other.
I have seen this dynamic in the church as well. Many talk about the Lord as if He is very close, yet as you listen to their conversation you have the sense they speak of One they only know about—not know. They know the talk, but not he voice; the acts, but not His ways; what He said, but not what He is saying.
An extreme example of this happened last year. My family and I were vacationing in Hawaii. I was up early because of the time zone difference. On this morning I was praying on the beach, when a man approached me and started talking. He was so excited about the island, and almost immediately he blurted out, “The girls here are wonderful. They’re so friendly and outgoing.” He continued to chat about a party he had recently attended and other carnal topics; all along his conversation was punctuated with profanity.
He asked me what I did for a living and I told him. When he heard I was a minister, he got so excited and began to talk to me about the Lord. He shared his involvement in an outreach ministry his church had to bikers and then talked about his pastor. He shared how he’d come to know Jesus and even gave me a tract he had in his possession. Then he talked about his wife and children asleep in the hotel (my thoughts immediately returned to his excitement about the island girls). My heart broke as it was evident this man believed he knew the Lord, but his life showed otherwise. This is why Jesus says we will know believers by their fruit or lifestyles, not by their words or ministries (see Matt. 7:20-23).
This is only one of several examples I could cite. I am certain you have encountered ones just as dramatic. In all these cases the ‘professing Christians’ knowledge of God is like the fan with the superstar. My heart breaks over this. Here are people who want salvation, yet love the world, and elevate their pleasures, schedules, and agendas above God’s desires.
Then there are those who are really saved, but like Lot they are fleshly and entangled in the world’s affairs. They want to serve God but they are enslaved by their appetites. They have not allowed the cross to slay their self-life as they resist God’s purifying work. They do not passionately seek His will and the kingdom’s advancement. Though saved, they lack intimacy with Him. They still live in the outer court; restricted by the veil of their own flesh they cannot draw near into the new and living way. They are close to His very presence, yet so far.
Those who live in the outer court have failed to realize why He delivered them from the world’s oppression. They miss the high call of knowing God intimately. They love the messages that speak of God’s love, blessings, protection, provision, and abundance—and all of these are true, but they shun what deals with issues of the heart. They have chosen things that cannot fulfill them, while passing by the fountain of Living Water abiding in their own heart.
We must make it known that God wants an intimate relationship with us and that He is holy and will not be mocked. He paid so great a price to bring us to Himself, how can we remain a friend of this world? James warns before his exhortation to draw near: “Do you not know that friendship with the world in enmity with God?” (James 4:4). He continues by saying if we seek worldly passions we make ourselves an enemy of God! Remember, he is speaking to believers. Paul also uses no uncertain terms: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-13). Again, this is why Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
FRIENDS OF JESUS
Often we hear messages that proclaim all who receive Jesus are now His friends. Hopefully you now realize God is not a cheap, group friend. Once while in prayer He cried out, “Ask my people, if they want Me to be as faithful to them as they have been to Me?” Jesus did not come as Savior so everyone could join His “born-again club.” He is looking for relationship with those who love Him as He has loved them; here we find His friendship. This is confirmed by His own words, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14)
There are parameters placed on friendship with Jesus. He did not say, “You are all My friends if you believe I am the Christ,” Rather He said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” We have discussed in this chapter that the power “to do whatever He commands” is found in the fear of the Lord.
Jesus made this statement after Judas left to betray Him. If we continue to the following verse we find Jesus addressing the eleven: “No longer do I call you servants” (John 15:15). The fact He said, “No longer” implies there was a time when He looked upon them as servants, but now there was a new level. After this statement, He continues,
For a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
Notice friends of the Master know what He is doing. They know His ways! Why are they now called friends and not at the beginning of their relationship? The answer is they proved their loyalty and obedience as they followed Him both through trials and difficult times as well as rejoiced with Him in the miraculous and the good. Their faithfulness was evidenced by their obedience.
His statement extends to all who call upon His name: “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.” Notice He made it plain: friendship is reserved for those who obey Him. This reflects what we saw in the book of Psalms: “Friendship with the Lord is reserved for those who fear him.”
Why would God hold back friendship? I believe it is to protect us from the dangers of familiarity. Remember the sons of Aaron and the exhortation given to their father Aaron: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy.”
This happened again in the New Testament when a man and his wife entered the presence of a holy God with unhealthy familiarity. They died in His presence (see Acts 5:1-11). “Great fear” came upon the church as the body of believers came into the understanding of the seriousness of the lack of reverence. Again, “God is to be held in reverence by all those around Him.”
Last year I discovered a wonderful secret. As I entered my times of prayer I’d refrain from words and just meditate on my Father’s wonderful splendor and greatness. I would think of Jesus’ magnificence and the glorious battle He won for me to be His own. I pondered on His awesome Spirit and the fact He chose to live with me. How overwhelming is all that!
I discovered by doing this, before even uttering a word of my own, the Lord’s presence would meet me. Puzzled by how easy it was becoming to enter His presence I inquired of the Holy Spirit. He spoke to my heart, “Son, what did Jesus tell His disciples to do when He taught them to pray?” I recited the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” I was stunned; I cried out for joy, “That’s it, that’s it!” There it is, right from the onset, He is to be regarded as Holy: “Hallowed be Thy name.” We are to come into His presence by way of holy reverence! How many years I recited this prayer, without realizing what Jesus was really saying!
THE KEY TO THE TREASURES OF LIFE
The fear of the Lord is the key to intimacy with God, and the foundation for life. Isaiah tells us:
The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion [the church} with justice and righteousness. He will be he sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure. (Isa. 33:5-6 NIV)
Holy fear unlocks the treasury of salvation, wisdom, ad knowledge. Why? Because it is the foundation for intimacy with God and in that place of intimacy His treasures are revealed. Alongside the love of God, it composes the very foundation of life. We cannot truly love God and enjoy intimacy with Him until we first fear Him.
Excerpt from Drawing Near, Chapter 6, By John Bevere