April 29, 2016
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
By Skip Heitzig
Back in 1855, a man by the name of Joseph Scriven wrote a poem that eventually became a very popular song: "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer."
Would you agree that we have many acquaintances but few true friends? You might know a lot of people as acquaintances, but to be given the designation of a friend, you've got to be a special person.
I want to look at a very special friendship: the friendship Jesus has with His own, as described in John 15:12-17. And there are a few things I want you to glean from this text. Number one: Jesus picks His friends. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (v. 16). Now, this is different in human friendship, because in human friendship, there is a mutuality about our friendships. We choose each other.
But Jesus said, "You didn't choose Me; I chose you." This tells us He is so important and so high in rank that He can have this prerogative of choice. This also shows us His love. Think about it: God knew all about you before He chose you, and He still chose you. That's love. This also speaks to us about Jesus' intention. God has a purpose for your life: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you"—selected or ordained—"that you should go and bear fruit" (v. 16). God doesn't want us to just sit around and watch life go on. He said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).
The second great truth we see in these verses is that Jesus helps His friends. First and most importantly, He saves you: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (v. 13). Here, Jesus was speaking of His own death. We always look to the cross as the greatest example of love, don't we? Because Jesus didn't just choose you to be His friend; He came to this earth and paid the bill for you to become His friend—by dying on the cross and washing away your sin.
There's something else He does to help us: He lets us in on the plan of God. "No longer do I call you servants, 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" (v. 15). In ancient times, a master wouldn't go to a slave and say, "I'll let you in on my secrets and my plans." No—that was something reserved only for friends. And Jesus has revealed to us the whole scope of life, from the beginning of creation to the end of the consummation. We're in on the details (see Matthew 13:10-11; Luke 10:22-24).
Finally, Jesus anticipates His friends—He expects His friends to do something. Notice verse 14: "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." In other words, Jesus' friends actively obey Him. The word do is a positive word. He didn't say, "You're My friends if you don't do this and that." For a lot of people, their Christianity is all about negatives—what they don't do. So what do you do that's positive?
Not only that, but Jesus' friends will repeatedly obey. The word do is in the present subjunctive, meaning it's a continual, habitual lifestyle of obedience. And look at the word whatever. This tells me that Jesus' friends unconditionally obey Him. Anything He tells you to do, you do. That includes whatever.
I thank the Lord that His friendship is a two-way street. It's not just what He has done and what He continues to do; it's reciprocal: we're His friends if we do whatever He tells us. So often, we understand that we're His children, that we're the sheep of His pasture and servants of the Most High God. But I pray we'll understand that we are His friends—and what a friend we have in Him!
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