Are you a Friend of God?

There’s a song entitled “Friend of God” that goes like this:

Who am I that You are mindful of me

That You hear me

When I call

Is it true that You are thinking of me

How You love me

It’s amazing

 

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

He calls me friend

 

God Almighty

Lord of glory

You have called me friend

 

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

You call me friend

Now there’s a good bit of scripture being quoted here:

Hebrews 2:6 – It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?”

 

Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

 

And most noticeably to me, Abraham is called a “Friend of God” in James 2:23 – “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness–and he was called a friend of God.”

The song is a rather catchy song but I fear the concept is sometimes difficult to grasp. Considering who God is (sovereign, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Everlasting, Eternal), and what He has done (create, sacrifice, send, redeem, call), doesn’t it seem a bit ludicrous to think that I or you, individuals as we are, can adapt such a cozy title as “friend of God?”

I’m reminded of a Point of Grace song from 15 or 20 years ago entitled “God Forbid” that goes like this:

The more I know Your power

Lord the more I’m mindful

How casually we speak and

And sing Your name

How often we have come to You

With no fear or wonder

And called upon You only

For what we stand to gain

 

God forbid that I

Find You so familiar

That I think of You

As less than who You are

God forbid that I should

Speak of You at all

Without a humble

Rev’rence in my heart

God forbid

 

Lord I often talk about

Your love and mercy

How it seems to me

Your goodness has no end

It frightens me to think

That I could take You for granted

Though You’re closer than a brother

You are more than just my friend

 

God forbid that I

Find You so familiar

That I think of You

As less than who You are

God forbid that I should

Speak of You at all

Without a humble

Rev’rence in my heart

God forbid

 

You are Father God Almighty

Lord of lords

You’re King of kings

Beyond my understanding

No less than ev’rything

How can we contrast these two songs, these two thoughts, these two apparent differences on whether we can say we have a “friendship” with God or not?

Well, of course, we can quibble over wording and perception. After all, I have a much more rigid definition of what I consider a friend than many do. There are people in my life that claim having dozens if not hundreds of friends. Going by my facebook account alone, I must have hundreds as well! But that is not the case. I count my friends as less than 10. But, that’s a different post (and if I recall, I’ve ranted on it in past posts as well!).

But let’s take an examination of Abraham’s title in James, “Friend of God.” Is there a qualifier? A pre-existing condition? A reason that Abraham was called a Friend of God? And is that something we can achieve?

James 2:14-23

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God.

You see, Abraham being called a “friend of God” is inseperably linked to the scriptural passage, “faith without works is dead.”

Abraham had faith – he believed in God. But it didn’t stop there. His faith gave birth to works – he didn’t just believe God. Need a reminder? Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes:

Hebrews 11:8-10

 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Abraham, living near modern day Kuwait, obeyed and began a long journey, not knowing where he was even going. He took his family, servants, herds, and belongings. By contrast, I hesitate to drive a few hours because of all the preparation. Abraham’s journey wasn’t just a short vacation – it was a complete relocation, without a destination. Wow!

Then there’s the issue with Isaac. Some of you know the story. Abraham is called to sacrifice his son on top of the mountain. He obeys. At the last moment, an angel stays his hand, and a ram appears to be the sacrifice. Abraham passes the test. God’s call to Abraham was the call of obedience.

“Lord, the answer is yes, now what’s the question?” Do we have that attitude?

So the last part of the passage in James reads,

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God.”

You see, we all have various degrees of faith. Many Americans claim to believe in God. We may have a couple of visible reminders of our faith – a bumper sticker, a gold chain, a picture in our living room. I have reminders as well. These aren’t bad things. But our faith cannot stop with a convenient demonstration.

A particularly mis-used scripture of the Bible is Romans 10:9, which is a wonderful verse – it reads as such –

“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

This scripture is NOT saying that if we believe that God exists, then we will have good standing with him, and it will all pan out in the end.

A convenient, occasional confession or demonstration that we believe in God simply won’t do. Our faith must be accompanied by works. Our belief must be accompanied by fruits. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our works and is not work centered. But our salvation WILL result in a changed life that will not resemble the life we once lived – and in that sense, our belief and our faith will result in a visible quantifiable change. If a believing state of mind was the only entrance for Christianity, then we’d all be in a theological boat without a paddle because,

James 2:19b – “Even the demons believe–and shudder!”

“Believing” isn’t enough if we’re just referring to a state of mind that doesn’t require action. Our belief should be a life-permeating belief with results at the end – not simply a “Yes Lord, I believe in You,” but maybe more like Abraham’s response – “Yes Lord, I believe in You, and I’m willing to move my family, possessions, herds, and belongings from Ur to wherever the promised land is, no matter the pain, sacrifice, or persecution that may occur – can I start now?”

I’d like to end this post with a quote that I put in a recent newsletter from Kyle Idleman’s book, “Not a Fan.”

““My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.”

Friends, please don’t engage in that kind of “Christianity.” It isn’t what we’re called to do, where we’re called to go, or who we’re called to be.

-Pastor Harvey