Living as a Friend of God James 3:13 – 4:10

Today we’re going to talk about living as a friend of God.

What is a friend?

It’s been said that man’s best friend has four legs and fur and likes to bark. Cynically it’s been said that nothing in the world is friendlier than a wet dog.

It doesn’t seem to matter how bad a day you’ve had, or how bad your mood, when you come home, your dog is always happy to see you; so excited; your dog greets you like it hasn’t seen you in a month.

I remember seeing a video of a soldier coming home after having been deployed for several months, and his dog just went crazy when it saw him.

To be compared to a dog is some situations is an insult, but when it comes to friendship, it’s the highest compliment.

Years ago, an English newspaper had a contest for the best brief description of a friend. Some of the leading answers were: one who multiplies your joy and divides your grief; one who understands your silence;  a watch that beats true for all time and never runs down; and the winner was, "A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out."   

That’s the kind of friend we have in Jesus. At times it may seem as if the whole world is against us, but God is for us.

A small boy said that a friend is someone who knows your faults and likes you anyway.

No one knows our faults like our Maker does, and still he loves us and remains loyal to us.

When Adam and Eve went against God and became his enemies, he could have ended his relationship with them right there, but he didn’t. He promised to redeem them, and he took care of them in this fallen world they now had to live in. He continued to go to them and talk to them and help them and their children.

When their son, Cain, became insanely jealous of his brother, Abel, God went to Cain and told him that he had to get control of his anger or it would lead him to do something terrible, which it did when he killed his brother. But God was trying to help Cain, even when Cain’s heart was full of sin and hate.

This is because our God is a friend to sinners. Jesus is the best friend we could ever have. When everything was against us because of our own sin, of our own making, Jesus came forward to save us. When the world went out and let us down, Jesus came into our lives.

Jesus’ enemies often called him, “a friend of sinners.”

There was nothing for him to gain in being our friend. In fact, to be our friend he had to do all the giving, his very life.

The night before he died for us Jesus said, “No greater love had anyone than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”.

Who’s the worst person you can imagine that’s ever lived in this world? The most evil, brutal, psychopathic killer? Jesus befriended that person in the most loving way possible, dying for him or her, and for you and me.

Lest we become judgmental and hypocritical, we all have our evil thoughts and deeds to account for. And we all need a friend who’s greater than we are to help us with that.

There’s only One who could help us, the only one who’s greater than sin and death, the one who rose from death.

Although our sin turned us against him, made us his enemy, he was determined to make us friends again. And so he took our sentence of death, and suffered in our place.

As our Old Testament says, like a gentle lamb led to slaughter.

Or as Jesus plainly said in our Gospel, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him.  And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

Jesus is that friend  who did what we never could have done: after dying he rose again.

He rose and ascended into heaven so that we wouldn’t be left without a friend in the highest places, where we need a friend, interceding on our behalf.

As we sing in I Know That My Redeemer Lives, He lives to bless me with his love; He lives to plead for me above; he lives my hungry soul to feed; he lives to help in time of need. He lives my kind, wise heavenly friend; He lives and loves me to the end; He lives and while he lives I’ll sing; he lives my prophet, priest, and king!

How wonderful that the best friend you have, is in the Highest place, doing what no one else can do for you.

There’s no friend like him; no one who can love you to extent that he loves you, and no one who can help you like he can, to overcome the impossible, even death

How could we possibly not want a friend like that? How could we not want our loved ones to have a friend like that?

But truly amazing, when His friendship is in your heart, you even want your enemies to have a friend like that.

Jesus can turn enemies into friends. True friendship comes from God through Christ.

It’s been said that friends are like good health; you don't realize what a gift they are until you lose them.  

Adam and Eve came to realize what a friend God really was after they turned against him. The devil told Adam and Eve that God was holding them back, that they could attain greater things without God.  But when they left God, they realized what a mistake they had made. But God proved his friendship, going after them, seeking them out, and bringing them back into his fellowship.

In our Epistle James warns us not to make that mistake. He  says, Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself into an enemy with God.

God wants nothing but good for us. Why would we want to be his enemy?

There is that messed up part of us that tries to make God into the bad guy. That’s a consequence of our fallen nature, and one of the devils’ tricks, to make you think that your true friend is your enemy, and your mortal enemy is your friend.

It’s like if we get caught up in a destructive lifestyle, and our family and friends try to point that out, and get help for us, but we think they’re just being mean, or legalistic, or they have it in for us, and that the friends we can trust are the ones who are caught up in the bad behavior with us, maybe doing drugs, or excessive drinking, or petty crime, or worse. That’s that distorting of reality that comes with sin.

God gives us His clear law to show the wrong in that kind of thinking, and his clear Gospel to show us it doesn’t have to be that way -- there’s a better way to live and love; better friends than that; there’s a best friend who will help you with whatever difficulty you’re facing, no matter how great it seems to be.

James says, Submit therefore to God. Trust Him, the One who has proven Himself to love you unconditionally, and to be able to help you with every trouble.

Submit to God and resist the devil, James says, and he will flee from you. He’ll move on.

Now the devil will always tempt us, and sin will always be within us, but when we live in fellowship with Christ, then sin and the devil are ultimately overcome in our lives.

Know who your friends really are, and who the enemy really is. Jesus, and his friends, the children of God, are your friends. Draw your power from Him, and your support from them.

Live as a friend of God in this world, and that will help you to be better friend to others, a friend who comes in, when others go out. A loyal friend who loves and befriends others when no one else will.

There’s the saying, friends don’t let friends drive drunk. In the same way, friends don’t try to get others to do wrong, and go against God. True friends don’t try to get in the way of your friendship with God, rather they enjoy and celebrate it with you.  

Friends know Jesus, and make His friendship known to others. Be THAT friend.

And finally, know that as you live in friendship with God, His peace which passes understanding, will guard your heart and mind, in Christ Jesus, your Lord and Friend. Amen.