Friends of God
Did you ever have some news to share with someone and felt like you were going to burst unless you were able to tell them? Maybe it was finding out you were pregnant. Or maybe “Mr Right” finally popped the question. Maybe it was someone coming to faith in Christ. Maybe a game winning goal. Maybe a great round of golf.
Who’d you call with the news? Probably a pretty close friend huh? Typically, you want to share news about things that mean a lot to you with a good friend , and I think that’s what’s going on here in this incredible portion of Scripture!
It’s incredible because here we have God Almighty, the Lord of Glory, the Creator of the universe desiring to reveal His “mean a lot to Him” plans for Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham! Abraham....a regular guy just like you or me and God says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?”
Why would HE do that? And the answer is that God considered Abraham to be His friend. Abraham was a friend of God. We know this to be true from the book of James where we read in 2:23,
Jas 2:23 "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.
One thing about true friends....they don’t have any secrets do they? And so God says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?
How did these two become friends in the first place? We all have our own ideas about making friends, but how does God make friends with people like you and me? First of all, He comes to us. He says, “Do you want to be My friend? You see, in order for two people to become friends, someone has to make the first move don’t they?
I remember when we first moved to Menasha in 1988. Jay and Robin had to leave their friends behind, and it was a very difficult situation for them. Alone in a new school, a new neighborhood, and they knew that all the other kids were watching them, judging them, would they pass the test?
What a relief, when one night there was a knock at the back door and there stood Miriam Garza. She was bold enough to make the first move of friendship toward Robin, and to this day they are the best of friends. But somebody had to make the first move!
God is the one who moves toward us. As Luther says in the catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord , OR COME TO HIM.” How true. God is the One who comes to us.
He comes to us through His Word and the Sacraments and He proves His willingness to be our friend through the cross. He gave up His only Son just to make it possible to be your friend! And He didn’t observe you from a distance either to see if you were worthy of His friendship.
He just came to you. He knocks on the door of your heart! And asks to be your friend.
What love He has for you and me. As Paul wrote to the Romans:
Ro 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Now, here’s another thing about friendship....it’s a two way street isn’t it. Does Robin hook up with Miriam if she closes the door or makes some excuse about not going out to play with her because she doesn’t think she’s good enough or out of a fear of rejection? No! She must respond to Miriam!
So how do we respond to God’s invitation? Same way Abraham responded. Just as James said, Abraham believed (He trusted) God’s Word and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.”
In the matter of friendship, a rough paraphrase of Jn 3:16 would sound like this: God so wanted to be friends with you that he gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes (trusts) in Him shall not perish but have everlasting friendship with God.
Jesus had this to say about being our friend:
14 "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
What? That sounds like those kids you grew up with. You know, the girl who when you played house always had to be the mother, or she would stomp off. Or the guy who had the ball and if things didn’t go the way he wanted them to go, he took his ball and went home.
Say it isn’t so Jesus! It isn’t. He tells us in Eph 2:8,9 that we are saved by grace, not works. SO He must mean something else here.
He means, “You are (you prove and maintain) your friendship toward Me by your attitude toward My words.” In Jn 14:15 He says,
Joh 14:15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments.
We often fall into a trap when we believe that keeping is the same thing as obeying......it isn’t.
The biblical idea of “keeping” something is to “put a hedge around it....to safeguard it, because it is valuable to you.
Do you see the difference? One can obey God’s commands, and still not keep them. They obey them grudgingly or for the purpose of receiving a reward. But one cannot “keep” (treasure) God’s commands without desiring to obey them. They are too valuable for that. They cherish their friendship with Jesus too much for that!
Jesus wants to be your friend, He died for you and now all HE asks in return is that you consider ALL His words....found in the Bible.....valuable.
And as you grow in this relationship with Him, you begin to see that His commands are really for your own good! He’s not setting down His rules just to show us that He can have His own way. He sets down His rules so we will not hurt ourselves or others. .....Now that’s a friend.
And if Sodom and Gomorrah would’ve understood that, it would not have become a synonym for the swift justice of God. By the way, it’s destruction wasn’t due solely to it’s sexual sins, although they were part of it, but in Ezek. 16:49 and 50 we read of the other sins of Sodom.
Eze 16:49 "Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter (Gomorrah) had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 "And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
In addition to her sexual abominations and pride, she had lot’s of food and lots of time, but refused to use it to help the poor. This would not be the case if her people would’ve treasured God’s Word.
SO God took them away as He saw fit.
It’s His prerogative. He’s God, but before He did, He took time to come down and show His friend Abraham why He had to do it.
Why did He do it? It’s right there in Ge 18:19,
Ge 18:19 "For I have known him, (I have become friends with Abraham) in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep (treasure) the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him."
He did it so Abraham would pass it along to future generations. He did it so you and I and our children might treasure the way of the Lord. And His way is to treat ourselves and others rightly. We treat ourselves and others rightly, when we keep His commands.
De 6:24 'And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.
Sodom and Gomorrah would’ve avoided destruction if God could’ve found just 10 people who treasured His Word. But He didn’t.
Friend, God has made a move toward you to be His friend in Word and Sacrament. But are you really living like someone who desire to be “a friend of God?” Are we treasuring His Word? What needs to happen in order for God’s Word to become valuable to you?
How do we rekindle the flame of faith given to us in our baptism? We need a supernatural revelation of God. He has to show Himself to you. You must believe that He exists. And it starts with faith.
Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Diligently seek Him friend. The evidence of His existence is everywhere!
Ps 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world.
We learn the fear of God as we observe storms, and we learn the love and forgiveness and the faithfulness of God in a peaceful sunrise.
Look at the cross. We learn the fear of the Lord as we see His wrath poured out against sin, and we learn the love of God as we see what He sacrificed for us!
It is when God reveals Himself to us through fear by showing us what we deserve for our sins, and then shows us the depth of His love by taking the penalty of our sins upon Himself that we will treasure His Word, and when we treasure His Word......we prove to Him and the world that we are indeed His friends.
In my own life, I don’t know when it happened exactly. It started after confirmation. I just sort of drifted away from reading God’s Word and attending church, and praying. I hooked up with the wrong crowd and started making wrong choices. God’s Word was no longer treasured.
It wasn’t long and my friendship with God was ended. It’s like those long lost family members that you mean to hook up with again and you say it at every wedding and every funeral...but it just doesn’t happen.
Friendship with God won’t happen either. if we only see Him on Christmas and Easter.
Thankfully God continued to pursue friendship with me in spite of my shunning Him, and because of His pursuit, I am once again His friend. Through the preaching of His Word and the prayers and actions of others, He supernaturally showed me to once again fear and love Him.
If you are willing to receive it and believe it. God reveals His fear and love to us in a supernatural way at the Lord’s Supper. In the bread and wine we are reminded of the price He paid with His body and blood to cleanse us from our sins.
And in the words “given for you” we are reminded of His deep desire to be our friend.
In this holy meal, He comes to us, to re-establish and strengthen our friendship with Him. As we prepare to come to the table today, let’s ponder God’s offer of friendship with us. Spend some time pondering your attitude toward His Word this past week.
Confess those times that you fell short in thought word and deed, and then come forward to hear the comforting words of a true friend as He says, “I forgive you.”