Purpose Driven Life
Becoming Best Friends with God
"Closure. That's what it is, that's what I need." So determined
a drunken Rachel in the season 2 episode "The One Where Ross Finds Out."
And closure is what this mega-hyped series finale gives loyal and faithful viewers
who have been there for Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey, even when Friends seemed
stuck in second gear. Television's most popular and comforting comedy did go gently
into that good night, (on NBC on 6th May for US fans) packing off new
parents Monica and Chandler to the suburbs to start a family; domesticating the
once free-spirited Phoebe, and, yes, finally bringing star-crossed, on-again-off-again
Ross and Rachel together ("I got off the plane" will take its place
in series lore alongside, "We were on a break").
In the last episode, there were … very few surprises, save for one climactic Ross revelation that allowed David Schwimmer's hapless character one of the episode's best lines: "We almost made it 10 years without that coming out." Gunther professing his unrequited love for Paris-bound Rachel was a nice grace note for one of the series' most valuable players, as was the touching, sniffle-inducing ending in which each Friend turned in their key to the apartment each had shared at one time or another over the past 10 years. In the end, it was all about Ross and Rachel, but it seems we will not have ultimate closure until the inevitable reunion special, "The One with Ross and Rachel's Wedding." Until then, between reruns and home video, Friends fans need not fret. As singer Dan Hicks once said, how can we miss them when they won't go away? --Donald Liebenson (Friends are Forever, DVD Editorial Review, Amazon.com)
can not only get the exclusive, limited edition “Friends are Forever” season finale
from Warner Brothers and even a Friends Party Pack which enables you to host the
perfect evening to watch the final episode with your own friends, complete with
the Parties DVD, Friends party invitations, a commemorative serving tray, coffee,
party recipes, coasters and trivia card game.
What made Friends as a series so popular? I don’t think it was simply the acting, the folksy humour or even the static between six young and attractive men and women living in close proximity. I think what made Friends so successful and popular as a series was in part because friendship and companionship touches our deepest need. And in this fictional encounter between six different people who became friends, millions of people have lived out their own hopes, struggles and dreams.
millions may be mourning the end of the series, the amazing truth of the Bible
is that God wants to be your best friend forever. While the Bible reveals God
to be “your Creator and Maker, Lord and Master, Judge, Redeemer, Father, Saviour
and much more [above all], Almighty God yearns to be your Friend. From the beginning
of creation we see God’s intended relationship with us. We were made to live ion
God’s continual presence. In the Garden of Eden there were no rituals, no ceremonies
or indeed any religion - “just a simple loving relationship between God and the
people he created. Unhindered by guilt or fear, Adam and Eve delighted in God,
and he delighted in them.” Although the Fall destroyed the basis for that communion,
it is still God’s will that we live in his continual presence. That is why Jesus
came to make that friendship possible again by taking away the penalty for our
sin and rebellion by dying in our place.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul put it like this, “All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends.” (2 Corinthians 5:18 TEV). However hard it may be to comprehend, Jesus explains in John 15 how we can become best friends with God. “I have called you friends” (John 15:15) he says. The word ‘friend’ Jesus uses means much more than a mere acquaintance. It means a close trusted friend. Jesus has made that friendship possible because he loves you so much he died for you. “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). This morning I’d like us to consider, four ways we can develop our relationship with God, which Jesus weaves together in this beautiful passage. We can become best friends with God,
1. Through Faithful Obedience
“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete ... You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:10-11, 14)
“Every time you trust God’s wisdom and do whatever he says, even when you don’t understand it, you deepen your friendship with God.” We don’t usually see obedience as a sign of friendship - we usually think in terms of the kind of relationship we have with a boss, a superior officer or a parent but not a friend. But Jesus insists that “obedience is a condition of intimacy with God.” “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14).
“We obey God, not out of duty or fear or compulsion, but because we love him and trust him that he knows what is best for us. We want to follow Christ out of gratitude for all he has done for us, and the closer we follow him, the deeper our friendship becomes … Because we have been forgiven and set free, we obey out of love.” Notice also that Jesus only expects of us, what he does himself. “His [obedient] relationship with his Father is the model for our friendship with him. Jesus did whatever the Father asked him to do-out of love. We too become best friends with God through faithful obedience.
2. Through Sacrificial Love
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends ... This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:12-13, 17)
“True friendship isn’t passive; it acts. When Jesus asks us to love others, help the needy, share our resources, keep our lives clean, offer forgiveness, and bring others to him, love motivates us to obey immediately.” True friends care about what is important to each other. The more we care about the things that God cares about, “grieve over the things he grieves over, and rejoice over the things that bring pleasure to him” the closer friends we will become. “What does God care about most? The redemption of his people. He wants all his lost children found! That’s the whole reason Jesus came to earth. The dearest thing to the heart of God is the death of his Son. The second dearest thing is when his children share that news with others. To be a friend of God, you must care about all the people around you whom God cares about.”
I believe the team from Christ Church who served at Carnival Capers yesterday will probably have witnessed in word and deed to more people in our community than on any other single occasion I can think of in the last seven years. We can joke about the bright yellow poloshirts but they served their purpose alongside the yellow balloons and the big red bus. We made an impact. The fact is that for more than five hours at least 30 Christians were highly visible, serving as a unified team, relaxed, having fun - even if a little wet at times. Everything from baking cakes, serving refreshments, clearing blocked toilets, entering the tug-of-war contest, blowing up balloons, giving away children’s Jesus videos, talking to parents about our fantastic Sunday school - we were making Jesus known.
Rick Warren says, “Friends of God tell their friends about God.” That’s what I signed up for. We become best friends of God through faithful obedience and through sacrificial love.
3. Through Meditating on God’s Word
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15).
“It is impossible to be God’s friend apart from knowing what he says. You can’t love God unless you know him, and you can’t know him without knowing his word.” Jesus has made known everything we need to know God. How well we know God, therefore, will depend on how well we know His word. “While we cannot spend all day studying the Bible, you can think about it throughout the day.”
When I was at university I had a summer job each year working in a bank. For about half an hour at the beginning of each day my job was to bring 8 or 9 cashiers tills up from the bank safe in the basement and then return them to the safe at the end of the day. I used the time it took the lift to come up and go down 8 times at the beginning and end of each day to memorise key verses of the Bible.
I probably memorised more bible passages during those monotonous times each day than at any other time in my life. The most mundane times became the most productive spiritually.
“Meditation is often misunderstood as some difficult, mysterious ritual practices by isolated monks and mystics. But meditation is simply focused thinking- a skill anyone can learn and use anywhere. When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that’s called worry. When you think about God’s Word over and over in your mind that’s meditation. If you know how to worry you know how to meditate! You just need to switch your attention from your problems to Bible verses. The more you meditate on God’s Word, the less you will have to worry about.” Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Hold a Bible and God’s perfect will for your life is in your hands. Get to know God’s word better and his purposes for you will become increasingly plain. We become best friends of God through faithful obedience, through sacrificial love and by meditating on God’s word.
4. Through Continual Conversation with God
”You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16)
“You will never grow a close relationship with God by just attending Church once a week or having a daily quiet time, [although that’s a good start]. Friendship with God is built on sharing all your life experiences with him … He wants to be included in every activity, every conversation, every problem, and even every thought.” Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray continuously”. This means maintaining an open-ended conversation with God throughout the day, what ever you are doing or thinking, sharing it with God.
One of the most helpful books I read as a young Christian was by Brother Lawrence, entitled, “Practising the Presence of God”. Brother Lawrence who lived in the 17th Century was just a cook in a French Monastery but he learnt to turn the preparation of food, the cooking and washing up into opportunities to praise and worship God, to share his burdens and seek God’s guidance.
“The key to friendship with God, he said, is not changing what we do, but changing your attitude toward what you do.” This led Brother Lawrence to pray shorter conversational prayers continually during the day rather than trying to pray for long periods of time at set times.
Rick Warren recommends what he calls “breath prayers” - that is short simple prayers you can say with one breath. For example, “You are with me” or “Help me trust you” or “”Thank you for my lunch.” Rick Warren warns, “If you are seeking an experience of his presence through all of this, you have missed the point. We don’t praise God to feel good but to do good. Your goal is not a feeling, but a continual awareness of the reality that God is always present.
Becoming best friends with God. That is God’s desire for you and I. We become a best friend of God through faithful obedience, through sacrificial love, by meditating on God’s word and through continual conversation with God. We become best friends with God when we choose friendship with Him above all other friendships, above all other friends, above all else. Ultimately, “you are as close to God as you choose to be. Intimate friendship with God is a choice, not an accident. You must intentionally seek it” So let me ask you, do you really want to become best friends with God? More than anything else? What is it worth to you? What is it worth giving up for? “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) “There is nothing - absolutely nothing - more important than developing a friendship with God - [so remember] - you are as close as you choose to be.”
Becoming best friends with God. We become best friends of God through faithful obedience, through sacrificial love, by meditating on God’s word and through continual conversation with God. Lets pray.
This sermon was inspired by a variety of sources but primarily, Rick Warren’s, “Becoming Best Friends with God” in The Purpose Driven Life, pp.85-99. Unless otherwise stated, quotations are taken from the book.