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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Our Very Best Friend

Charles Stanley - Our Very Best Friend

Charles Stanley - Our Very Best Friend
TOPICS: Friendship, Relationships

Who is your very best friend? Well, you say, "Well, I have more than one friend". Well, let me ask you a question. What is it about that person that first attracted you to them, that ultimately led them to become one of your very best friends? You say, "Well, it was appearance". Well, that's the probably not the best way in the world to find a friend because the most important thing about a friend is something on the inside of that person. It's their personhood. And yet, oftentimes we are attracted by different things. Somebody's personality, their gifts, or whatever it might be. But who is your very best friend or friends?

Well, you know, no matter who your best friend is, there are times when there are misunderstandings and there are disappointments in life. And sometimes there may be feelings of rejection. And all of those things are painful, especially when this is someone that you love dearly, someone who's been a friend a long time or even a short period of time. Going through those misunderstandings and disappointments and feelings of rejection and hard feelings are very difficult. Well, today I want to introduce you to a friend who's unlike any other friend you'll ever have. And I can assure you of this: He will never misunderstand you. He will never disappoint you. He will never reject you, nor will you ever find yourself standing all alone. And this friend is the best friend ever, and that's Jesus, the Son of the living God.

And I want you to turn, if you will, to the fifteenth chapter of John where Jesus discusses this very issue of His friendship with us. In the very beginning of this chapter, Jesus is discussing, in relationship that you and I have with Him, He talks about the vine and the branch and the intimacy of that relationship. Then He comes down to begin talking about this whole idea of His friendship with us. And He says, beginning in verse twelve, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. This I command you, that you love one another".

Most people don't think about Jesus as being their friend. We see God in Heaven, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. We think of Him as our Savior, our master, our Lord. We know Him to be the sovereign of the universe, ruling over all things and controlling all things. Now, how can we see Him and visualize Him and how can we picture Him and relate to Him as a friend if He is the Savior of the entire world, if He's the Lord and master of life, if He's the sovereign of the universe, if He's the Creator of it all? How can I relate to this one who is the ultimate ruler and sovereign controller of all things and the Creator of all things as my personal friend? And yet, I need Him as my friend. I desire Him as my friend.

And if you're going through those difficult circumstances of your life and you don't understand exactly what's happening and you'd like to change things. You'd like for things to get better, and you're asking God why not? It just might be that you have forgotten that you have the friend of all friends, who is willing to befriend you if you will allow Him. And so I want to encourage you to listen carefully because Jesus has expressed His relationship to us as a friend. And He said to His disciples, if you'll notice in this passage, He said to them, "You're my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves or servants, for the slave doesn't know what his master is doing, but I've called you friends. For all things that I have heard from My Father I've made known to you". Now, what He's saying here is He says one of the evidences or the evidences of friendship you're gonna find in Me.

And so I want us to see how He's expressing His friendship and how He expresses His friendship to us. And one of the ways He has expressed His friendship is in His sacrificial love for us. What He did is that when we were enemies to Him, He laid down His life in love for us in order to make us His friends. So that Jesus Christ is the, listen, He is the possible friend of every single person. He desires to be the friend of every single one of us. But if I reject Him and refuse a relationship with Him and deny Him and shut Him out of my life, even though He desires to be my friend, He cannot express His friendship to the fullest. He can't express it in many ways that He desires to express it until I'm willing to acknowledge the fact that He's the Son of God, that He's the Savior and the Lord and the master, and that He desires to be my loving, genuine, intimate friend who will stick with me closer than a brother, who can make promises that no one else can possibly make, and who can perform things no one else could possibly perform, and who can enable you and me to become and achieve and accomplish in life what no one else can help us accomplish and achieve or become.

He's that kind of a very special friend. Jesus has demonstrated the most awesome love by dying on the cross for your sins. Something, listen, no one else could do. Someone could die in your behalf to save your life but never to save your soul. Someone could instantaneously, without thought because of their love for you, give their life. But it will never accomplish what His sacrificial death accomplished. So one of the first ways that He expresses His friendship toward us is in His sacrificial death. A second way is this, and that is the fact He takes the initiative in the relationship. Look back again, if you will, in the...look, if you will, in this sixteenth verse. He takes the initiative. He says, "You didn't choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of My Father in My name He'll give it to you".

Now, what is He saying? Simply this. He's saying we didn't choose to become His friends, He chose to become our friend. And as a result of His choosing, those of us who have responded to His reaching out to us and have accepted Him as our Savior and the forgiveness of our sins, now we are now capable of making the Lord Jesus Christ our friend from our perspective. We can now become His friend and He can become our friend. And now we can have an intimate relationship. No longer the relationship that Jesus is up there somewhere seated at the Father's right hand. But now, Jesus who is seated at the Father's right hand is also living on the inside of us, in the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. We have an indwelling friend. He chose us. He took the initiative. He didn't see anything in us that was worthy, really, of becoming our friend.

It wasn't the result of our works. It wasn't a result of good attributes and characteristics in us. Because of His unconditional love for us, decided He wanted to be our friend. He wanted to be able to enable us to fulfill His purpose and His plan for our life. And so He chose to become our friend. So, what did He do? He came to earth, for example, to walk among men so that you and I would be able to understand that He understands the kind of Savior He is, the kind of Lord He is, the kind of master, but also the kind of friend that He can be. One who could look at someone who is sick and say, "Friend, I'm going to heal you". Someone who could look out upon a group of people who were His hearers and say, "Friends, I want you to listen, verily, verily".

One who could relate to the most obnoxious, the most sinful, the most rejected people in society, and when others looked how He related to them, they would say, "That man is a friend of sinners and tax collectors". One who could drop in on the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, love them and be considered their friend. And He considered them His friend, He said He loved them. So when you look at this passage and you ask yourself the question: Who took the initiative? It's very evident, He chose us in Him, in Christ before the foundation of the world.

Now, let me ask you this question. Among your friendships, for the most part, among all of your friends, whether you have two or three or one or a whole bunch of friends, who usually takes the initiative? Are you the kind of person who waits for someone else to take the initiative? Are you the kind of person who's sorta reserved and you hold back and a little embarrassed and you're not outgoing, and you realize you're not and you're a little bit introverted, and so you're not the kind of person who is gonna step forward and say, "Hi, how are you?" and you make a friendship? Who was the one who did most of the introduction, most of the initiative in your friendships?

Well, I can tell you who took the initiative in your relationship to Jesus and that's Jesus Christ Himself. Always takes the initiative. Planned it, purposed it, determined to do it, and has done it. The question is: How have you responded to His invitation to be your friend? What have you said over all these years in your life when He's been expressing all different kinds of ways that He loves you? He cares for you, He desires the best for you. How have you responded to that? Have you rejected Him, shunned Him, shut Him out? Or have you recognized that His invitation was an invitation of awesome love and intimacy with the very God of this universe? Think about it. The God who created it all says, "I want to be your friend. If you'll let Me, I will be a very intimate, loyal, loving friend to you".

Another way He expressed His friendship and His love for us is this, and that is the revolutionary effect that it has upon our life. When you and I become a child of God, something happens. When you become a child of God, when you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, a revolutionary effect takes place. Everything changes. Your spirit changes, your heart, your soul. That is, your eternal destiny changes. Everything begins to change. Your perspective on things. But you know what, when you become a friend of Jesus, He's already our friend. When we begin to recognize Him as our friend, something else is gonna happen. This relationship that we have whereby we see Him as Savior and master and Lord and God and sovereign Creator, all of a sudden, you know what happens? It's like He comes out of the heavens, down to earth on our level, and we begin to relate to Him in a whole different fashion.

Now, I want you to notice something in this passage that could prove to be a little bit, maybe misunderstood. Notice what, if you will, what He says in this fifteenth verse. He says, "No longer do I call you slaves. For the slave does not know what his master is doing. But I've called you friends for all things that I've heard from My Father I've made known to you". Now, what He's simply saying is, "One of the ways, one of the ways that I have expressed My friendship to you," speaking to His disciples. One of the ways He's expressed His friendship to us is that He has told us, revealed to us things we wouldn't know any other way. One who is a genuine, intimate friend with someone is going to reveal and tell the other person things they're not gonna tell anybody else.

Do you have the kind of friend with whom you can be confidential and tell them things that you know that they will never tell anyone else? Do you have the kind of friendship that you know, that you can tell a secret and it'll stay a secret. Jesus told them, not necessarily secrets, but He says, "I have revealed, I have taken the covers off, I've lifted the top off the pot and you can look in and you can see all the things that My Father told Me. I've told you all of these things, because I'm your friend. And I want to be your intimate friend". And the only way to be an intimate friend is to share our hearts, our minds, what we know, what we've experienced, what we feel, things we've been through, things we think we're going through. And this is exactly what Jesus is doing.

Now, notice, if you will, in verse fourteen, another verse I want us to look at. "You are My friends, if you do what I command you". Now, that does not mean that, that is, the emphasis of that verse is not I'll let you be My friend if you do so-and-so. In other words, we don't have to live up to something in order to be His friend. We don't live up to something in order to get saved. We're saved by the grace of God, His goodness and love and kindness toward us without regard to our worth or whatever. We say it's God's unmerited favor, so that His friendship toward us is not based on our worthiness, it's based on His unconditional love. So when He says, "You're my friends if you do what I command you," what He's, the emphasis here is, that is, you're gonna be transformed.

That is, this relationship is gonna be awesome if you will do what I command you. And you notice what He said. He said, "What's My commandment? That you love one another". He says, "When you begin to love one another, something is going to happen. Then you're gonna be, listen, your life is gonna be so transformed, you're going to be living out what I desire for you, that you love one another". And so, one of the things that happens to people who fall in love with the Lord Jesus Christ is we're able to love someone else. In fact, the more you love the Lord Jesus Christ, listen, the more, the greater your capacity to love someone else.

Because you see, the more we love Him, the more like Him we're gonna become. And the more like Him we become, the more our capacity to love someone else with, in the same way He's loved us, sacrificial love, taking the initiative, sharing our heart, pouring out our soul, pouring out our minds, doing all the things that true, genuine, intimate friends are able to do. And yet, many of you are gonna live your life lonely all of your life. You're gonna have a lot of casual friends. You may have some close friends. But until you discover the intimacy that comes between Jesus Christ and another person, you will never be able to experience friendship to that level. You'll never be able to express friendship to someone else to the same degree you can when you fall in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and recognize the awesome friend He is to you.

And so, when I think about who He is and the fact that He says in this passage, He says, "This is My commandment, that you love one another just as I've loved you". How has He loved us? Sacrificially. The ultimate expression of love is that He laid down His life. He says, "Now I want you to love each other, I want you to love one another the same way". So let me ask you a question. Whom do you love? What friendship do you have to this degree that you would step in front of whatever was necessary to protect their life? Do you have a friend so intimate, one that you love enough to literally lay down your physical life for them?

You say, "Well now, are you talking about family"? Well, yes. What about even family? "Oh yes". Are you sure? What about someone who is not your family, someone who is a friend? You say, "I love this friend". Do you love them enough to lay down your life for them? I think there are people who do. But I think that so oftentimes we think we're real, genuine, close, intimate friends with someone, but we do have our limitations. Now, let's look at that verse another way. He says, "Greater love has no one than this, than you lay down your life for your friends".

Now, watch this carefully. Laying down my life for my friend does not only include the possibility of laying it down physically. But what about laying down my life in this light? That I'm willing to give up my goals for him or for her. Am I willing to lay down my plans for him or her? Am I willing to lay down my ideas, my wishes, my wants? Am I willing to lay down my life in order for the other person to have their way because I love them? You see, when it comes to becoming a Christian living a relationship with Jesus Christ that's really intimate, we have to lay down our life. We lay down our old life. We lay down old ideas and old perspectives on things, and sometimes we have to lay down old friends because sometimes the command of our Lord Jesus Christ is so demanding. Because He wants the best for us, we have to lay down our life to say, "Lord, no longer my life, but I want You now to live Your life in me and through me".

You see, He desires an intimate relationship. He wants to be the kind of friend that's not casual, not distant, but warm, intimate, and personal, just as intimate and personal as God Himself can possibly be. He expresses His love in different ways. Another way I think He expresses His love to us is by the fact that He challenges us. He, listen, He challenges us to become our best and to achieve our best. Now, lots of people listen to sermons and read books and sing songs. For example, we sing, "My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine. What a friend we have in Jesus. There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus".

And you know what, we sing those songs, comes to our mind, right out of our mouth, and we don't feel it. But I wonder how many of you think about Jesus being your friend. I can sing, "My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine," and I can be thinking about something else the whole time because I know those words. "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear". We can sing those songs, read those words, not even think, that is, it comes from, to our mind out of our mouth, no emotion whatsoever. Jesus desires to be, listen, an emotional friend, someone we love, someone we cherish, someone we desire. Because that's who He is to us. He is one who has revealed Himself. He wants us to reach our potential.

That's what He's referring to in this passage. Listen, He said, "You didn't choose Me. I chose you. And I didn't just choose you, but I appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain". You say, "Well now, He's talking to His apostles". You know what? He says that every single one of us is to bear fruit. And the first quality of fruit we're to bear is the fruit of the Spirit, of love, joy and peace and goodness and gentleness and kindness, self-control. These are the qualities of that kind of relationship. But fruit also in good works, giving ourselves away to other people, doing good deeds, serving Him in whatever fashion He may choose to call us.

One of the ways that He expresses His love for us is to challenge us to become our best. I don't believe you can ever become your best unless Jesus is your friend. You'll never be able to accomplish all that God has set for you until He becomes your friend. Apart from Him, you'll never be able to reach what God is after in your life. But the question is: Do you want to be His friend? He's an available friend to every single one of us. But is He your friend? From His perspective, He's our friend. But is He my friend from my perspective? Or have you been one of those persons who've just sorta gone through life and you really haven't been interested in having Him as your friend? Do you know when most people call upon Jesus? When they're down. You know when they cry the hardest? When they're down the furthest.

You know when their unbelief and all of their skepticism and atheism crumbles all around them? When they know that there is no other way, and they hope us Christians are right. And they cry out to a God they don't know, to a Jesus they've only heard about. And finally recognize upon being saved, here was a friend who had been there all along, and they had ignored Him. Every single one of us is coming to life and death. Suppose you die without Jesus as your friend, let me ask you a question. Then what? If you die and Jesus is not your friend, then what?

You say, "Well, I guess I'll just disappear". Oh no, you won't. "I guess I'll just evaporate". No you won't. If you die without Jesus Christ being your friend, do you realize that you will be eternally separated, forever and ever separated from the one who loved you so much all your life that He laid down His life sacrificially for you because He loves you, because He loved you, and because He wanted to build an intimate relationship with you. To die without Him, it would be better if you'd never been born. To live your life without Him is a tragedy. When you can live your life and understand and experience life at its very, very best because that's what He has in store for us. He's that kind of a friend.

Now, suppose you're one of those persons and you say, "How does all this relate to me? I'm not even a Christian". Well, let me say, first of all, you certainly need to be. You need to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior because you know what? As much as He wants to be your friend, He can't be all that to you if you reject Him as your friend. And if you're willing to ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and you're willing to trust Him as your personal Savior, which simply means that you believe that His death at the cross paid your sin-debt in full and you accept Him as your Savior, that your sins are forgiven, your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life and forever you're a child of God and Jesus becomes your friend. He's your friend, an available friend if you will allow Him to be so.

And it may be that you are a believer and you've never thought about Him being your friend. I want to encourage you just to go through that list and ask yourself the question: Do I really see Jesus this way in my life? Do I really believe He loves me this much? Do I believe He's real enough to be to me everything I need Him to be? He is and He will be if you'll let Him. He'll prove to you to be the best friend ever.

And Father, how grateful we are that You sent the Son of God, Your beloved Son, to be our friend as well as our Savior. And I pray the Holy Spirit will take these simple truths and let them be investigative of our own heart. Let us see how we match up, the kind of friends we are, but above all, the kind of friend the Lord Jesus Christ is to us. And then respond accordingly by our love for Him, our obedience to Him, and our service for Him. In His name we pray, amen.

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