Tag Archives: God’s friendship

Enmity With the World is Friendship With God

You adulterous people!  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 an enemy of God.”  James 4:4

With these words James presents a stark contrast between two different relationships.  There’s your relationship with the world and then there’s your relationship with God.  The two ought never to be of the same sort.  One way or another these two relationships should always be radically opposed.

Now we could consider what it means to have friendship with the world.  We could look at what that involves and all its different permutations.  If this were a sermon, I’d definitely do that.  However, in this brief meditation, I want to go a different route.  If what the Holy Spirit says is true (which it is), then we ought to be able to flip the terms around in his formulation.  When we do that, we discover something remarkable.

What I mean is this:  if “friendship with the world is enmity with God,” then the reverse follows as also true.  It is also true that “enmity with the world is friendship with God.”  Moreover, anyone who wishes to be an enemy of the world is a friend of God.  When we put it like that, two key questions still need to be answered.

First, what would it mean to be an enemy of the world?  Enmity with the world means a relationship of hostility or hatred with the world.  And what is meant by the world here?   It refers to everything associated with humanity’s rebellion against God.  “The world” is all the different ways in which sin manifests itself amongst human beings.  Being an enemy of the world really means being hostile towards sin.  Rather than embracing or coddling sinfulness, you hate it and long to see it destroyed.  Being an enemy of the world means you harbour no affection for the rebellion which has the potential to destroy you and other human beings.  This is the way it ought to be for those redeemed by Christ.

Second, what does it mean to be a friend of God?  Friendship with God means a relationship of close fellowship with him.  Being a friend of God means you love God and treasure your place with him.   Whereas once you were alienated from him, hating him, avoiding him and denying him, now you embrace him in trust and affection.

Both of these relationships work two ways.  When you’re a Christian and the world is your enemy, you are also the world’s enemy.  It’s both ways:  you hate the world (sinful rebellion), but the world also hates you and seeks to destroy you.  Satan is the world’s greatest strategist and cheerleader.  First Peter 5:8 reminds us:  “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”  Satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life.  Similarly, because of your association with Christ the world hates you and wants to undo you (see John 15:18-19).

The other relationship also works two ways.  When you’re a Christian and God is your friend, you are also God’s friend.  It would be absurd to imagine a friendly relationship where only one side is a friend.  By their very nature, friendships work both ways.  Indeed, in Scripture, we read that sinful human beings like us enjoyed friendship with God – for example, Abraham in James 2:23.  This isn’t comparable to a human friendship between equals.  God isn’t our equal and even in our friendly relationship with him we are to interact with him with reverence and godly fear.  Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”  Similarly, Christ says in John 15:13, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  Our friendship includes not only love, but also fear and obedience.

The two relationships described in James 4:4 are antithetical.  They are antithetical in principle, but in practice we don’t always hate the world (sinful rebellion) as our enemy.  In practice, we don’t always act as if God is our friend.  If we did, we would always want to do his will.  We would always do it because we know our friend loves us and we respect him so highly.  Instead, so often we are the adulterous people the Holy Spirit upbraids.  Adultery is a betrayal in relationship.  You betray your best friend, your spouse, with adultery.  So we do when we cavort with the enemy of James 4:4.  We’re to see this and be disgusted with it.  We’re to repent of it and seek forgiveness for it through our Saviour.  When we do, our Friend will forgive and, to those who ask, he will more richly grant his Spirit so we may betray him less and less.  So, Christian:  hate the world – it’s your bitter enemy.  Love your God – he is your dear friend.

 

 


Is God Your Friend? What About Jesus?

Many Reformed people object to the idea of God as our friend, or at least are uncomfortable with it.  Since he is God incarnate, the same reasoning is applied to Jesus Christ.  I imagine they’re reacting to that type of American evangelicalism which portrays our relationship with God in terms too casual.  Speaking of him as our friend seems to endanger a proper understanding of God’s majesty and holiness — that applies to all three persons of the Trinity.

Surely we want to have the proper respect for our God and Saviour.  He deserves to be honoured in the highest degree.  But what if Scripture speaks about our relationship with God in terms of friendship?  The Bible has to be our standard, not an over-reaction against extremes found elsewhere.  What does the Bible say about this?  On the basis of God’s Word, can we say that God is our friend?

In general, in the Old Testament, we do find that some well-known believers were said to be friends of God.  Exodus 33:11 says, “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses, as a man speaks to his friend.”  Though Moses was a sinner (why couldn’t he enter the Promised Land?  Failure to obey!), God related to Moses as one friend to another.  Abraham is another example.  No less that three times does Scripture say that Abraham was a friend of God:

Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham, your friend? (2 Chronicles 20:7)

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend… (Isaiah 41:8)

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness — and he was called a friend of God. (James 2:23)

I remind you that Abraham too was an inconsistent believer, a sinner like us.  Yet, wonderfully, God called him “friend.”

One might be tempted to counter, “But Moses and Abraham were special.  None of us can claim their special place in God’s redemptive plan.  They might have been friends of God, but that was something reserved for these unique figures.”  Certainly they were unique figures in some respects.  But what about in this respect of being called friends of God?  To answer that, we need to let Scripture interpret Scripture.

An important start is made with Psalm 25:14, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”  If you fear God (honour him with reverence), he promises you friendship.  He will make known to you his covenant — his special relationship of fellowship.  That is an amazing verse!  It doesn’t say God’s friendship is only for prophets and mediators.  It doesn’t say God’s friendship is reserved for key figures in the history of redemption.  It is for all those who fear him.  He will be a friend to all genuine believers who trust in him and stand in awe of him.

Now remember that Jesus Christ came to this earth to reveal God and what he’s like (John 1:18).  So what do we see in his earthly ministry?  In Matthew 11:19, Jesus said the Jewish religious leaders were offended at him because he was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  Note well:  Jesus does not deny it.  In fact, in John 15 he speaks further along these lines.  Here he is speaking to his disciples:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15)

Note the echoes of Psalm 25:14 when Christ says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  In other words, if you fear the Lord Christ and do what he says, he is your friend.  Moreover, in verse 13, he says he is the one who lays down his life in love for them.  That is the love of a friend!  In response to that gracious love, we honour our friend by lovingly following his precepts.  There is no contextual indication in John 15 that these words are restricted to the apostles — as if Jesus only calls the eleven his friends and no others.  No, there is every reason to believe what he says here applies equally to all disciples, including Christians today.

The biblical evidence is clear.  True believers may consider themselves to be in a friendly relationship with God — thus, he is our friend.  We may rejoice knowing that Christ calls us, those for whom he died, friends.  Those truths in no way detract from the reverence we have for God.  In fact, if we do not have the fear of God, we are being pretentious in claiming friendship with him.  We are deluding ourselves if we think Jesus is our friend when we have no desire to follow him.  To be in this relationship means we never treat him casually, as if he is a human buddy or mate.  But it does mean we can be confident that our Creator and Redeemer God is on our side and cares about us deeply.  The gospel promises us friendship with God.  Believer, he is your friend.