Becoming Best Friends with God

 

In the last sermon, we saw how the new testament shows how Jesus courted us, set up a marriage contract with use and will return for us after preparing a place for us in His fathers house. We looked at the Jewish traditional marriage and how we can see similar events occurring in the new testament. What a glorious thought, what a comforting thought. That the lord would chose me to be united in this way two flesh becoming one. Joined together in the most holy of matrimonies. But this is not the only promise of the new testament. We see that He also invites us into another kind of relationship.

  Since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. Romans 5:10 (NLT)

 God wants to be your best friend. Your relationship to God has many different aspects: God is your Creator and Maker, Lord and Master, Judge, Redeemer, Father, Savior, Husband and much more.iPsalms 95:6, 136:3;John 13:13; Jude 1:4; 1 John 3:1; Isaiah 33:22; 47:4; Psalm 89:26j But the most shocking truth is this: Almighty God yearns to be your Friend! In Eden we see God's ideal relationship with us: Adam and Eve enjoyed an intimate friendship with God. There were no rituals, ceremonies, or 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. We were made to live in God's continual presence, but after the Fall, that ideal relationship was lost. Only a few people in Old Testament times had the privilege of friendship with God. Moses and Abraham were called "friends of God," David was called "a man after [God's] own heart," and job, Enoch, and Noah had intimate friendships with God. (Exodus 33:11,17; 2 Chron 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23; Acts 13:22; Genesis 6:8; 5:22; Job 29:4) But fear of God, not friendship,@was more common in the Old Testament. Then Jesus changed the situation. When he paid for our sins on the cross, the veil in the temple that symbolized our separation from God was split from top to bottom, indicating that direct access to God was once again available. Unlike the Old Testament priests who had to spend hours preparing to meet him, we can now approach God anytime. The Bible says, "Now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God-all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God." (Romans 5:11 (NLT))

Friendship with God is possible only because of the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. "All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends." (2 Corinthians 5:18) (TEV) The old hymn says, "What a friend we have in Jesus," but actually, God invites us to enjoy friendship and fellowship with all three persons of the Trinity: our Father,(1 John 1:3) the Son, (1 Corinthians 1:9) and the Holy Spirit.(g Corinthians 13:14) Jesus said, "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.h (John 15:15) The word for friend in this verse does not mean a casual acquaintance but a close, trusted relationship. The same word is used to refer to the best man at a wedding (John 3:28) and a king's inner circle of intimate, trusted friends. In royal courts, servants must keep their distance from the king, but the inner circle of trusted friends enjoy close contact, direct access, and confidential information. That God would want me for a close friend is hard to understand, but the Bible says, "He is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you. (Exodus34:14) God deeply desires that we know him intimately. In fact, he planned the universe and orchestrated history, including the details of our lives, so that we could become his friends. The Bible says, "He made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him." Act 17:26,27)

Knowing and loving God is our greatest privilege, and being known and loved is God's greatest pleasure. God says, "If any want to boast, they should boast that they know and understand me.... These are the things that please me." (Jeremaiah 9:24)

It's difficult to imagine how an intimate friendship is possible between an omnipotent, invisible, perfect God and a finite, sinful human being. It's easier to understand a Master-servant relationship or a Creator-creation relationship or even Father-child. But what does it mean when God wants me as a friend? By looking at the lives of God's friends in the Bible, we learn six secrets of friendship with God. We will look at two secrets in this chapter and four more in the next.

 

BECOMING A BEST FRIEND OF GOD Through constant conversation. You will never grow a close relationship with God by just attending church once a week or even having a daily quiet time. Friendship with God is built by sharing all your life experiences with him. Of course, it is important to establish the habit of a daily devotional time with God, but he wants more than an appointment in your schedule. He wants to be included in every activity,@every conversation, every problem, and even every thought. You can carry on a continuous, open-ended conversation with him throughout your day, talking with him about whatever you are doing or thinking at that moment. "Praying without ceasing" (1 Thess 15:17) means conversing with God while shopping, driving, working, or performing any other everyday tasks. Knowing and loving God is our greatest privilege, and being known and loved is God's greatest pleasure. A common misconception is that "spending time with God" means being alone with him. Of course, as Jesus modeled, you need time alone with God, but that is only a fraction of your waking hours. Everything you do can be "spending time with God" if he is invited to be a part of it and you stay aware of his presence. The classic book on learning how to develop a constant conversation with God is Practicing the Presence of God. It was written in the seventeenth century by Brother Lawrence, a humble cook in a French monastery. Brother Lawrence was able to turn even the most commonplace and menial tasks, like preparing meals and washing dishes, into acts of praise and communion with God. The key to friendship with God, he said, is not changing what you do, but changing your attitude toward what you do. What you normally do for yourself you begin doing for God, whether it is eating, bathing, working, relaxing, or taking out the trash. Today we often feel we must "get away" from our daily routine in order to worship God, but that is only because we haven't learned to practice his presence all the time. Brother Lawrence found it easy to worship God through the common tasks of life; he didn't have to go away for special spiritual retreats. This is God's ideal. In Eden, worship was not an event to attend, but a perpetual attitude; Adam and Eve were in constant communion with God. Because God is with you all the time, no place is any closer to God than the place where you are right now. The Bible says, "He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything." (Ephesians 4:6)

Another of Brother Lawrence's helpful ideas was to pray shorter conversational prayers continually through the day rather than trying to pray long sessions of complex prayers. To maintain focus and counteract wandering thoughts, he said, "I do not advise you to use a great multiplicity of words in prayer, since long discourses are often the occasions for wandering." In an age of attention deficit, this 450-year-old suggestion to keep it simple seems to be particularly relevant. The Bible tells us to `pray all the time.h How is it possible to do this? One way is to use "breath prayers" throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath: "You are with me." "I receive your grace." "I'm depending on you." "I want to know you." "I belong to you." "Help me trust you." You can also use a short phrase of Scripture: "For me to live is Christ." "You will never leave me." "You are my God." Pray it as often as possible so it is rooted deep in your heart. Just be sure that your motive is to honor God, not control him. Practicing the presence of God is a skill, a habit you can develop. Just as musicians practice scales every day in order to play beautiful music with ease, you must force yourself to think about God at different times in your day. You must train your mind to remember God. At first you will need to create reminders to regularly bring your thoughts back to the awareness that God is with you in that moment. Begin by placing visual reminders around you. You might post little notes that say, "God is with me and for me right now!" Benedictine monks use the hourly chimes of a clock to remind them to pause and pray "the hour prayer." If you have a watch or cell phone with an alarm, you could do the same. Sometimes you will sense God's presence; other times you won't. 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. That is the lifestyle of worship. Everything you do can be "spending time with God" if he is invited to be apart of it and you stay aware of his presence.

 Through continual meditation. A second way to establish a friendship with God is by thinking about his Word throughout your day. This is called meditation, and the Bible repeatedly urges us to meditate on who God is, what he has done, and what he has said." 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. The Bible says God "revealed himself to Samuel through his word." God still uses that method today. While you cannot spend all day studying the Bible, you can think about it throughout the day, recalling verses you have read or memorized and mulling them over in your mind. Meditation is often misunderstood as some difficult, mysterious ritual practiced 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 already 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.

The reason God considered Job and David his close friends was that they valued his Word above everything else, and they thought about it continually throughout the day. Job admitted, "I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.' 2 David said, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." "They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about them. " Friends share secrets, and God will share his secrets with you if you develop the habit of thinking about his Word throughout the day. God told Abraham his secrets, and he did the same with Daniel, Paul, the disciples, and other friends. When you read your Bible or hear a sermon or listen to a tape, don't just forget it and walk away. Develop the practice of reviewing the truth in your mind, thinking about it over and over. The more time you spend reviewing what God has said, the more you will understand the "secrets" of this life that most people miss. The Bible says, "Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him. With them alone he shares the secrets of his promises." (Psalm 25:14) In the next chapter we will see four more secrets of cultivating a friendship with God, but don't wait until tomorrow. Start today by practicing constant conversation with God and continual meditation on his Word. Prayer lets you speak to God; meditation lets God speak to you. Both are essential to becoming a friend of God.