This morning, we’re continuing our message series, “Hearing God.” So far, we were challenged on the foundational issue of hearing God’s voice; identity. Hearing God’s voice has far more to do with who we are than what we do. Last week, we learned a practical way to test, “Is that you, God?” If it is God’s voice, it will agree with the Bible, agree with God’s character, and produce the fruits of the Spirit.
Each week, we’ll start with this reminder that Jesus gave us found in John chapter 10. Please repeat after me:
Jesus is the Good Shepherd
I am His sheep
I hear His voice
I won’t recognize a stranger’s voice
Now you may begin to think that I’ve been lying the past few weeks when I’ve announced that we’ll be starting into the practical side of hearing God’s voice. However:
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
I planned to go into such things, but God’s purpose was for us to linger on this issue of identity just a little bit longer. Two weeks ago we learned how to determine whether we are a sheep or a goat in the eyes of Jesus. After all, if we are His sheep, we hear his voice, and we won’t listen to the voice of a stranger.
This week, Jesus is calling out another absolutely critical identity change that needs to take place for us to more clearly perceive and hear His voice. We must make a transition in our relationship with God from master/servant to friend.
Most of us don’t think about ourselves this way, but what is it that we are desperate to hear from God most? I mean honestly take a second and think about what it is that you want to hear from God about the most.
If our answer is to know what God wants us to do, that is evidence that we might still have this view and relationship with God.
For too many Christians, God is a lawgiver who hands down to us a huge list of “do-nots” and then waits eagerly to punish us as soon as we fall out of line with His standards. This view of God is a fairly concise description of a master/servant relationship with God.
I don’t want anyone to hear this wrong. Desiring to know God’s will and to be obedient to do it is a good, good desire of ours. There is nothing wrong with this in itself. The minor difference, yet radically life-changing difference, is the motive behind this desire to obey.
My boss tells me to clean up a mess and I do it because I owe it to him. He pays me and so it is my duty to obey his commands. I don’t know why it is so important to him that this mess be cleaned up, only that I had better get it done right away. After giving his command, he’ll retreat into his office to leave me to do my duties. I do it because I fear for losing my job or a chance at a pay increase or promotion in the future. I work begrudgingly and out of obligation. I fear punishment.
My friend asks me to clean up a mess and I do it because I care about them. They share their life with me and so I want to help them when I can. I understand what is happening in my friend’s life that makes this mess such a priority to get cleaned up. My friend rolls up their sleeves and works alongside of me to get the task done. I do it out of my love for my friend. I work joyfully. I love and fear nothing.
In both cases, I’m cleaning the same mess. In both cases, I’m doing exactly the same thing. However, my motive for doing it and my attitude in doing it is as different as night is from day. With this in mind, we now can begin to better understand what Jesus means when He says:
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 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. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Jesus could not have made it any clearer that it is His desire that we transition our relationship from servant to friend. In fact, to more clearly perceive and hear God’s voice, we absolutely must transition our relationship with God from that of a master/servant to being friends. Our desire to obey the commands of Jesus should not be out of duty and fear of punishment, but rather because we love our best friend and actually desire to be a part of their lives and work cooperatively with Him.
Think about it for a moment. Jesus chose the church to be His body, His physical presence here on the earth. Jesus intentionally chose to share His life with us so that through cooperation, His Kingdom can come and His will be done here on the earth as it is in Heaven. What an awesome privilege, as His friend, to be a part of fulfilling His dreams and vision! We get to be the ones that God works with to bring salvation, healing, deliverance, encouragement, and His love in all of its various forms to all His creation!
Jesus isn’t interested in just bossing us around and telling us what to do. He 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.” Jesus wants to reveal to us far more than just what to do, but also why we’re doing it, how we’re doing it, and what results will happen from doing it.
He desires for us to go deeper together; to share His heart, dreams, and vision with us so that we can use our own creativity and uniqueness to make them a reality. In our relationship, God gets to be God and we get to be ourselves; true and complete freedom! He says, “feed the poor.” We get to dream creatively with Him in how to make that happen.
Jesus cares about far more than simply what gets done and what doesn’t get done. He wants to share with us what He sees in us. He wants to somehow show us just how great His love is for us. He wants to reveal deep mysteries to us; to show us His Kingdom. He’s excited to share with us what He is doing and even what He sees in others. He always has more that He wants to tell us, more that He wants to show us; things far more valuable and meaningful than simple commands for us to obey! Jesus wants to be such a close friend that we become one.
Before Jesus was crucified, He prayed for you. Did you realize that? Jesus literally is recorded praying for you and me. What did He pray? Did He pray that we would faithfully obey every command that He gives us so that, through our perfection only, the world would know who He is? NO! Did He pray that we would be good servants who obey their master. No!
20 “My prayer is not for them alone (His current disciples at that time). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Jesus’ concern and prayer was that we would be one with Him and with each other and that the world would recognize this by His love. His prayerful desire wasn’t that we would be servants, but that we would be friends.
We heard a message just recently about the importance of healthy friendships. It might be a good idea to read or listen through that once again through the eyes of our friendship with God. He is the perfect friend, but what kind of friends have we been to Him?
Do we ignore His calls and texts? (prayer and Bible study)
Do we invite Him to go with us wherever we go?
Are we honest with Him or a bit fake with Him?
Do we still feel the same way toward Him whenever He says, “No”?
If He asks to take something from us, do we hesitate?
When He shares a need with us, are we quick to do what we can to help?
This idea of friendship with God isn’t a new concept. In fact, in the beginning, God was friends with Adam and Eve. Abraham was called a friend of God. Moses spoke face-to-face with God as a friend. Joshua continued in friendship with God long after Moses would leave the tent of meeting.
Being a servant of God is good, and it is where we all start. In fact, we will be His servants all of our days if we remain in Him. However, Jesus longs to take our relationship to the next level beyond mere servants to friends. Yes, we still faithfully obey and we are still blessed for it. In fact, I would say that we are more blessed for it! Friends serve friends out of love and relationship, servants serve masters out of fear of punishment. Which is more of a blessing to have in our lives; a servant or a friend?
There is another instance recorded in the gospels where Jesus clearly defines His preference in whether we serve Him or befriend Him.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Again, it isn’t wrong to be busy about the Lord’s work serving Him. However, Jesus clearly said that it is better to simply be with Him, to be a friend of His, than to be busy serving Him. In fact, Jesus went so far as to say that only one thing is needed, to spend that intimate time with Him, not doing things for Him.
This reality is difficult for “doers” in the church like me who “Amen” Martha’s plea to Jesus, “Don’t you care that I’m doing the work by myself and my brothers and sisters don’t even help?” Jesus acknowledges that serving Him is important, but He pointed out that Mary had chosen what is better; to simply be with Jesus as His friend. These two sisters and their brother, Lazarus, were dearly loved by Jesus as found in John chapter 11. In fact, this love that they had for one another is the key in this friendship with God.
If we want to have confidence on the day of judgment, it will not be our obedient works done out of duty in which we can rely on, it is our love. It is not what we do out of fear of punishment, it is what we do out of our love for Jesus which we can stand firm on. Not being a servant, but being a friend.
1 John 4:17-18
17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
This morning, Jesus wants to drive out the fear of punishment from our lives. He wants to make us perfect in His love. He wants to be friends with us and to live together with us as one.