“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. “– John 15:14-17
The Initiation of Friendship
Our walk with Christ is not a relationship of servant to master as many would suggest but rather of a friend to friend. We know what Christ is about in our relationship with Him through the communication of His word. The age age-old Proverb of Proverbs 18:24 really reveals a great truth about Christ towards us if you are to look at the language utilized in the passage. “He that has friends must shew himself friendly and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”, great wisdom for life there but in a closer study you can find something truly daunting as it could read “A man that has friends (spoils, breaks, or ruins himself or makes himself nothing) and there is a friend that cleaves more affectionately and intimately than a blood relation”. When you consider Christ’s words to his disciples here in John 15 and consider what was to come just 4 chapters later in His crucifixion, you truly are gripped by the reality of Christ’s initiation of friendship. Is there a person in your life that has gone so far? Have we in any regard gone so far in our relationship with others? I am wrought in pain considering the implications of these passages as I realize just how short I fall in friendship. Fruit only manifests itself when it is decimated and disseminated as a seed. Friendship is not initiated by the sharing of the sweetness of life, it is rather initiated by the planting of the seed of our own death. The friends that have remained in my life were not ones who shared good times with me, although all have, it is those who have been there at my worst, received my worst, and deepened in the most trying of times. And on the other side, those that would call me a friend are not those that reciprocated my initiations but are those that were made rich by my sacrifice and denial of my own life preferring theirs. Friendship’s initiation is Biblically not a give-take. Friendship starts as a grotesque, naked, and shamed man upon a cross that later manifests as a resurrected and glorified ascending Savior.
The Fruits of Friendship
“I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain”. When we understand the ground that friendship is grown in, we very quickly can begin to grasp the implications of the benefits of such friendship. In the dissolution of Christ’s mortal body upon the cross we also see the fabric of our own lives come to an end: “Rom 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”. As the scripture writes we have access to the benefits of friendship through the power of resurrection. We can never truly gauge if something was truly alive until it has died. In losing a couple of dear friends this Summer I am reminded that they lived. And their lives eternally changed my own life. How much more has Christ done this? “I have chosen you and ordained you”, puts the principle of fruitful friendship into a beautiful frame of love. Fruitful friendship is willful, persistent, and painfully deliberate. Each fruitful friendship in our life is hand-picked by both us and by God. It is separated unto us and is made something of great value in the beautiful cooperation of creation with its Creator. Friendship is a fulfillment of our unique design for community, and it is where some of the greatest accomplishments of humanity have started. The delineating factor though in these great accomplishments and the work of God in friendship is whether the fruit remains.
The Fruit that Remains: The Church
“16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another. “Here is where missions become so vitally important to the Christian and such a persisting irritation to the world. My favorite author, GK Chesterton says it so well that I must quote him from his publication The Everlasting man:
“the whole world being divided about whether the stream was going slower or faster, became conscious of something vague but vast that was going against the stream. Both in fact and figure there is something deeply disturbing about this, and that for an essential reason. A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it…It was this other force that was unquestionably and unaccountably alive; the mysterious and unmeasured energy that was thrusting back the river…The world is still puzzled by that movement; but most of all because it still moves…The faith has not only often died but it has often died of old age…Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a god who knew the way out of the grave.”
The fruit that remains of Christ’s Friendship is indeed His church and it is His church that generation after generation repeats the conundrum of the cross. The church is a dying miracle of life. It is a testimony of who God is and it is the pillar and ground of truth that continues to minister to others’ hearts. When we try to assess the health of a dying thing, it is often within that we look, but it is without that the true health of Christ’s church resides. Its heartbeat resides in heaven and its life manifests itself through once-dead souls. When we go to assess the work of ministry we cannot look within our walls, our programs, or even our concepts or methods, we must look at the fruit that remains, the souls that have been put through our care, the lives that they now or proceed to live in Christ.
The Church is not manifest through a steeple but through the hands and works of changed people. The healthiest churches may very well be empty tombs of what was, as it was a place where lost souls found salvation, were sanctified and consecrated in ministry, and dispersed in Biblical appropriation toward fruitful multiplication of friends, family, churches, and nations transformed by the power of Christ’s resurrection. Make no mistake, our retention of people or friendships is not near as important as our attention to God’s call to die and grow those same people beyond us in a legacy of undying Faith in the One who was and is Faithful!
“Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”-Hebrews 13:13-16
Our Vision and Prayer according to The Great Commission:
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore(Reach), and teach(Teach) all nations, baptizing(Immerse Them in Christ’s Truth) them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all(Challenge their capacity) things whatsoever I have commanded you:(Engage their faith in Biblical Responsibility) and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (See Them faithfully kept by God’s Grace). Amen.”Matt 28:18-20
Please pray as we believe God to:
- Reach: Evangelism to the Lost
- Teach: Biblical Study and Training in the Word of God
- Immerse others in Christ’s Truth: Fitting into the fellowship of the Church, discovering their Identity in Christ, and Observing the Ordinances
- Challenge their capacity: Biblical Discipleship and Biblical Accountability
- Engage their faith in Biblical Responsibility through His Ability: Opportunity and Leadership Development in the Church
- See Them faithfully kept by His Grace: Faithful Feeding and Fruitfulness in their Lives