Guidelines For Leaders: Are You Really God’s Friend?

randy-2tim4-3-4Are you God’s friend? Jesus said to his disciples…

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” [John 15:13-15 (NKJV)]

The Lord made it clear only repentant disciples that obeyed His commands were His friends. Others were his enemies! “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” [Romans 5:10 (NKJV)]

Do we dare make God’s enemies our friends?You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.” [James 4:4 (NLT)] Is that betrayal?

So to deal with those questions let me first examine how Jesus treated His enemies. First, He showered them with mercy and at the same time, loved them by boldly confronting them. He privately spoke to all people who asked about the truth of salvation. He busied Himself with reaching out to those that were sick, rejected, struggling, hurting, and sinful. His public ministry was visible to all, but he privately went off with his friends and taught them the secrets of the kingdom of God.

Matthew 13:10-11 (NLT)
10  His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”
11  He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not.

He continued preaching repentance to the crowds until they hardened their hearts to that message. Then most of those curious seekers turned into antagonists. Whether they watched or fought against Jesus they were still his enemies. “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” [Matthew 12:30 (NLT)]

Sure, they still came around to watch Him do miracles and teach the kingdom stories, but found fault, and began judging and fighting against the Lord. Are you afraid of this happening in your church and ministry?

You must recognize that the Bible always makes a clear distinction between the disciples and the people who were the crowd. For example the Sermon on the Mount is clearly for his disciples, not the crowd. “One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.” [Matt 5:1-2 (NLT)]

This was outdoors in the open air and crowds would always come to listen, but not follow Jesus.

But when he preached to the crowd it was different. Look closely at these words, “And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, ‘This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.’” [Luke 11:29 (NKJV)]

He confronted them repeatedly. “The Pharisee noticed and was astonished [to see] that Jesus did not first wash before dinner. But the Lord said to him, Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside you yourselves are full of greed and robbery and extortion and malice and wickedness.” [Luke 11:38-39 (AMP)]

They would not repent and become his disciples, but still kept gathering around Him. So did He stop confronting them about their sins with the truth?

From the beginning of His ministry He preached to the lost crowds of Israel.“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matt 4:17 (NKJV)] He led His friends to join Him and also publicly confront and preach to the crowds, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” [Mark 1:38 (NKJV)]

He continually moved across the country to call all Israel to repentance. “Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.” [Matt 11:1 (NKJV)]

He did not become best friends with the community and hope someday by just being nice and quiet about their sins that they might accidentally evolve into Christians.

Are we supposed to obey the Lord and follow His example? On December 4, 1873, The Independent published an article by Revivalist Charles Finney titled “The Decay of Conscience.” “Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.”

Today many pastors and saints think we love people into the kingdom without ever speaking the clear message of repentance because it may hurt people’s feelings, or we will be rejected and charged with judging.

We are told we must win the right to preach. But our silence leaves the wicked bold in their sins, and overcome by strongholds of satanic deception. After years of this experiment, our nation is deeper in sin instead of clamoring to join the church. Their future is hell and they don’t believe it.

Friendship evangelism is popular, and being friendly to the wicked is a must. But hoping after years and years of silent friendship that they will somehow be saved without the word of your testimony is disobedience to Christ. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Romans 10:14 (NKJV)]

Remember Jesus confronted the spiritual leaders, “…you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside you yourselves are full of greed and robbery and extortion and malice and wickedness. [Luke 11:38-39 (AMP)] He boldly confronted sinners!

Whether religious or average people he plainly pointed out their sin and told them to stop. “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” [John 8:11 (NLT)]

Christ loved them enough to speak the truth, and the truth is offensive to the wicked! But Jesus believes in preaching! The Bible believes in preaching! But today pastors seem to more and more disagree! 

The practice today is to put the wicked to work in our ministries, be soft on speaking of sin to not offend them, and hope we “nice them and nudge them” into the kingdom. Many proclaim this works for them in their churches, but Jesus did not do this!

“Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe me.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.)” 

“Then he said, ‘That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.’ At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.” [John 6:61-66 (NLT)]

Jesus intentionally offended the Pharisees with the truth! His disciples kept warning Him people were offended by His words. “His disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” [Matt 15:12-13 (NKJV)]

Yes the Lord knew His words were offensive and even reminded John the Baptist, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” [Matt 11:4-6 (NKJV)]

If you are silent you will not offend the unbelieving! But you will not be like Jesus. “And when He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’ So they were offended at Him.” [Matt 13:54-57 (NKJV)]

Yes people do not want to be preached to, and they did not like it when Jesus preached to them in Israel. And yet Christ ordered his disciples to preach, not become best friends with the lost and hope the truth might accidentally come to them. My friend, you must intentionally minister to them as a follower of Jesus. And yes some people will accuse you of hatred, judging, and being angry just because you dare show them their need of the Savior.

But Christ sent out preachers to confront the lost. “Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach.” [Mark 3:14 (NLT)] “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” [Matt 10:6-7 (NKJV)]

He kept ordering His disciples to boldly preach. “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.” [Matt 10:27 (NKJV)]

Preaching the truth will offend many, it did when Jesus preached. Confronting people is the way Jesus and His apostles showed love to the sons of disobedience. They believed preaching was their only hope for salvation, and obeyed this command, even when it looked like it had no immediate effect on the people.

After Christ Jesus preached for three years the Bible says hundreds believed, not thousands. But when Peter preached the sermon recorded in Acts 2, 3000 believed, and the church grew quickly for a time.

But as the disciples fanned out across the Roman Empire the success rate was not as dramatic. And still that did not change the methods of Paul and others outside of Israel in later years. He still confronted sinners publicly and exposed their sin, and called them to turn and follow Jesus. His confrontational preaching was the same as Christ taught His first disciples, who preached to crowds of strangers in Israel.

They did not waste years being best friends with the wicked of the Greek culture, but instead, quickly proclaimed the truth and trusted the Holy Spirit to work miracles. Then after preaching the gospel, Paul befriended those who responded to the Gospel message and decided to follow Jesus.

For example he preached in many cities, but crowds rejected the truth and drove him out of town. Public outrage followed Paul in many cities. For example, he was taken to Athens to wait for his friends to join him.

In Acts it is recorded, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,’ because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection…

He confronted the crowd of strangers and told them their idolatry was wrong. “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…”

Then he boldly called this pagan crowd, “’Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.’”

The result was not as productive as it was in Jerusalem.  “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, ‘We will hear you again on this matter.’ So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” [Acts 17:16-34 (NKJV)]

So here are the facts, Jesus did not join His enemies, His enemies repented and joined Him. The same for the apostles. Paul proclaimed the truth and some joined him and became his friends in the faith.

The scripture shows us and commands us to not join them, they are to join us! “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? [2 Cor 6:14-15 (NLT)]

So how did Jesus treat His enemies, the sons of the wicked one?

1/ First He clearly loved them. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” [John 3:16-18 (NKJV)]

2/ Next He showed them His love. In compassion He did miracles to heal them, fed them, and spoke clear warnings of their eternal judgment. For example, He instructs in how to love the poor and needy. “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” [Luke 14:12-14 (NKJV)]

3/ Jesus took his friends everywhere He went and practiced this principle. But all the time He invited the crowd to leave their sin and join His church. He called others of the crowd to also join His church that was already following Him. The disciples helped Him in the work and they worked as a team.

For example, when feeding 5000 men and families the scripture says, “And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.” [Matt 14:19 (NKJV)] Unlike modern churches today, he did not use his enemies as volunteers, whether seekers or observers. Instead only the disciples helped him love the lost.

Now the truth is, there was one disciple who was his enemy, but only Jesus knew this, the others were completely unaware. So does this mean Jesus wants us to use volunteers from the enemy camp to help reach the lost?

Well John tells us, “…Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, ‘That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.’ Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.” [John 12:4-6 (NLT)] In this capacity we would be short of church funds!

Maybe we should use our friendly lost enemies only as far as we can trust them. But Jesus did not even let them share food. And in Acts the church followed the same principle. “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.” [Acts 6:2-3 (NLT)]

Maybe we can outnumber the lost and have 2 lost and five saved volunteers for this ministry? No, not according to scripture, which is supposed to be our example and source of doctrine.

Well maybe some of the women who served Christ and the apostles were his nice enemies, who wanted to volunteer. Well Mark tells us clearly that this idea is also wrong! “Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.” [Mark 15:40-41 (NLT)]

So it sounds like even the ones who washed clothes, cooked meals, and financed the ministry were disciples. But maybe the “many other women” were sympathetic volunteers, not followers of Christ yet. But it does not say that, instead it says they went to Jerusalem with the group. In fact it does not even say they helped, but were women who followed Jesus from a distance.

Paul taught that all volunteers, called deacons [volunteer slaves] in the church, were given clear standards.  “Deacons must also be of good character. They must not be two-faced or addicted to alcohol. They must not use shameful ways to make money. They must have clear consciences about possessing the mystery of the Christian faith. First, a person must be evaluated. Then, if he has a good reputation, he may become a deacon.” [1 Tim 3:8-10 (GW)]

This tells us that all volunteers in the first century church were required to be Christians of good reputation. Today churches have watered down the use of deacons, or went to the opposite extreme and falsely elevated them to a few special leaders who lead instead of serve. But as Acts illustrated, even the volunteers who fed the widows had to be Christians.

So what do you do in your church? Do you read the scripture carefully and follow God’s instructions? Or do you make up your own way on organizing and using volunteers?

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” [John 3:19-21 (NKJV)]

Face it, many will reject the truth, so stop second guessing God by deciding on your own that you can modernize your church and disobey Christ’s instructions by creating your own way of ministry and evangelism.

The Lord says, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” Are you really HIS friend?