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1770. From Slaves to Friends Through Abiding in Christ

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
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May 10, 2024 5:00 pm

1770. From Slaves to Friends Through Abiding in Christ

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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May 10, 2024 5:00 pm

Dr. Greg Stiekes concludes a Seminary Chapel series studying John 15 entitled “Abiding in Christ” with a message from verses 14-15.

The post 1770. From Slaves to Friends Through Abiding in Christ appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. We're concluding a study series from Seminary Chapel called Abiding in Christ. Today's speaker is seminary professor Dr. Greg Stikes. The text that I've been asked to preach is John 15, 14 through 15, but I'd like to get a little bit of a running start and look at verses 12 through 15 as we begin here. Chapter 15, verses 12 through 15, Jesus says to his disciples, this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

You are my friends if you 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. As we've reflected on this passage in John 15 throughout our chapel series this semester, we've seen that Jesus is having a very close conversation with 11 men who have eaten with him and lived with him and followed with him and ministered with him. In chapter 14, Jesus tells them he's going away and they're confused and frightened. But in this chapter, Jesus explains how they can remain a part of him even though he is not with them in the same way. Using the analogy of the vine and the branch, Jesus explains how they can abide in him and he in them so that the life of fellowship and the life of love from Jesus will flow through them and remain with them. And in these verses that we're coming to this morning, Jesus comforts these men by telling them something profound.

He tells them that he is going to fundamentally change the quality of the relationship that he shares with them. Henceforth he says, I call you no longer servants, but I have called you friends. Now I don't know what passes through your mind when you hear the word friend. When I hear the word friend, it does not strike in me this heavy sense of depth and meaning. I mean, if Jesus were to say, I'm calling you brothers and sisters like he does in Matthew 12 and Mark 3, that would sound significant. Or if Jesus were to speak in terms of his people as his bride, like he does in the parable of the 10 virgins, that indicates something a little more intimate. But the word friend in my American ears seems sort of commonplace.

In fact, it's a word that we can often trivialize and we have trivialized it, especially recently through social media. I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but those 500 friends on your Facebook account, most of them are not really your close friends. They're not friends in a deep sense of the word that Jesus is talking about here. In fact, the technology that we use to build these kinds of relationships sometimes keeps us from forming meaningful relationships. Sherry Turkle teaches social psychology at MIT and she's written a few books on the subject of how devices are changing the way we view relationships.

This one is called Alone Together, why we expect more from our technology and less from each other. Turkle says, we're getting very good at being alone together. We come together as friends or for formal or informal conversation and we remain tied to our devices.

As preachers and teachers, many of you will be, you need to keep in mind that in these days when you're speaking to an audience, they're usually fact checking you as you're speaking if they're tuned in. She says, we want to be together, but at the same time, we want to be somewhere else. So we go in and out. We mean autonomy over where we want to be and who we want to be with. She says, we hide from one another. And we get what she means. I mean, technology makes communication convenient, but it also puts distance between us.

It separates us. It used to be that if you wanted to have a difficult conversation with someone, you were tempted not to have a face to face conversation. You would just write them a letter or a note or you would pick up the phone and call. Anything to put psychological distance between yourself and the other person, sort of holding the conversation at arm's length because you're more vulnerable in person. You can make mistakes in the conversation and have to go back. You can emote. Your body language can give yourself away. But with the invention of email and then texting and Instagram, whatever my kids are using nowadays, I've lost track, the distance between ourselves has become normalized.

All of our correspondence can be written and you never have to see anyone. I mean, we're upstairs as faculty in the offices sending emails to each other, but we're only a few walls away. In fact, full disclosure, I've actually texted my children while I'm sitting in the house and they're in the house also because I don't want to raise my voice or get off the couch. So I use my iPhone like a walkie talkie, like, hey, could somebody come down here and pour me a cup of coffee?

So there's convenience there. But it's changing the way we relate to one another because we're keeping one another at a distance. And when it comes to texting, Turkle says, we're connecting in little sips rather than drinking in an actual conversation. And this may work for little bits of information, but it doesn't really work for knowing one another. Sherry Turkle says, we sacrifice meaningful conversation for mere connection. And this allows us to create an image of ourselves that we want the other person to know so they never have to really know the real us. But that does nothing to build lasting and meaningful relationships. To build quality friendships, you need vulnerability. And the knowledge of one another comes from face to face interaction, from actually spending time together. Turkle says, this phenomenon has changed the way we relate to one another. She says, we can't get enough of each other as long as we have each other at a distance in amounts that we can control. She says, we have created the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Now, why do I bring all of this up? Because I'm on a personal vendetta against social media, and so I'm stealing the chapel platform to get on my soapbox.

No. Now, my mother-in-law is against social media. We all got together for Easter dinner a couple Sundays ago, right? And of course, my brother-in-law and all the aunts and uncles are there, and my children and their cousins. And she puts a basket on the table, and she orders everybody's iPhone in the basket when they come through the door. And nobody's allowed to have it. You're always a kid when you go back to your parents' house, by the way. You never stop being that. And I had to hide my iPhone in my pocket and pretend I left it in the car.

And it was really annoying because I had to pretend to go to the bathroom in order to check my email. But really, the reason I raise the issue of social media is this. If Jesus is going to define our new relationship with him in terms of friendship, how are we going to understand him when we no longer really connect with one another in the way he's talking about? When Jesus says, you are my friends, he means more than a promise to like us on Facebook. And if we can understand the implications of the relationship that Jesus is talking about, then it opens for us the idea of a wonderful relationship with the Lord of glory that really we can scarcely believe possible when we really understand it. In this text, we see two wonderful aspects of a friendship with Jesus Christ. We see the quality of this friendship, and that's, I think, the focus of verse 14. And we see the privilege of this friendship in verse 15. Jesus says in verse 14, you are my friends.

What does being friends with Jesus look like? Well, it helps us to remember that the word friends here is from the Greek verb phileo, which means to love. A friend is someone you loved.

How much do you love a friend? Well, look at verse 13 and notice the level of love that Jesus has in mind. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man laid down his life for his friends.

Now hold on a minute. Jesus isn't saying that laying down for your life, your life for your friends is the most extreme expression of love. The most extreme expression of love would be laying down your life for your enemies. In fact, that's exactly what Paul says in Romans chapter five, that God demonstrates his love for us supremely in the fact that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. In Romans 5, 10, he died to reconcile us to himself while we were his enemies. But what Jesus is saying here is that there is no greater expression of love for a friend, the kind of friendship he's talking about, than to lay one's life down for that friend.

And that's exactly what Jesus is about to do. And after Jesus makes this observation about loving a friend so much you're willing to die for that friend, he looks at them and he says, you are my friends. In the Roman world, the term friend was an expression of loyalty and intimacy and sharing that set your friends apart from everyone else. Before you were friends with this person, there was only surface conversation. There was only partial knowledge of who you really are, what you think, what you've done, what you dream about, what you've seen, what your hopes are.

But when you became friends, the kind of friend that Jesus is talking about, you divulged everything about yourself. You shared your deepest feelings, your deepest longings with your friend because you trusted that friend with your life. You enjoyed being in their company.

You felt at home with them. You felt at peace because there was no judgment, no rancor, no competition, nothing but pure love. Today, it is often said, I've heard that in a council that husbands and wives should at least share this kind of relationship and that's great advice. But in the Roman world, even marriage was not necessarily thought of in those terms.

There may still have been some level of distance maintained between a husband and a wife, but a true friend knew everything about you and would die for you. Do you realize this morning that this is the relationship that Jesus desires to share with every one of us who know him? Do you realize that this is where abiding in Christ that we've been talking about throughout the semester, this is where it takes us? We have to notice, however, that Jesus qualifies this friendship further and he does it in a way that we do not normally expect of friends. I've only read a truncated version of verse 14. The whole verse reads, you are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.

Now, doesn't that sound a little odd? Do you ever say to somebody, I'll be your best friend, but you have to do everything I tell you to do. What does Jesus mean by this? Well, to understand what Jesus is saying when he says that his friends do what he commands, I think we have to take a peek at verse 15. In verse 15, Jesus makes a contrast between being his friend and being his slave. Look at verse 15, henceforth I call you not servants, that's slaves, doulois. And before we go any further, we need to make sure we understand that the word slave is not a dirty word necessarily in that time period. Almost half the population of the first century were slaves, they were doulois. The word slave merely meant that your time and skills were owned by someone else, whether you did grunt labor or farm labor or if you had more of what we call a professional skill today like a doctor or a scribe.

Slavery was their economy. When Paul addresses the Greco-Roman household in Ephesians and Colossians, he addresses three pairs of relationships, husbands to wife, children to parents, and slaves to slave owners. And he doesn't say slave owners free all your slaves, he says be kind to them because that's the economy that they're functioning in. In fact, for many people slavery was their best option for survival and slaves were known to love their families and swear allegiance to them for life. But a slave was not a friend and Jesus is clearly elevating the status of his relationship with his disciples by saying no longer do I call you slaves, I have called you friends. Some commentators say that Jesus never really calls his disciples slaves to begin with. Well, he may not have called his disciples slaves directly, but he certainly implies it many times. For example, Jesus uses many parables in which those who follow him are slaves, like the parable that ends Matthew chapter 24 where the king who put his slaves in charge of his household and they're waiting for his coming. And Jesus implies that his followers are slaves in many of his sayings. A disciple is not above his teacher nor a slave above his master. But one of the clearest examples of Jesus's insinuation that his followers are slaves takes place in the context of this very same conversation we're reading about in John 15. Earlier in the evening, so we go back to John 13, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.

He styles himself like a slave. He takes off his outer garment. He puts a towel around him. He bends down. He begins to wash the disciples feet.

And remember what happens. Jesus finishes and he puts his outer garment back on and he says, now, do you know what I've done unto you? You call me teacher and Lord, master, and you're right because I am. And if I am your Lord and I can wash your feet, surely you can wash one another's feet.

Why? Because he continues, the slave is not greater than his master. The slave is not greater than his master. Is he really insinuating that they are slaves?

I think he is. Look at John 15, the chapter you're already in and look all the way down to verse 20. Look at what Jesus says. Remember the word that I said unto you, a servant is not greater than his master. He's talking about what he said back in chapter 13.

If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you. You see what he's saying here? He's drawing the same parallel.

He's still saying it. And notice if Jesus is insinuating that they are slaves, he is still calling them slaves even after he says he's not going to call them slaves anymore. And what is more, all of the followers of Christ who write the New Testament epistles, do you know this? They all refer to themselves as slaves of Christ.

Paul, James, Jude, Peter, and John, John in the only writing where he clearly identifies himself as the author, he calls himself a slave of Christ and John and Peter themselves, they're in on this conversation in John 15. They hear Jesus say, I'm not going to call you slaves anymore. And they still call themselves slaves of Christ.

What is going on here? I think the answer lies in this. Jesus isn't saying they are no longer his slaves or his servants. I mean, he is still the Lord. We're still his creation. What Jesus means is that we are no longer merely slaves. We are slaves who are also close friends. And this explains why Jesus says we are his friends if we do what he commands us. He's not saying I'll be your friend as long as you don't disobey me.

Rather he's saying the way you identify yourself as my friend is through your obedience. We do not take Jesus as our friend and then decide to respect and honor and obey him. We come to him as a slave before a great king and Jesus raises us up and makes us his friend as well. In fact, in a different context, Paul even says that he raises us up together and makes us sit together with him in heavenly places. You see, Jesus teaches, especially in John's Gospel, that there is a strong connection between love and commandments. He says in John 14, 15, if you love me, keep my commandments. John 15, 10, if you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love. John 15, 14, you are my friends, the one I love, if you do whatever I command you. If we truly love Jesus, we know that he wants us to do things and say things and think things in a certain way, a way that pleases the father. And if we're really his friends, why do we not yearn to obey him? This connection of obeying him and loving him go hand in hand. You cannot abide in the vine as a friend unless you are obeying the vine as a Lord.

Andrew Murray, in the little book that we were given so graciously at the beginning of the semester, it's a wonderful little book, I hope you've had time to read some of it. He says the one proof of our faith in his love, the one way to abide in it, the one mark of being two branches is to do the things that he commands us. Being a friend of Jesus is a unique and precious relationship of love and obedience, service and compassion. He is our Lord, but he is also our closest friend. And what does being Jesus' closest friend implies?

It implies a special privilege. And so the privilege of friendship with Christ. Henceforth, verse 15, 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. I want you to notice that the privilege of friendship with Jesus that he speaks of twice in this verse in two different ways. He's framing this privilege in terms of knowledge and we could take time to dissect this.

We're not going to this morning. I want you to notice overall that he's framing this privilege in terms of knowledge. The slave doesn't know what his master is doing.

I mean a slave can serve faithfully and be hard working and be a vital part of the household or the kingdom or the business. We get that way sometimes in church ministry. We have others that we fellowship in our churches that are that way. You look at them and they seem like the perfect Christian.

They're always there. They're always modeling service. They're serving really faithfully.

They work really hard. But a friend and cultivating that relationship with Christ as a friend is something more. A slave is not taken into confidence in the planning meetings. He doesn't have to understand the overall direction. He has a job to do. He has a part in the ultimate plan of the master.

But he doesn't have to see the big picture. A friend on the other hand has intimate knowledge of the plan. All that I have heard from my father I have made known to you. Jesus on the one hand I think is anticipating something he's going to tell them in chapter 16 that he'll send his Holy Spirit who will guide them into all truth. I think there's a special application there for the disciples and maybe a general application there for us as well.

But there is an application of this friendship here for all of Jesus' disciples including you and me. And it's this, we're not merely cogs in the machine. You know what a cog is, right? I hear a cog in the wheel as if it's a bad thing always.

I think we've got an illusion mixed up somewhere in our English language. But a cog is supposed to be a good thing. A cog is a gear. It's like one of those wheels that has the point sticking out and it transfers energy from this cog to that cog and some machines have a lot of cogs, a lot of little parts. Nobody really pays attention to them until one breaks down and the whole machine stops because of one cog. But most of the time cogs never get noticed.

They're given little thought. They're just one of little, many little parts in a big machine. The importance is given to the machine and to its function and to its usefulness. But the Lord brings us into the plan. He tells us what he is doing. It's like in the Old Testament where it says that Abraham was the friend of God and in Genesis 18 God says, I will not hide from Abraham what I am about to do. Paul says in Ephesians 1 that Jesus is guiding the universe in such a way as to bring the whole plan to completion, to bring all of the broken and shattered parts of the universe into a unified whole. And then Paul says in Ephesians 2 that you and I, his servants are part of this plan. He saves us.

In Ephesians 2, 10 says that we are his workmanship, we are created for good works. He knows us. He chose us.

He called us. We belong to him. And the fact that you and I know this means that we have been brought into the plan.

I know what the future is. The Lord is not hiding anything from me because he's revealing everything that the Father has given to him to reveal. We can know his plan for the world and we can know his plan for our life. Psalm 25, 14 in the ESV says the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him.

You've got love and command there again. And he makes known to them his covenant. One translation says that the Lord, those who are with the Lord, he confides in them, he says in Psalm 25, 14. Now compare that to others in the world who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ.

You know many of them, hopefully. Think about their worldview. What do they think about the world they live in? Where do they think we came from?

Where do they think we are going? What do they think is happening in the afterlife, if they believe in an afterlife? Don't we often say, wow, I am so glad I know the Lord as I'm going through this trial. I don't know how anybody who doesn't know Christ can go through a trial like this and survive it. Do we realize that being assured of the love of God and the presence of God and the knowledge of God, I don't know how it is for you, but it's very comforting to me to know that God knows. He knows what's going on in me and he cares. He cares deeply.

Do you realize that this is a privileged relationship? Do you know why you have this knowledge? Because Jesus is our friend. He has given us his word.

We're living by his promises. Others can read this Bible and see these words, but only those who know the Savior as friends really embrace and live by these promises because we have the witness. We alone have the witness of the Spirit who has been poured out upon Jesus' friends. So this morning, we must realize the special relationship that Jesus has raised us to. And realizing this relationship, it should strike us that we must spend time abiding in him with this friend if we're going to know the fellowship of this friend, if he's going to communicate his word to us that the Father wants us to know. That is why I think every time there's been a chapel sermon on John 15 this semester, and I guess we should have anticipated this, there's been an urgency of we have to abide.

None of this happens by itself. We have to abide in the vine and we must be loyal to our friend with obedience because he is also our king. Our technology is squeezing out of us a capacity for real intimacy with people. But if our spiritual walk with Christ is going to survive this culture, we have to, in some senses, rebel against the culture. We have to discipline ourselves to unplug, to put down, to literally isolate ourselves with God, with our Lord, with our friend every day. You cannot build a quality friendship with a person through little blips of information on an iPhone, nor can you build a quality relationship with Christ with little snatches and bits of communication either.

That's not what abiding looks like. So I think this passage is a wonderful passage because it encourages us to understand the quality of our relationship with Christ. He's our friend. And it encourages us to understand the privilege of that relationship and encourages us to commit ourselves to truly walking with the Lord, our friend, focusing upon him and developing a deeper relationship with him as our Lord and as our closest friend. Father, we're so thankful for the words of Jesus Christ in this passage. And Father, it's one thing to take apart and to exegete and even proclaim, to reflect, to understand, but Father, obedience is a whole different issue. And I pray for us as faculty and for us as students, Father, I pray that in this area, what James says in his first chapter would be so true of us that we would not be merely hearers of the word, but that we be doers of the word.

Whatever that means for us, whatever has to change in our lives to make that happen, I pray that it would be so. Father, you said to your disciples earlier in this text, you are clean through the word which I've spoken unto you. And I pray that these words would be spoken to us in a fresh way as we continue to reflect upon them, endeavoring to abide in our Lord as our friend, even as you've taught us in this passage. You've been listening to a message preached in Seminary Chapel by Dr. Greg Stikes. And this concludes this short series from John 15. Join us again next week for more chapel messages from the Bob Jones University Chapel Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-10 19:06:09 / 2024-05-10 19:16:43 / 11

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