“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
IT is very easy to understand how Jesus Christ is our Friend. Did ever anyone deserve the name so well? Who can prove his friendship as Jesus proved it by laying down His life for those He calls His friends? But it is a mark of wonderful condescension on His part that He should call us His friends and it confers upon us the highest conceivable honor that such a Lord as He is, so infinitely superior to us, should condescend to enter into terms of friendship with us. My Friend, O Jesus, You are, for You have redeemed my soul from death and Hell–but that I should be Your friend–nothing butYour loving, condescending tenderness could ever have conceived of this! If you do put such a title as this upon me, teach me how I may act in conformity with it. Beloved, there is a mutual friendship between Christ and the Believer. Therecannot be friendship if it is all on one side. There is bounty, there is kindness and there may be some gratitude in return, but friendship is a reciprocal thing. In its fullest sense, it is between two, and the one heart must be as the other heart, or else there is no friendship. Now every Believer is a friend to Jesus, and Jesus is a Friend to him. They are friends because they have a mutual love for each other. The Believer does not love His Lord as much as Jesus loves him, for his heart is little compared with Jesus' heart. But when the Believer is in a right state, he loves Jesus with all his heart, soul and strength. He feels that there is none in the world that can have a place in his affections at all comparable with his Lord and Master. He can say–
“My Jesus I love You: I know You are mine,
For You, all the follies of sin I resign.”
And if Jesus loves us, we also love Him. Friendship has in it a mutual delight. Two friends value each other. Now the delight of Jesus is with the sons of men. In those whom He has redeemed with His blood, He sees the satisfaction for the travail of His soul. He says of His Church that her name is Hephzibah–“My delight is in her”–and on the other hand, the Believer’s delight is in Christ. “He is all my salvation and all my desire,” says the Believer. “He is the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.” None can be compared with Him. It is sweet to think of the saint looking on the Savior and the Savior looking on the saint–and the two, together, blending their love in mutual delight in each other. This love and this delight lead to mutual converse. Persons can hardly maintain friendship if they only see each other now and then. If there is no communion by letter or in any other way, I should think friendship could scarcely be maintained. But oh, Jesus reveals Himself to His people and His people tell out their hearts to Jesus! Do not suppose that because He is not here, for He is risen, that therefore we have no conversation with Him. Our prayers speak into His ears, our tears fall into His heart. When we are wounded, His wounds bleed afresh. He is the Head, and we the members and, however great the body, if you wound the body, the head feels it at once, so close is the communion. Yes, and we do converse with Him in meditation, in adoration, alone in our chambers. Though we have not seen Him with these eyes, which are, after all, poor things, we have seen Him with our soul’s eyes, which are brighter eyes by far! And as we have beheld Him, our soul has melted for joy in the glance of His beauty.
Now to make friendship, there will be not only mutual love, delight, and conversation, but friends must have harmony of thought. I will not say identity, for man and man must always be two, and Christ and His people, though one in some respects, are two existences. But though two notes, though different, may be in perfect harmony, so is it with the heart of Christ and the heart of His renewed child. What Jesus loves, we love. what Jesus hates, we hate. What Jesus seeks, we seek–what Jesus shuns, we shun. This is true friendship when there is but one heart in two bodies, and when one heart in the two produces with undivided strength one objective. Now Christ’s objective is His Father’s Glory. If you are Christ’s friends, that objective is yours, too. His objective is to seek and save the lost–if you love Him, you also seek to save the lost in your way. He loves truth, holiness, righteousness. He delights in that which puts an end to misery, to evil, to cruelty, to wrong-doing. Do you delight in the same? If so, unity of design, harmony of thought will very greatly make up the friendship between you and Jesus. Oh, and we are going to the same great end! Where He is, there our hearts are drawn. We are living here for the same purpose that brought Him here–and when our work is done, the same reward that gladdened Him, shall also gladden us–we also shall enter into the joy of our Lord! Some of you do not know much about this–I am talking strange things to some of you. Jesus–yes, you read of Him. Jesus–you hear of Him. It is proper to receive His name, but oh, you have never spoken with Him! You have never known Him to be real nor conceived of Him as such! I pray that you may be made spiritual, may be born-again. Until you are, you cannot be a friend of Christ. But when you are, and may it come now, this very hour, may you discover that He is a great Friend, and then, out of love to Him, may you become a friend of His!
Now we are not left in the dark as friends of Jesus as to the best way of showing our friendship. Two persons may be great friends and one may wish to serve the other, and say, “I hardly know what I can do to please my friend. I wish I knew his needs. I wish I knew his desires–I would strive to gratify them.” Now you have, tonight, given to you as lovers of Jesus–you have the guide as to how you can prove yourselves His friends. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” We have, then, in the text, the guide for friendship, and I will say this about it–it contains seven things. The first is–
- TRUE FRIENDS OF CHRIST, HIMSELF, DISTINCTLY ACKNOWLEDGE HIS TRUE POSITION TOWARDS THEMSELVES.
That position is contained in these words, “I command you.” We are friends of Jesus, but Jesus must still be first–“I command you.” The genuine friend of Christ does not command himself–he has taken Christ’s yoke upon him and is now Christ’s servant. He does not, now, follow his own whims in religion, nor does he think he is to be dictator to himself. In becoming Christ’s friend, he agrees to subordinate his mind and will to the supremacy of Christ Jesus the Lord. Now then, friend of Jesus, note this! You are not your own–from now on not your own master, neither are you your own guide. I am often afraid when I hear persons talk of the glorious excellence of liberty of conscience, that they make a mistake as to what liberty of conscience is. What is liberty of conscience? Is it liberty to believe anything I like–liberty to hold any Doctrine I please? No! It is such liberty with regard to the civil magistrate and with regard to my fellow man. Before my fellow man I have a right to believe what I will, and he may not call me to account–I am free there. But does such freedom exist before God? I think not! The friend of Jesus asks to have his conscience taught. He lays his judgment at the feet of the great Teacher and all the liberty that he wants for his conscience is to have it purified and cleansed, that it may be a fit guide for him to follow–otherwise a distorted, perverted, dark, polluted conscience may as readily lead a man to Hell as if he never had a conscience at all! It is not because I am conscientious that I am right. As I have often told you, a man may conscientiously drink arsenic or prussic acid and believe that it will do him good–but he would die for all that. Ah, and a man might conscientiously believe a lie, and he will reap the fruit of that lie! You are a friend of Jesus, to take your command from His lips and lay down at His feet, for He says, “I command you.”
But mark, though Christ has to command His friends, we are not to let anyone else command us. Oh, shun the slavery of all who take their religion from men, be they who they may, whether called priests or presbyters, or from human creeds or books! Read them, gather what you can from them all, but, “One is your Master, even Christ,” and all you are brethren. No Church may lord it over your minds, for the Church may err, but not so Christ. “Whatever I command you,” says He. He is Infallible–He will bid you do no ill! But a Church of fallible men is still fallible, and may slide aside, first a little, then more, then much, then monstrously–then utterly apostatize from the faith of God’s elect! Therefore your Guide, your Leader, is no one but Jesus! “Do whatever I command you.” There is too much among us of doing whatever our particular religion may command us. I charge you, Brothers and Sisters, do nothing of the sort!What are your councils? What are your assemblies? Nothing–less than nothing, I think! If they decree anything contrary to God’s will, they are mischief makers. Christ is the Head of the Church, and He has not vacated His high position in the midst of His Israel. Yield to Him! Go to the fountainhead, the statute book that shows His will, and get it there. You have enough there, though all contradict you. You have enough there, and all the councils of the fathers, and all the Church will be less than the small dust in the balance if you find not the law to be Christ’s! Whatever He says, the true friend of Jesus does–neither less nor more–for he knows that none can legislate in his realm but the King, Himself, and all that pretend to legislate do but err when they get away from the, “It is written,” of the grand old Word of God!
Remember, too, all friends of Christ’s, that this Doctrine of Christ’s supremacy stands good always. He is your Lordand He is to command you everywhere, not only in your religious thought, but at home, in the chamber, in the parlor, in the drawing room, outside, in the street, on the mart, on the Exchange, in your shop. His rule contained in His own life–His Golden Rule, “Do you to others as you would have them do to you”–His new commandment that you love one another–these are always binding! A soldier may have a furlough, but a Christian never does. You might plead that concerning such-and-such a law you were exempt before men–but to Christ you are never exempt, nor would you wish to be, for His service is freedom, and His Law, O friend of Christ, has now become your delight! Grasp, then, that first thought, “You are My friends if I command you”–if you recognize Him as being the Leader and the Commander unto you, His people. You must recognize Christ in that capacity–and Him only–or you are not His friends!
But note, again, the text has in it a word which I may paraphrase in this way–
II. WE ARE TO RECOGNIZES OUR OWN PERSONAL OBLIGATIONS.
You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. The mass of mankind who pretend to be religious, supposethis Bible to be written to all sorts of good people, but not particularly to themselves. And there are they who think that the commands of Christ are very proper to be read, and to be heard, and to be proclaimed–but they do not look upon them as being binding on themselves. Friend of Jesus, Jesus has a right to your service and to your obedience! What He bids, He bids you–if to no other, yet to you. Then the zeal of some good men does not exempt me. If my minister is very useful, that is not myself. I am Christ’s friend if I do whatever He commands me. Then the intense fervor of the Church does not permit me to recoil and say, “There is nothing for me to do.” No, I am His friend if I do what He commands me. If, on the other hand, I dwell among a slumbering Church, if I see all around me the signs of sloth, yet I am not to judge the Church and excuse myself, and say, “I do as much as others–perhaps a little more. I am not so hardhearted as Soand-So.” Oh, Sirs, what have you to do with your brethren, with your fellow servants? To your own Master you must stand or fall, as they must–and you are Christ’s friend if you do whatever He commands you! It does seem to be very difficult to get men to individualize themselves in the things of God. They do not count themselves rich because England is rich–they do not consider themselves to be getting rich because the bank interest rate is lower! They want to get the solid coins in their own grasp and to their own banking account! But when I come to religion, men talk of this denomination and that Church, and that other–anything but about themselves! But you, O friend of Christ, you must live before the Lord as though there were no other! “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” Now we will lay the force of our thought on another word. Observe here that–
III. THE TRUE FRIEND OF CHRIST OBSERVES CAREFULLY ALL THAT CHRIST SAYS.
It is not “You are My friends if you do some whatever . Are there public duties? Do they require courage? I must perform them. Are there private duties? Are they unseen of men? They are as much incumbent upon me–I must discharge them. Are there commands of precept by way of ordinance? I must keep them. Are there commands by way of morals? I must obey them, however hard or stern they may seem. Whatever Christ commands is the Law to His people. O England, England, when will theday come back when this Book which is said to be the only religion of Protestants shall be truly so? The Bible, and the Bible, only, is the religion of Protestants–so they say, but it is not so! There are many things practiced by so-called Protestants that are not here! Where are your holy baptisms? Where are your confirmations? Where are half the ceremonies, if not all, of the Church of England and many other bodies? They are inventions of man, and man only, having not so much as a shred or trace of foundation in God’s own Book! You have made another book–your bishops have made another book–and laid it on the top of God’s own book, and these are your Bible–not the Bible, and the Bible only, but the Book of Common Prayer! And with other denominations–dissenting denominations–there is too much of the same sort of thing. "What said John Calvin?” What care I what he said, or did not say? “What said John Wesley?” What care I what John Wesley said, or did not say? The Master–the MASTER–let us do whatever HE commands us! Thesewere His good servants, as I believe, both of them, John Wesley and John Calvin–and if they did better than I, which I know they did, therein will I rejoice and bless God, and wherein they followed the Master, I, with unequal footsteps, would seek to follow, too–but to say that I will do this because John this or John that taught it–shame on the Christian that dares to bow his head to such a yoke as that! Let every Christian contend for this–that he is to do whatever Christ commands! Does it kick over the conventionalities of the Church? Let them go over! Does it burn the tag rags you thought so much of–your venerable things that you laid up as holy relics? Burn every one of them! What right have they to stand in contradiction to the Law of Christ? No, whatever He commands–not more, not less–this is to be our religion and our Law, and to it let every Christian stand! Happy day shall it be for the Church and for the world when this is true! Once more, it is clear from one word, that–
IV. THE TEXT IS VERY PRACTICAL.
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you”–not “if you do some things.” Not, “if you talk about it,"for lip service is hypocrisy! Not, "if you tell others to do it”–there is a great deal of religion that is very much like charity, and you know what charity is! A sees B is very badly off and he writes a letter at once to C to help B. So is it with religion–A sees it a duty that such a thing should be done and tells B that he is very wrong not to do it. That is what is called religion. But as I understand religion, it is this–A sees B needing help and gives it to him! A sees a duty and does it, himself, and after he has done it, himself, then he may talk to B about it–but not till then! “You are My friends if you do it! He commands you to love your brother–you have been talking about that–well, do it! Don’t grumble and complain, and criticize any longer. You know He commands you to forgive any who offend you. Do not know it any longer, but go anddo it! Some of you believe that you ought to be baptized and make a profession of your faith. What is the good of thinking of it? Go and do it! Go and do it! It is in the keeping of His commandments that there is great reward! He does not do the will of God who says, "Well, I am turning it over, and one of these days I suppose I shall be moved to do it.” What do you need to move you but this–that you owe everything to Christ–and that Christ commands you? A soldier in the day of battle only needs the command, and on he marches–and a true friend of Jesus pays to Him as perfect an obedience as a soldier to his captain, or at least he desires to do it. A lift of Jesus' finger and away he goes! One look from Jesus' eyes shall cause him to stop, or make a rapid advance, just as the word may be!
- THIS COMMAND IS VERY SIMPLE.
I shall close by commending this text to you because it is so. You are My friends if you acknowledge Me your Master in everything–your own personal Master–and then do what I tell you. Now how plain is this? There is no mistake about it. It is obedience Christ asks for! “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” And what a blessing it is that this text gives us such a very simple thing to do! Suppose Jesus Christ were to say, “That man is My friend who will support a minister, who will build a place of worship, who will go out abroad for a missionary.” Oh, there are some of you who would weep and say, “I can do none of those things! I wish I could! It would be my greatest pleasure if I could.” My dear Friends, the poorest man, the poorest woman here who is a true friend of Christ can do this–you can do whatever He commands you! By the power of His blessed Spirit who has made you love Him, you can watch earnestly to be holy, to be loving as Jesus was. The notion with a great many is, “I need to show that I am Christ’s friend–now I must shut myself up and get away from everybody.” That is not what Christ says! He says, “Do whatever I command you”–not run away from the battle, but fight through and win it. “No, but,” says another, “what can I do to praise my Savior? I must speak about Him.” Yet, perhaps, that dear friend could not put three words together consecutively. Dear Brother, if God has not given you that gift, you need not cry that you have not got it! Go and do whatever He commands you–that will be better than sacrifice. I know some persons who are very attentive to sermons. I am glad they are. They wish to get out on weeknights, and I am glad they are. I wish all were able to. But many a mother will be serving God much better by keeping the house clean, and the garments mended, than by coming to hear a sermon! You must do whatever He commands you, and what He commands you as a wife, is to discharge a wife’s duty.
When I sometimes see a religious serving man, a great talker, who does not groom his employer’s horses well, and who, if he can get an excuse for leaving work, will, I think, “That man might do more good in minding his employer’s business than in running here and there to make a show of religion.” I believe plain, holy, godly living is more needed–a great deal more–than fine preaching! And if my preaching does not, by God’s Grace, produce in you a finer character than that, then I am preaching for nothing! I heard of a man the other day who could preach with his feet, and I know a great many who do. That is, preaching with living and daily walk and conversation. It is, after all, to be upright in business, to be affectionate in the family, to make those around you happy, to live Christ–that is, after all, true friendshipwith Christ! No big words of ready talkers, no polished periods, no gift of prayer will ever be so acceptable to the Lord Jesus Christ as the simple piety that graces the fireside, that adorns the private and the public life of the Believer. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” Practically to prove that Jesus Christ is your Lord is the highest service that you can, any of you, render to Him! May God help you to render it from this time forth with undeviating correctness! And with the help of His Spirit may you yet do it more and more. Let me conclude by observing that though this seems a very simple thing, yet after all–
VI. IT IS A MOST USEFUL AND NECESSARY THING.
It is not possible that a rebel should be a friend to Christ. If a man says of any Law of Christ, “I do not mean to keep that,” then, Sir, you have virtually said, “I do not mean to have Christ for my Lord,” and that means that you cannot have Him as your Savior. If you do not know a thing to be Christ’s, well, I believe you are still sinful, for you ought to know it. The laws of our country never excuse a person for breaking the law because he says he did not know the law. It is presumed that everybody ought to know it. And the Bible is not such a Book as they cannot understand if they try. Any person can find out Christ’s will if he likes. But suppose you know it is Christ’s will, and do not choose to do it–if you put your foot down and say, “I shall not do it,” then there is an end of all friendship! Obedience, then, is an essential of true friendship to Christ, for those who make a profession of friendship and don’t do what He commands are the worst enemies He has! No city that is besieged need fear so much the enemy outside, as treachery inside. If there is known to be treachery inside, then the stress of war becomes severe. So if inside the Church there are persons who deliberately say, “We are disciples of Christ, but we will not be obedient to His will,” there is sedition and treason inside the camp! And these are they of whom Paul said, “I have told you even weeping–that they are the enemies, the special enemies, of the Cross of Christ.” And let me say this keeping of the Law of Christ is, after all–
VII. THE BEST WAY OF SERVING HIM AS A MATTER OF USEFULNESS.
Sermons preached at home are the best sermons. Sermons at sick beds by holy women, sermons to drunk husbands by the patient godliness of the much-suffering wife, sermons by holy fathers and mothers in their loving anxiety for wayward sons and daughters, sermons by servants in the rectitude of their conduct to their employers, sermons by Christian tradesmen preached in their bills and in their trade by strict attention to everything upright–these are sermons that the world must hear! These are things that will glorify Christ! These are the most friendly actions that you can do for Jesus. You raise His name in the market, you make men think the better of His religion by the holiness and consistency of your conduct. You are His friend!
I dismiss you with this upon your minds. If you are His friends, obey His command, imitate His example and seek to have this not in theory, but as a matter of fact of daily life. The day will come, my Hearers, when to be a friend of Christ will be the grandest thing beneath the heavens. He is an exiled Prince in regard to this world, now, and men despise Him, but He is coming to His crown before long! And when He shall appear in the clouds of Heaven, as He shortly shall, all those who were His friends on earth, who stood in the pillory with Him and suffered for Him–these shall shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of His Father! Oh, it will then be a grand day, a brave day, for those who died for Him, for those who were made poor for conscience sake, for those who left kindred and friends for His name. I think I hear the King say, “Make way, angels! Make way, cherubim and seraphim! These poor men and women were friends of Mine! When I was in exile, they suffered with Me. They were willing to bear reproach for Me–let them come! They shall be courtiers round My Throne. They were friends of Mine in My humiliation–they shall be friends with Me in My Glory. "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.” And oh, how will all men who were not His friends–how they will hide their heads and wish they had never been born to continue at enmity with Him! They did not know who it was they were despising when they laughed at His people. They did not know what it was they trampled on when they put their profane feet upon the Cross of Christ. They did not know who they insulted when they broke the Sabbath and lived godless, Christless lives–but they will know it then, when they see the King on His throne, for their cry will be–their bitter lament shall be–“Fall on us, you mountains! Cover us, you rocks, and hide us–hide us from the face of Him that sits on the Throne.” What? Can you not face Him? You used to jeer at His people! You used to say, “It is all nonsense, this religion.” Cannot you face Him? Cannot you face Him? He has not spoken yet! No thunderbolts are in His hand. Can you not face Him? No, they are ashamed–they dare not look, they dare not gaze on such heavenly beauty! They seek shelter–they hold their hands before their eyes. They ask the mountains to afford them a hiding place, for could they be such fools as to despise Him who died for His enemies, to despise the Christ of God, to despise the Everlasting Creator who out of mighty love, gave up His life for men? Before He speaks a word, before He pronounces a sentence, this shame shall begin their Hell, “Hide us from the face of Him that sits on the Throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”
God bless you, dear Friends, save you by His great mercy, richly bless every one of you and make you Christ’s friends. Amen and amen.