Romans 5:10-11 (NLT) For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
I am a friend of God. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. He has restored my right relationship with the Father by His Sacrifice. Now what? No, seriously. This is the crossroads of faith where many will fall in the crosshairs of religion rather than becoming fully committed to a new and right relationship with the Lord. My friendship with God ignites a tiny spark in me that should become a burning light of His Love for all the world to see, but I am I getting it right? Am I introducing others to my friend, Jesus and His Father, God? My daughter came back home for a wedding recently. In the last year, our family relocated to the rural county just outside of the city limits which had been our home for more than a decade. We have made new friends in our new church here. During our conversations, my daughter has heard me mention these people so on her last visit, she made a point that she wanted to meet them based on my many accounts and shared experiences. She wants to know them because I love them which has created an interest in her. Today I am wondering do I portray and relay the same when it comes to Jesus. Does my conversation, attitude and actions make them desire to connect with the Lord as well?
Dale Carnegie wrote the best-selling book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in 1936. It has sold more than 30 million copies world-wide and is #19 on the Time Magazine list of most influential books of all time. As I skimmed through the outline of topics to compare my ability to win friends and influence people, I was a bit surprised at the simplicity. However, I was also immediately convicted that I am not always the best friend. He offers a list of fundamental ways to handle people that goes as follows: 1) Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. 2) Give honest and sincere appreciation. And 3) Arouse in the other person an eager want. Imagine what our congregations might be like if we just focused on item #1 for a while. I could have stopped here with enough to chew on for a while, but I say, “Go big or go home” right?
He also details six ways to make people like you. Who doesn’t want people to like them? I want people to like me. I don’t want to be the one others avoid. I am in this world and definitely not of it. But I also called to be a Light in the darkness that is attractive illuminating the way to Jesus Christ. My life is to be a beacon for others to experience an introduction to Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. So here is what Mr. Carnegie believed would make people like us: 1) Become genuinely interested in other people. 2) Smile. 3) Remember a person’s name for it is the sweetest world they hear. 4) Be a good listener and encourage others to share about themselves. 5) Talk in terms of other people’s interest. And 6) Make the other person feel important and do so sincerely. Jesus died for “that” person. They are important to God. No matter how they are living, what they look like, the choices they are making, or the bad things they are doing. His Grace is just as sufficient for them and equally intended to be the Power in their life. We must learn to build friendships if our desire is to build the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is built on our relationship with Jesus Christ and our ability to effectively relay His Love to others.
James 2:22-24 (NLT) You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
During our son’s long battle with cancer, I spent a great deal of time studying about Abraham. He was counted as a friend of God. Abraham believed God. We point back to the mountain when he was ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac to the Lord. He trusted God completely even if it meant driving a knife right through the heart of his promise. I was looking for that kind of faith at that time. The kind of faith that loves God no matter what or how significant the heartbreak may be. Abraham was considered a friend of God. Why? God called him friend because he was considered righteous or in right standing with God but if we read just a verse further it says – he was not only made right by his words or confession of faith but that his actions reflected his faith in God. So what about Rahab the prostitute? Do you ever think about her faith? She made into the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Did her actions make her right with God? “It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” It doesn’t say, Rahab the “former” prostitute. She was living in sin yet God found her faithful in her friendliness to the spies who came into her city.
Religion has killed our social skills when it comes to building relationships with people in the church. We look for works and judge them by their appearance when God is always searching their heart. How will I know a person’s heart outside of a sincere relationship? How can I introduce them to the Love of God found in friendship with Him if my life and love bear no resemblance of the Love that changed my life? My friendship with the Living God is based on faith expressed in love. (Period) It is by grace that I am saved and nothing I can do will ever change that. Until I allow the Love and Grace of God to penetrate my heart beyond works, and get back to the business of building relationships and friendships with others so that I can share my Jesus with them, revival will not come. The spark of revival comes from a real and right relationship with God that can effectively express it to others. God’s Love is not critical it is not condemning – it is come as you are.
John 15:13-14 (NLT) There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
There is no greater love than to lay our life down for another. Jesus died for us. We don’t have to die for others. We must simply allow the Love of God to work out faith within us that will overcome insecurity so that we can freely give our life to others. Social media has silenced conversation. Nobody communicates anymore other than via text message. Friends keep in touch via the internet hardly ever meeting, embracing and conversing with one another. We work with people day in and day out yet never really get to know them or care for them. I can preach the Word of God at people and it will bounce off them like seeds being thrown on a rock. Or I can invest time and energy getting to know them to reach them where they are and plant seeds in a soft pliable heart. A wise person wins friends. (Proverbs 11:30) We need friends so iron can sharpen iron. (Proverbs 27:17) The heartfelt counsel of a friend is like perfume and incense to the Lord. (Proverbs 27:9) We must closely examine our heart. Am I a friend to others? Am I a good friend? Am I a godly friend? Am I willing to lay down my life for others? Jesus said that if I am His Friend, this is exactly what I will do.
I John 2:7-8 (NLT) Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.
I think I will order Mr. Carnegie’s book. I think it will be a benefit. God has promised that being a godly friend can produce His Favor in my life. In fact, when Job prayed for his three friends, the Lord released a double portion. What if God is not holding up revival but I am because I choose religion over relationship when I should be all about relationships always? It is not my job to change people. Truth is I couldn’t change myself. God did it. His Love is amazing. His Faithfulness unmatched. His Goodness is too much to ever be reciprocated. His Grace more than enough for me. His Favor is better than life. I cannot begin to tell you about the Love and Affection God has shone me or the inexpressible joy it has produced in me. Or maybe I can… over coffee, or what the heck, let’s get some ice cream or a fancy dessert, or maybe on a good day we can go for a walk in the park and talk awhile? We must create opportunities to be light. This light burning in us comes with arms, legs and mouths that can be an extension of God’s Love to others. He came into this world to empower me with plenty of love and grace to be the Light that reaches the world. My friendship with God facilitates an opportunity to connect and share His Love with others. If your message is not inviting, and people are not responding, maybe it is time to make a few adjustments. Ask the Lord to filter your words, motives and intent. Purify your heart. Ask Him to give you grace and love above your capability and outside your comfort zone to reach others with sincerity. The Holy Spirit is our helper. Love is a fruit of God’s Spirit. Learn the definition of love in I Corinthians and live it with all people all the time. You will be a Light. You are God’s Friend. By faith, He will teach you to win friends and influence people with His Love.
I John 4:11-12 (NLT) Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.