I CALL YOU FRIENDS
There are some who cross our lives, sometimes for only a brief time, but they leave an indelible mark. It is what happens when our spirits touch. When that happens it engenders a depth of relationship beyond the soul. It is what accompanies the expectation that Jesus was extending when He told the disciples that He no longer considered them servants, but friends.
What He noted was something much more than the glib Western rendering of “friend,” that of describing someone we enjoy schmoozing with. That “something more” forms a significant and vital part of the process involved in establishing enduring relationships.
In becoming a disciple, Jesus was engaging believers in the realities that would establish and mature the relationship, and with it their identity. What Jesus was doing in the discipleship stage was causing his inner circle to grow-up to become “men,” to be whole. It was preparing them for getting beyond themselves and the superficialities that too often define relationships. There’s no question of the parallel that relationally bonds those who share in the rigors of the basic training of Marines or like-type of disciplined military units.
The next step in this process Jesus was taking His disciples through was in being a “servant.” This groundwork of servanthood forms the basis of what it means to be a leader of men. Doing so carries the context of a different way of thinking and responding to others: the Kingdom way of thinking. This is not unlike what happens in highly elite military units that train together for combat. In the Kingdom of God, this process represents the basis by which we relate to one another on a deeper, more enduring basis. Whether as disciples, servants or friends. Or later for those who have paid the cost and are given assignments to be engaged as game-changers, with the responsibilities of those who progress to become sons of God.
The Significance of the Process
So, in grasping that dimension of who He was building us to be, we advance from a position of our identity being transformed, to that of serving, to that of becoming His friends. Those He trusts. Those he depends on and can count on. Those whose thinking embraces a willingness to lay down their lives for one another. Seriously. Again, I’ve seen this in operation in combat. Also, among those who are the most persecuted for their faith. Sadly however, not to that degree among most comprising the brethren in the West.
The process progressively advances and triggers spiritual maturity, which is simultaneously individual and community-driven. Viewed from a slightly different angle, this process involves establishing who you are, before you can lead someone else or truly love on this level. It draws strongly from the higher dimensions of Kingdom thinking.
It is the process Jesus outlined in His sermon on the mount that takes the religiously poor in spirit past the place of mourning to where in putting aside their self-orientations in meekness, they begin hungering and seeking after a different standard, Kingdom righteousness. A standard bearing a significant difference from our culturally-driven moral codes and thinking. Then with a foundational response of mercy, they advance to being pure in heart and into becoming ones who can wield the mantle of peace — that shalom, God’s order that disrupts and resets the streams of darkness that pervade this world. From progressing to that stance comes the backlash and challenge of navigating persecution as they disrupt and restore.
At the core of this process is a different reality and a different way of thinking and responding to this reality. One of my daughters grew up seriously dyslexic. Despite challenges with her grades, I believed in her and saw a potential that I no doubt pushed her buttons in order to get her to push her own thresholds. She stayed the course and proved to be an overcomer. Significantly so. Today, as a seasoned professional and mother of three vibrant young adults, she operates with a different view and response to the challenges of life, along with a unique wisdom in all that she does. She thinks differently.
So it is with the process of embracing the Kingdom. It does not conform to the pattern of those around us, it reorients our way of thinking, establishing higher dimensions to the way we relate to one another.
Something More from the Process
Both truth and trust lie at crux of such relationships. Scripture very pointedly expresses that deceit with the Lord is a deal-breaker. Walking in the light of Truth begins in our own hearts. Without the ability to face truth in our own hearts, our relationships will ultimately falter due to the masking and phoniness involved with deceit.
All of which ties directly to Jesus’ high priestly prayer of us being in the world but not of it. In reaching the stage of being His friends, we become catalysts. Disrupters of the status quo. The restorers of the broken breach. The evidence of our being at this stage in the process and beyond it is expressed by the amazing statement in 1 John 4:17: “As He is, so are we in this world.”
The glue in reaching this stage is that of charity. Not the benevolence-charity, although it involves sacrifice, giving and certainly places others before yourself. THIS is the “charity” that Paul wrote the Corinthians about, which flows and connects us relationally. A much higher mode than that confined by the soul.
Keep in mind, the early church began as a Jewish sect with Jewish thinking. What Paul was imparting is the community dimension of “righteous charity,” which is incorporated in the Hebrew word: tz’dakah. Sometimes I think there is too much salesmanship and PR in the way we relate to one another in the Western church. Nothing a higher dose of persecution couldn’t help but reorient, as we operate as and are seen as a community.
The Process of Restoration and Peace
This process also relates to what the Apostle James observed (Acts 15) of God restoring the tabernacle of David. James related that the signs and wonders that Barnabas and Paul described God doing among the Gentiles were a prophetic sign of the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David. The tabernacle of David became the catalyst in drawing the tribes of Israel together in unity, in the same way that James was discerning its restoration as being the means to bring the Gentiles into the fold of what was at the time a Jewish sect.
The tabernacle of David represents the drawing card and the batting practice in maintaining and preparing for the realities in which we accept assignments to penetrate the darkness with the Light. It is the time of being sent into combat — with the authority and the power that we have become one with. The tabernacle of David was the point of departure, for the time when the community of God, in unity as one, went to war against the Lord’s enemies.
It was a time, when as a community, God’s people had gotten beyond themselves and had matured to the level of becoming a community of friends. Friends as defined by Jesus. It was in conquering the enemies of God that God’s peace, His shalom was established all around them. The Kingdom that Solomon received that then resulted in this peace, as the response of the nations all around them, was no accident.
Those whom Scripture describes as sons of God begin as those who, fully embracing the mantle of being friends, are sent into battle. Keep in mind, there is a significant difference between the rigors of training and the realities of combat. Those having reached the stage of being truly engaged in the battle, as friends of God, had amazing things recorded describing their lives, their leadership and their exploits.
Elijah, for example, reset the spiritual atmosphere of one of the most toxic spiritual environments tied to any community of God’s people. No question that his assignment with the prophets of Baal was overwhelming. It also involved going against the grain of the majority from his own brethren. On more than a single occasion in his assignments, his life was on the line. Yet, when faced with death, he spit in its eye because he wielded the mantle of fire and walked as a son of the One whose presence made the mountains quake.
Which bears on the significance of the season upon us. A time of turmoil and disruption, but with it the expectation of great supernatural exploits as those prepared as friends, enter the realm as sons in bringing restoration and fulfillment of promises birthed long ago in the heart of God. A time of being ministers of His covenant of peace.
The Litmus Test in the Process
The book of Hebrews makes reference to the dividing line between soul and spirit. That dividing line today for relationships is a fine line needed to discern those who are friendly versus those who would go to the wall as true friends. Those willing to put their lives on the line for those they are called to serve with.
Joseph came to discern this fine line in others. He saw it operating between the baker and the wine-taster. He later, when reconciled with his brothers and their families, with wisdom located them far apart from his operations and responsibilities in Egypt. How often do we find opportunities to stack the deck with ones we share the pews with, without truly knowing whether they measure in terms of being a true friend. Friends are those you want with you in battle. Keep in mind, that the time of Joseph was a time of impending judgment triggered in the first place because of Joseph’s brother’s deceit and indiscretions.
It was the same in the days of Daniel. A time of judgment. With Daniel and those who Scripture defines as his friends being separate from the rest of the community of faith, due to their Achilles heel of embracing a watered-down, blended faith in their quest of wanting to be like the world around them. It bears on the what has happened to far too many vets, who having lived according to this higher standard of relationship in combat, were then dropped into a blended, watered down culture wrought with superficialities and deceit and the games people play, being told: THIS is real life. How sad.
Relationships, at least the ones that endure, are based on trust. Complete trust. Complete trust has got to have its foundations mired in truth. That’s why when David’s intrigue and deceit involving his relationship with Bathsheba was revealed, God’s response to him was: “David, why did you despise Me?” The Lord went on to recount all that He had given David and then simply asked, if David had wanted more, why had he not just asked Him. Instead, David tried to hide from the Lord not only his contemptible steps, but what had become a despicable heart.
Foundations for Enduring Relationships
It is not surprising that Jesus described Himself as the way, the Truth and the life. Uniquely understanding this process, Peter later wrote: “Therefore putting aside all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of His truth, so that by it you may grow in respect to your salvation.”
Trust and truth are requisites before there can be what we refer to as righteousness, which in reality is simply what flows from a right relationship with the Lord. And from righteousness, the fruit is that of peace, not the world’s form of viewing peace, but the establishment of God’s shalom or order in the circumstances surrounding the relationship. That’s why community righteousness, tz’dakah, is so vital to this process that results in life, rather than death.
The stage of peacemakers in the Sermon on the Mount coincides with when Jesus told His disciples: “I no longer call you servants, but friends.” It is a significant step in the relationship and it is tied to the mantle of peace, that God-driven disruptive force designed to restore His order.
One of the last things Jesus told those who had gone through this process with Him: “My peace I leave with you.” He explained this was not the peace the world talks about. His Jewish followers understood shalom, God order — and the mantle of peace, the weapon of peace that was the foundation for what ones like Abraham and Enoch, Joseph and Daniel, Moses and Elijah, and the prophets accomplished. It was the mantle of peace that the early Church used to turn the world upside down. It releases the supernatural. It is that force of disruption to the world’s ways that restores God’s order. And it flows from enduring relationships and that willingness to pay the cost of being friends.
In this season of time and in this season of my life, I am pointedly surrounding myself with ones who understand what it means to be a friend. A friend, according to the standard set by Jesus. It is the trigger for bearing much fruit. It is the force that yields Life. THIS is the confidence that we have in Him.
Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and spokesman for the higher dimensions of business leadership since the mid-90s. As founder of Global Initiatives Foundation and designer of the God’s Economy Entrepreneurial Equippers Program, Mr. Ruddick imparts hope and equips economic community builders to be blessed to be a blessing where God’s light is dim in diverse regions around the globe.
He is author of “The Joseph-Daniel Calling;” “Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;” “The Heart of a King;” “Something More;” “Righteous Power in a Corrupt World;” “Leadership by Anointing;” and “Mantle of Fire,” which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders with destinies to impact their communities. They are available in print and e-versions from www.Amazon.com, www.apple.com/ibooks and www.BarnesandNoble.com.
Global Initiatives Foundation (www.strategic-initiatives.org) is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 non-profit whose efforts are enabled by the generosity of a remnant of faithful friends and contributors whose vision aligns with God’s heart to mobilize economic community builders imparting influence and the blessings of God. Checks on US banks should be made out to Global Initiatives and mailed to PO Box 370291, Denver CO 80237 or by credit card at http://strategicintercession.org/support/
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2019 Copyright Morris Ruddick — email@example.com
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