“The proof is in the pudding.” That’s a simple phrase that captures the truth of genuineness of a person as well as the way a person conducts their life and the choices that person actually makes. The proof (the deciding factor in evaluation) is what you do, not what you say. It’s how you live out your life from day to day. The same is true in developing friendships with other people and being the right kind of friend – “The proof is in the pudding!”
For example, in John 15:14, Jesus made a very clarifying statement when it comes to relationships (especially a relationship with Him). Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.“ Jesus isn’t saying that He is their friend only if they obey Him. As Christians, Jesus is our friend no matter what we do or don’t do. The focus of Jesus’ statement is on the disciples and their response to Him as their Saviour and Lord. It’s not like Jesus was saying to them: “Guys, I’m your friend but only if you obey me.“ Instead, it’s more like: “Guys, you are My friends, if you do what I command you.” That simply means we demonstrate our friendship to Christ by our obedience to Him.
The Fruit on the Tree
The real evidence of our friendship to Christ is when we are willing to follow His commandments (even sometimes when it’s hard). The reality of our loyalty is measured by our obedience to what He has commanded us to do. We need to obey God’s word, even in the tough times – that’s the real test of a friendship.
Think about this question: How do you respond in the tough times, in times of trial, and in situations that are difficult? What do you do, how do you act, when the pressure is on you to show your loyalty? The answer(s) to these questions is the ‘fruit on the tree’ – it’s the evidence of the real relationship you have with Jesus. Warren Wiersbe wrote this: “Even a devoted friend may fail us when we need him most. Peter, James, and John went to sleep in the Garden when they should have been praying; and Peter even denied the Lord three times. Our friendship to each other and to the Lord is not perfect, but His friendship to us is perfect.” 
A Key Element: Obedience to God’s Word
The foundation of a godly friendship with each other is our obedience to God’s Word. A true friendship is based on each person’s obedience to the Word of God, which is the standard of right/wrong. Since we are made in God’s image, we are relational beings, and we need a standard by which to function in those relationships.
Since God is the Creator, the Potter, He has the right to tell the clay what is their purpose and what is good and what is not good. The counsel God gives us is from His inspired, eternal, and sufficient Word. Instead of making decisions and choices based on our feelings or our own thinking (both of which are cursed by sin), we need an absolute standard to live by everyday of our lives. The Psalmist put it like this in describing his friends in Psalm 119:63 “I am a companion of all those who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts.” Think about these questions:
- Do my friends obey God’s Word?
- Am I obedient to God’s Word?
- In what ways do I need to change?
- In what ways do I need to communicate with my friends who are NOT obeying God’s Word?
- Am I going to trust my own thinking and reasoning, or is God’s Word going to be my source of truth?
If God’s Word is not our standard for right and wrong, then we will develop a mentality of Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes . . .” Instead, we should be like the last half of the same verse, “. . . but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” – especially when that counsel is rooted in the God’s Word.
Let’s be honest with each other. Sometimes our friends will fail us and we will fail them – just like the disciples failed Jesus. Think about Psalm 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. For Jesus, that was Judas. What we need to keep in mind is that sometimes an apparent friend can turn out to be a Judas who ‘lifts up his heel’ against you, or you can do the same thing to your friend.
The lesson we need to learn is this: God’s Word is our common source of truth that establishes and strengthens our friendships! Consider how hard it is to develop a relationship with a person who has no regard for the Word of God. In a sense, you can be a friend to a lost person (Jesus was a ‘friend of sinners’). But Jesus didn’t have unbelievers as His disciples. He built the strongest relationship with men who put their faith in Him and in His Word and they followed Him.
Next week: Honest Communication!
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible Exposition Commentary. “An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt. (Jn 15:12). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.