Loving the Lord Jesus without any “buts”
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
15 Jan, 2016

It is increasingly common to hear the slogan “I love Jesus but…”  Most often it is “I love Jesus but I hate religion/Christianity/the Church”.  It is the slogan championed by a viral video that has earned for itself over 30.5 million viewers. The video tries to say that “Jesus came to abolish religion.” It captures a popular mood and a mindset that believes that friendship and relationship with Christ precludes obeying rules and following religious practices. Is this true?

We have to test it by what the Lord Jesus Christ Himself teaches in Scripture. His teaching is very far from this. Such slogans extol a different Jesus than the One who maintained the binding authority of God’s law (Matthew 5:17).  The One who established the Church and commanded all that it must do (Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 28:19-20). What, according to Christ, does friendship with Himself involve? He tells us in the most plain and direct way that friendship with Himself must be shown and measured by our obedience. We are His friends if we do whatsoever He commands (John 15:14). We cannot say “I love Jesus, but I will not obey all of His commandments”.

In commenting on this verse, George Hutcheson shows how Christ commends His friendship to us. We should value this so highly that we seek to assure ourselves we are truly His friends. We can only have this through our friendly conduct and obedience towards Him.

We must learn from this:

 

1. Friendship with Christ requires making sure that we are His friends.

Christ’s offers of friendship are never valued as they ought to be, unless we are stirred up to make sure we are His friends. He urges His disciples to make sure of this privilege. Even disciples are not rashly to claim friendship with Christ except on this sure ground of obedience.

 

2. Friendship with Christ is Real Friendship.

There is a real friendship between Christ and believers. It involves the closest unity, harmony and agreement in mind and will, sympathy and fellow feeling. It consists of mutual delight in each other’s fellowship and condition. Therefore he says to such that they are His friends. (See 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23)

 

3. Friendship with Christ does not absolve His friends from duty.

They cannot neglect the obedience they owe as bond-servants. These two go together, to be “my friends” and to “do what I command you” (John 15:14).

 

4. Friendship with Christ helps us in every duty.

As friendship requires obedience, so only Christ’s friends can obey in the right way. Friendship will help them through the hardest duties. It will make their obedience hearty, cheerful, zealous, unlimited and constant. All of these go together with friendship to Christ.

 

5. Friendship with Christ means unlimited obedience.

Christ will not over-drive his friends in His service. Yet His dominion over them is unlimited. He is not willing that they should reject anything that He is pleased to command. They must do “whatsoever” He commands.

 

6. Friendship with Christ is shown by obedience.

Obedience to God is true evidence of friendship with Him. Those who have fled to Christ continue as servants, willing to do service to Him. He will esteem such to be His friends who “do whatsoever I command you”. (See James 2:23).

 

Conclusion

The Lord Jesus Christ is the best friend that a believer ever had. He is a kind, faithful and unchangeable friend. James Durham makes these comments on the words “this is my friend” (Song of Solomon 5:16). He says that it is a remarkable and unique comfort for people to have Christ as their friend. Not only in life, but also in death and judgment, in prosperity and adversity. Christ’s friendship involves:

  1. Constant kindness and faithfulness at all times (Proverbs 17:17 and 18:24). He never fails.
  2. Sympathy and help to meet their needs. He sticks “closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). This is the kind of love that aims at his friend’s good as well as his own.
  3. Familiarity in mutual communion. This is common between friends and being able to be free in speaking together (see Exodus 33:11).
  4. Mutual confidence as in our very own self and more than in any other. This is eminently found in Christ “the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).

No other friends can compare to this friend. Happy, happy for evermore are those who have Christ Jesus as their friend.

Believers should lean on Christ greatly, trust Him, and expect good from Him, as their friend.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Durham

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

Does Church Discipline Matter?

If it matters to Christ, shouldn’t that make us think?

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.