“I have called you friends, because I have made known to you all the things I have heard from my Father.”—JOHN 15:15.
SONG 13 Christ, Our Model
1. How do you build a close friendship with someone?
USUALLY, the first step in building a close friendship with someone you meet is to spend time with the person. As you talk to each other, sharing thoughts and experiences, you become friends. When it comes to building a close friendship with Jesus, however, we face challenges. What are some of them?
2. What is the first challenge we face?
2 The first challenge is that we have not met Jesus personally. Many Christians in the first century faced the same challenge. Even so, the apostle Peter observed: “Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you do not see him now, yet you exercise faith in him.” (1 Pet. 1:8) So it is possible to form a close relationship with Jesus without having met him personally.
3. What is the second challenge we face?
3 The second challenge is that we are not able to speak to Jesus. When we pray, we direct our thoughts to Jehovah. True, we do pray in Jesus’ name, but we do not talk directly to him. In fact, Jesus does not want us to pray to him. Why not? Because prayer is a form of worship, and only Jehovah should be worshipped. (Matt. 4:10) Even so, we can express our love for Jesus.
4. What is the third challenge, and what will we discuss in this article?
4 The third challenge is that Jesus lives in heaven, so we cannot literally spend time with him. But we can still get to know a lot about Jesus without being physically near him. We will review four things we can do that will strengthen our friendship with him. First, though, let us examine why it is vital for us to build a close friendship with Christ.
WHY DO WE NEED TO BECOME JESUS’ FRIENDS?
5. Why must we be friends with Jesus? (See also the boxes “Friendship With Jesus Leads to Friendship With Jehovah” and “A Balanced View of Jesus’ Role.”)
5 We must be friends with Jesus if we are to have a good relationship with Jehovah. Why is that true? Consider just two reasons. First, Jesus told his disciples: “The Father himself has affection for you, because you have had affection for me.” (John 16:27) He also said: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Trying to be Jehovah’s friend without building a close bond with Jesus is like trying to enter a building without using the door. Jesus used a similar illustration when he described himself as “the door for the sheep.” (John 10:7) A second reason is that Jesus perfectly reflected his Father’s qualities. He said to his disciples: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) So an important way that we come to know Jehovah is by studying the life of Jesus. As we learn about Jesus, our affection for him will grow. And as our friendship with Jesus grows, our love for his Father will deepen.
6. What is another reason why we must have a relationship with Jesus? Explain.
6 We must have a relationship with Jesus in order for our prayers to be answered. This calls for doing more than simply adding the phrase “in Jesus’ name” to our prayers as a formality. We must recognize how Jehovah uses Jesus in answering our prayers. Jesus told the apostles: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do this.” (John 14:13) Although Jehovah is the one who hears and answers our prayers, he has given Jesus the authority to carry out His decisions. (Matt. 28:18) Thus, before God answers our prayers, he sees if we have applied the counsel Jesus gave. For example, Jesus said: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14, 15) How important it is, then, that we treat others in the same kind way that Jehovah and Jesus treat us!
7. Who benefit from Jesus’ ransom sacrifice?
7 Only those who have a close friendship with Jesus will benefit from his ransom sacrifice. How do we know? Jesus said that he would “surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) Faithful people who lived before Jesus came to earth will have to learn about him and come to love him. Such men and women as Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and Rahab will be resurrected, but even these righteous servants of Jehovah will need to form a friendship with Jesus in order to gain everlasting life.—John 17:3; Acts 24:15; Heb. 11:8-12, 24-26, 31.
8-9. As explained at John 15:4, 5, what does our relationship with Jesus enable us to do, and why is that important?
8 We have the joy of working along with Jesus in preaching and teaching the good news of the Kingdom. When Jesus was on earth, he was a teacher. And since his return to heaven, Jesus, as head of the congregation, has continued to direct the preaching and teaching work. He sees and appreciates your efforts to help as many as you can to come to know him and his Father. In fact, the only way we can accomplish this work is with the help of Jehovah and Jesus.—Read John 15:4, 5.
9 God’s Word clearly teaches that we must have and maintain love for Jesus in order to please Jehovah. So let us consider four things we can do to become Jesus’ friends.
HOW TO BUILD A FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS
10. What is the first step to our building a friendship with Jesus?
10 (1) Get to know Jesus. We can do this by reading the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As we meditate on the Bible accounts of Jesus’ life, we come to love and respect Jesus because of the kind way he dealt with people. For instance, even though he was their Master, he did not treat his disciples as slaves. Instead, he revealed his inner thoughts and feelings to them. (John 15:15) Jesus shared their pain and cried with them. (John 11:32-36) Even his opposers acknowledged that he was a friend of those who responded to his message. (Matt. 11:19) When we imitate Jesus in the way that he dealt with his disciples, our relationships with others improve, we feel more content and happy, and our appreciation for Christ grows.
11. What is the second step toward becoming Jesus’ friend, and why is that step important?
11 (2) Imitate Jesus’ way of thinking and acting. The better we know and imitate his way of thinking, the closer our friendship with him will be. (1 Cor. 2:16) How can we imitate Jesus? Note just one example. Jesus thought more about helping others than about pleasing himself. (Matt. 20:28; Rom. 15:1-3) Because he had this mental attitude, he was self-sacrificing and forgiving. He did not easily become offended at what people said about him. (John 1:46, 47) And he did not freeze people in time by holding their past mistakes against them permanently. (1 Tim. 1:12-14) Jesus said: “All will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Why not ask yourself, “Am I following Jesus’ example by doing everything in my power to maintain peace with my brothers and sisters?”
12. What is the third step toward becoming Jesus’ friend, and how can we take that step?
12 (3) Support Christ’s brothers. Jesus views what we do for his anointed brothers as if we were doing it for him. (Matt. 25:34-40) The primary way that we support the anointed is by sharing fully in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work that Jesus directed his followers to carry out. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 10:42) Only with the help of the “other sheep” can Christ’s brothers accomplish the great worldwide preaching campaign now taking place. (John 10:16) If you are of the other sheep, each time you share in this work, you show your loving attachment not only to the anointed but also to Jesus.
13. How can we apply Jesus’ counsel recorded at Luke 16:9?
13 We also make friends with Jehovah and Jesus by using our financial resources to support the work that they are directing. (Read Luke 16:9.) For example, we can contribute toward the worldwide work, which includes financing the preaching of the good news in isolated areas, building and maintaining facilities that support true worship, and providing material relief for those who have suffered loss. We can also support our own congregation financially and help those whom we personally know to be in need. (Prov. 19:17) These are ways that we can support Christ’s brothers.
14. As shown at Ephesians 4:15, 16, what is the fourth step toward becoming Jesus’ friend?
14 (4) Support the arrangements of the Christian congregation. We strengthen our connection to Jesus as the head of the congregation when we cooperate with those who are appointed to care for us. (Read Ephesians 4:15, 16.) For example, we are now trying to make sure that all Kingdom Halls are used to full capacity. To that end, some congregations have been merged with other congregations and territory boundaries have been adjusted. This arrangement has resulted in considerable savings of dedicated resources. At the same time, however, it has required that some publishers adjust to the new circumstances. Those faithful publishers may have served with a certain congregation for many years and may have grown close to the brothers and sisters there. But now they are being asked to serve in a different congregation. How pleased Jesus must be to see these loyal disciples cooperate with this arrangement!
FRIENDS OF JESUS FOREVER
15. How will our friendship with Jesus improve in the future?
15 Those who are anointed with holy spirit have the hope of being with Jesus forever, serving as joint heirs of God’s Kingdom. They will actually be with Christ—see him, speak with him, and spend time in his company. (John 14:2, 3) Those with the earthly hope will also receive Jesus’ love and attention. Even though they will not see Jesus, their bond with him will grow ever stronger as they enjoy the life that Jehovah and Jesus make possible for them.—Isa. 9:6, 7.
16. What blessings do we gain from our friendship with Jesus?
16 When we accept Jesus’ invitation to become his friends, we gain many blessings. For example, we benefit from his love and support right now. We are given the opportunity to live forever. And most important, our friendship with Jesus will lead us to the finest treasure of all—a close, personal relationship with Jesus’ Father, Jehovah. What a privilege we have to be called Jesus’ friends!
SONG 17 “I Want To”
The apostles spent some years talking and working with Jesus, and they became good friends. Jesus also wants us to be his friends, but we face challenges that the apostles did not have to overcome. This article will discuss some of those challenges and provide suggestions on how we can build and maintain a close friendship with Jesus.
PICTURE DESCRIPTIONS: (1) During family worship, we can study about Jesus’ life and ministry. (2) In the congregation, we can pursue peace with our brothers. (3) By engaging fully in the ministry, we can support Christ’s brothers. (4) When congregations are merged, we can cooperate with the decisions of the elders.