Summary: We cannot follow Jesus effectively if we remain isolated. Letting others be close to us is essential in pursuing the Christian life.
The Missing Piece: Other People
Following Jesus, part 5
October 30, 2005
Wildwind Community Church
An article in Christianity today begins this way: I came to a startling revelation a few months ago. I don’t have any friends. I don’t. I have a lot of acquaintances but, other than my wife, I really have no close friends.
I’ve had some friends in the past, but not many. Eventually something happened-nothing sinister, just something like moving, having a baby, changing jobs, building a home, going back to school, changing churches. Nothing bad or wrong, just something that happened-and the next thing I knew, another friendship slowly eroded.
There are half a dozen guys whom I consider to be close, caring people I always look forward to being with. They are people who accept me as I am.
But a close friend? Nope. Not one.
Are you lonely? Do you look around you and think, “Man, I have it all – how come I’m not happy? What am I missing?”
I don’t know if there’s a statement much more sad than the statement, “I don’t have any friends.” Folks, I’m convinced that a person who calls him/herself a Christian but upon reflection realizes they don’t have a single close friend is missing the core of the gospel message. Talk about needing the puzzle to come together. How can a person be a follower of Jesus, serve a God who has called us into fellowship – true community – with each other – and be without friends?
As a pastor I talk to people all the time who keep saying, “But what’s the point – I don’t get it. What difference does it make whether I’m in a small group or not.” That’s frankly one of those questions that if you even have to ask the question you will almost certainly not be able to understand the answer and my main response to you will be to keep an open mind, to allow your personhood over time to be shaped more and more by Jesus and to at some point take the risk of really letting others into your life and from that point you’ll come to see very quickly why it is so important.
We’re in a series right now called Following Jesus and I want to talk to you about Community, about Friendship, because I believe that it’s a piece of the “following Jesus” puzzle that’s frankly just completely missing for most people – so much that it’s totally off the radar screen.
Now I’m going to get into details right now about why this aspect of community is essential in your being able to follow Jesus faithfully and learn to become like him. As I do that I want to preempt something you may be tempted to think as I proceed. I’m going to talk to you about Jesus and the disciples, the growth of the early church, and other things that may have taken place before you were born. It’s part of the often shallow American psyche that many of us have a hard time seeing how something that happened before we were born could possibly apply to us. So here’s how I want to challenge you. Please do not hear my ideas and simply think, “That was then, this is now – times are different.” Saying that times are different does not address the real issue which is whether different is better. The question is not whether today is different than yesterday, the question is whether earlier ways of being Christian were more likely to lead to success in living as God defines it than the way we often attempt it today.
I will be speaking to you today from two primary scriptures. The first is Acts 2:42-47. Let’s take a look at that.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
We start with this brand new baby church, pastored by Peter and the other disciples. We see they dedicated themselves to four things:
1. The Apostle’s teaching. The people were committed, were devoted, to it. They wouldn’t miss it. They understood it to be the words of God – words that would impart life to them that they couldn’t afford not to hear.