buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Following Jesus”

Friends Matter

First off, it’s been a few months since I’ve written anything for this space. After the move and the chaos that this country has been in, I just haven’t been in the correct head space to sit down and write. I am trying to change my mindset so hopefully I will be a bit more consistent in the future.

A conversation yesterday helped me to think on a few things. The topic was on friendship. One of my weaknesses is I cannot think on my feet fast enough to have a comeback in a conversation. I am a great listener but terrible responder. The conversation had me thinking throughout the evening and began again upon waking this morning. I tend to think about things until I write them down. So here I am writing this down.

The conversation led to the final statement, “well, Jesus hung around sinners and we shouldn’t judge.” All true. First and foremost – we are all sinners. Nobody is without sin except Jesus. He proved He could withstand any sin. He told religious ones who were questioning Him He came for sinners – to save the lost. We’re all lost so who else was He going to hang around?

However, He had ones He poured into to give them an opportunity to change. He had twelve He made His disciples. They were to learn from Him and see what He did and how they were to carry on the message. Eleven got it, one didn’t.

Jesus also had an inner circle; they were the only ones who witnessed special moments. They were not to tell of those moments until a later date (after His resurrection). Jesus knew people’s hearts. He knew who was ready to hear His message and those who were looking for an excuse to take away His platform of change. The religious ones hated Him. Jesus’ message challenged them and they were not willing to listen.

Jesus always pointed His friends to God the Father. Those who turned away from their sins, sought God’s forgiveness, they changed and hung around Jesus more to learn from Him. Their sin pattern changed. They still sinned, but the conviction was there when they did. You see this in Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus when Jesus was arrested. Peter was one of the inner circle friends. Imagine the hurt Jesus felt even though He knew Peter would deny Him. Imagine Peter’s hurt when he realized what he had done. Peter wept bitterly because of what he had done.

From the beginning, Peter knew he was a sinner. Early on in Jesus’ ministry, Peter told Jesus after Jesus had performed a miracle – “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).But Jesus had chosen Peter, even with his faults, because Jesus knew Peter would have a change of heart. Peter would become a fisherman for men and would be successful at it. Peter left his livelihood and left everything behind to follow Jesus. And Peter did become very successful at drawing people to Jesus after he received the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost (see the story in Acts 2).

Jesus hung around sinners, yes. But He didn’t leave them that way. The ones who heard and responded to His message changed. Tax collectors changed how they did business. A woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus to be condemned. But Jesus didn’t condemn her. He said the first one without sin should throw the first stone. No one threw a stone at her because they had all sinned and fallen short of God’s Law – this Law was given so that the people who know when they sinned. God’s Law was put in place to give His people guardrails to stay within His boundaries. But it was impossible for God’s people to live that way in their sinful nature.

So Jesus – the one without sin – did not throw a stone either. He told the woman to go and sin no more. Yes, it’s impossible to live as God requires. It’s impossible to live without sin. However, Jesus came to give us a new life. He saves us from our sinful life. Our pattern of sins is broken. We are convicted when we sin and confess it to Him. He forgives our sins and we walk away cleansed. It’s a difference of consistency. We no longer are consistently committing the same sins. When we received God’s forgiveness, we are changed.

Back to the friend issue that started this blog posting.

I know when I gave my life to Jesus I could no longer hang out with the people I knew before. It wasn’t they were bad people; I enjoyed hanging out with them. But they wouldn’t lead me where I needed to go. I needed different people to help me on this walk that I’m on with Jesus. I needed a different set of inner circle friends who would encourage me on this journey with Jesus. I am still friends with some of those I hung out with, but it’s different than it was before. They are not my inner circle.

Friends matter. We need them. And we don’t leave our friends behind; they need Jesus too. One of our purposes when we give our lives to Jesus is to lead others to Him. If they are not willing or fill the need to change, then it’s not our responsibility to change them. But we are to love them and pray for them to have a heart change. We are to be near them when they are ready to hear about this Jesus we love. When the time is right and Jesus has touched them through us, then they will see their need for our friend Jesus and be changed.

The bottom line is to choose friends wisely. If they are not leading us toward Jesus, then they are leading us away. It matters who you hang with. First and foremost, stay connected with Jesus and He will lead you to the right people to be in your inner circle. The rest of our friends may not have as much of our time as before, but unless Jesus says to let them go, then stay close enough to influence them but far enough that they don’t influence you.

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

Beginning Again

I thought it would be different. I thought I would be walking into a new ministry. For the last few months, I have been searching for the right position. The door of opportunity came through an insignificant encounter at a small group meeting. It was a small opportunity; not in a ministry of great significance. I thought it would be different. But God reminds me every time I question this opportunity: ministry happens wherever He places us. We are to be His light in whatever opportunity we’re given. I don’t know where this opportunity will lead. The position may only last a few months – it happened one other time in my career life – or it may last many years. I don’t know what will happen.

Whatever door He opens, we are to walk through it. It’s a matter of following Him. It always looks different from what we think. I guess the disciples were in the same boat (so to speak). They dropped their nets and decided to go where this new fellow was taking them. They had no idea where He was going or where they would end up. But they kept following – even when everyone else stopped. They were offered the opportunity to leave when the crowds did, but Peter said no “Who else has the words of eternal life?” (My paraphrase of John 6:67). They did desert Jesus on that last night. They thought it was the end, but it was only a new beginning. Once Jesus arose, the movement started with a few sparks through the Holy Spirit’s igniting in a large gathering. The sparks were spread as the gathering was disbursed throughout the world. And eventually the movement became a fire that has lasted through thousands of generations.

It always looks different when we are in the first steps of beginning again. We just don’t know what’s on the other side of the beginning. It could be a movement that needs a few sparks to ignite for a new generation. Our job is to make sure the sparks aren’t extinguished. Can you imagine if it’s our generation that lets that spark die? We need to fan the flame wherever God has placed us. I completely fail in this regard. I know I need to be better about sharing with others. It’s really the only job that counts these days. Nothing will be credited to my account except the good works that will be stored in heaven for that day when we have to give an account of how we have lived on this earth. Nothing else matters. The fire has to be fanned – if not us – then who? For those who are seeking, they have to see something in us to make them question what we have that they don’t. We have to be different. It’s not easy being different. But we are told to be light in the darkness. The world loves the dark. If our light is diminished or extinguished, the world continues in the darkness and will not find their way to the cross.

So I begin again. I take the mantle that is offered to me. I take the opportunities as they come. I follow Jesus. I stay true to His word. I watch God at work and join Him to fan the flames. Sounds easy enough, right? Let’s do this thing. I want to hear at the end of all this, “well done!” And I want it all to count for something greater than what I thought was possible. I don’t understand it or foresee it now. God’s ways are different and His thoughts are greater. I have to trust it all to Him: for His glory! Let it be as He says and let my ways be obedient to His.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

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