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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - How To Have REAL Friendships

James Meehan - How To Have REAL Friendships

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    James Meehan - How To Have REAL Friendships
TOPICS: Relationships, Friendship

If you are alive, if you are breathing, if you have a pulse, if you belong to the species homo sapien, which means human, then it is very likely that you have a strong desire for real, lasting, and life-giving friendships. It's very likely that you want your Avengers to fight beside you. You want your Fellowship of the Ring to walk with you. Your Fast family to ride or die next to you. But the problem is that for so many of us, relationships like that, friendships where we've got each other's backs, they're there for you and you are there for them, feel more like a fantasy than reality. It feels like it's something reserved for the Hollywood screen, but never actually a part of our real lives.

Why is that? We all want it, but very few of us actually have it. I would suggest the reason is, is that so many of us have been fed a very dysfunctional view of friendships and what it actually means to be a friend. When I think back to my middle school and high school years, I was a terrible friend. Like, I was very, very selfish in so many of my relationships. Like, I remember going into sixth grade and abandoning all of my friends from elementary school because I wanted to get in with the popular kids. I wanted them to like me, so I changed everything about myself. It didn't take very long for me to realize though that I didn't actually like them.

So I cut my losses and I moved on. And I kept that pattern going for most of my middle school and high school years to the point where eventually I had loads of acquaintances, but very few real friends, which made the hard parts of life extra difficult because I didn't really feel like there was anybody that I could be honest with about how miserable I really was, about how much of a toll it was taking on me knowing that my family was falling apart, my parents fighting almost every single night. I didn't feel like there was anybody that I could tell how desperate I was for somebody to tell me they believed in me and they were proud of me. And I'd be willing to bet that there are some of you listening to this right now who find yourself in a similar situation where you are desperate for real, strong, lasting friendships, but you don't know how to actually make that happen.

That's why if you are taking notes, the main point of this message is this, that your friendships have the power to make or break your future. Your friendships have the power to make or break your future. And the good news is that 2000 years ago Jesus showed up in history, and he created a way, he put a plan in motion for us to find and build great friendships, friendships that would make us and our future better. And so that's what we're gonna talk about today. We're going to look at a passage of scripture found in Acts chapter two. We're going to examine the early church, the first Christians, and see what it was about them that made them such incredible friends, and what it was about the way that they loved one another that allowed God to use them to change the world.

If you're new to church or the Bible, I wanna give you a little bit of context because what we will be reading, Acts chapter two, this takes place after Jesus's three years of ministry. So Jesus, God in human form, showed up in history to change the world. He spent three years on the earth where he was teaching sermons, he was performing miracles, he was assembling a team of followers. He was showing people that God was doing something new, and he was inviting them to experience forgiveness of sins and newness of life. But there was a problem. Because Jesus was a threat to the powers that be, so much so that the religious and political authorities put him to death because they saw him as a problem.

Now, when they had him killed, they thought that was the end of the problem. Little did they know that was just another part of God's plan because on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead proving he is the savior of the world sent by God to rescue us from sin and restore our relationship with him. After he rose from the dead, Jesus spent the next 40 days appearing to his disciples and telling them the things they would need to know for the next phase of the plan. Because after 40 days, Jesus would return to heaven. And then on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, God's empowering presence, would descend upon his followers and give them the power to do miraculous things. Literally, what happened was the disciples of Jesus started speaking in different languages and this drew a crowd of people from all over trying to figure out what was happening.

Jesus' best friend, Peter, stands up, seizing the opportunity, preaches a sermon, and in that moment, he's describing all that God has done through Jesus, 3000 people commit their lives to Jesus and get baptized. Like all of that is what happens. This was an emotional rollercoaster in the lives of the disciples with highs and lows, but this was just the beginning of what God wanted to do through his church. Friends committed to following Jesus and changing the world together. And that brings us to the passage that we're gonna read from today in Acts chapter two verses 42 to 47. There's so much that we could learn from this scripture, but what we're gonna do is draw out three specific lessons on building strong friendships.

We start in verse 42, here's what we read. "They," these early Christians, "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching". That means listening to messages about God. They devoted themselves to fellowship. That's doing life with other believers. It's stuff like small groups. "To the breaking of bread," eating food together, "and to prayer". Verse 43 tells us that "Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles". I wanna pause here because like when you read that, there's different places you can go in your mind, but let me be clear, this is not Harry Potter stuff, right? This is not like sleight of hand magic tricks that a street magician would do. These are followers of Jesus filled with the power of God, healing the blind, the sick, and the disabled. And I get that there are some of you who you hear that, and you don't buy it, but they did.

As a matter of fact, they were so convinced that God was working in a real way that what happens next is the proof of it. Verse 44, we read that "All the believers were together, they had everything in common," and get this, "They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need". What that means is they were so convinced that God was working in a real way that they were willing to give up their things to help other people who were struggling. If we keep reading in that verse 46 tells us that "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes eating together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved".

This was what happened when the early church started to grow and expand. They were so committed to doing for each other what God had done for them, that people from all over were taking notice and wanted to be a part of it. The thing about this group of people is they were wildly different and radically committed to following Jesus, and God used them to change the world. And I absolutely believe that what God did then through them, he wants to do again through you. So we're going to look at three lessons we can learn from them about how to build strong friendships. Those lessons are thing number one, make time together a priority. Thing number two, sacrifice yourself to serve your friends. And thing number three, keep Jesus at the center. We're gonna walk through these one at a time starting with the first lesson.

If you want to build strong friendships, then make time together a priority, because strong friendships don't happen by accident. They happen when we make it a priority. Back in that scripture in verses 42 and 46, here's what we read. "They devoted themselves," that means it was important "to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer". They devoted themselves to worshiping God at church together. And every day they met together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes, they ate together. They were doing life with each other at church and in their everyday lives. If you wanna build strong friendships, then make time together a priority. My friend David gets this. I met him about a year and a half ago at a Bible study, and he showed up because he knew he needed Christian friends. The thing about David is that he deals with a lot of social anxiety.

So he was super nervous to show up to this Bible study where he didn't know anybody and he had never been before, but he did it anyways because he knew that it was important. And he was honest about his nerves when he came in the door. And it was so cool to watch the people there welcome him with open arms. At the end of the night, I got to talk to him and his mom and just hear about how it all went. And he had an incredible time. It wasn't long after that that he started coming to Switch every single week. He made time with his Switch group a priority. And what I love about David is he didn't just like show up once or twice or three times, check the box, mark it off his list, and move on. He made it a consistent and regular priority to the point where now a year and a half later. David would be the first to tell you how him making those friendships a priority has changed his life dramatically.

So what's it gonna look like for you? Who are you going to make time with and how are you going to make sure that it is a priority for you? For some of you, it's gonna be as simple as committing to being at Switch every single week. For others of you, you're going to put a reminder in your phone to call your friend every Thursday when you get out of basketball practice because they moved to another state. Others of you are going to start a Bible study at your house on the weekend and invite your small group to be there with you. Whatever it is, if you wanna build strong friendships, the first thing you've gotta do is make time together a priority. The second thing you've gotta do is sacrifice yourself to serve your friends. Sacrifice yourself to serve your friends.

The reason that most of our friendships suck is because we are way more self-centered than we are others focused. In that scripture we read in verse 45 we read that, "They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need," because they actually loved each other. Love is not just what we think or how we feel. It's what we do and how we live. It's choosing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of another person. 1 John chapter three verses 16 through 18 tells us this "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? So dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth".

This is how Jesus loves you, not with empty words, but by devoting himself to save you from sin. And this is how we are to love one another if we want to build strong friendships, by meeting the needs of others. One of the most Christ-like people I know is my wife, Mandy. We just celebrated seven years of marriage, and it has been absolutely amazing, but it hasn't been easy. Two weeks before we got married, she was diagnosed with a series of complex chronic health illnesses that have absolutely wrecked her health to the point where like she had to step away from her job. There are many days where like it is hard for her to do much of anything. And it is absolutely true that suffering sucks, but it is also true that our God is so good that he uses suffering to sanctify us to make us more like Jesus.

And through my wife's suffering, she has grown even more passionate about helping those who are trapped by life's circumstances find hope and freedom in Jesus. It wasn't too long ago that one of her friends from when she was a teenager, when she was a Switch student, we're gonna call her Sarah popped back into Mandy's life. You see, Mandy had felt like God was putting Sarah on her heart. And so Mandy reached out to her. Now, when they were younger, they had been a part of Switch together. Eventually Sarah walked away from the church, started making a string of bad decision after bad decision, eventually leading to a whole bunch of abusive and toxic relationships, addiction to substances and drugs, and all sorts of stuff that just began to wreck her in really, really horrible ways. And then she eventually hit what would be her rock bottom. And that's when God prompted Mandy to reach out to her.

So Mandy got some time to get lunch with her to just to hear about her life, what was going on. And as Sarah began to share all of these things that were happening, Mandy felt compelled to do something to help her. Now, in that moment, Sarah felt trapped in an abusive relationship because this dude that she was seeing was taking advantage of her in not great ways, but he was also paying her bills. And so she felt like she couldn't get away from him because if she did, then she wouldn't have a place to live. And so my wife compelled by the spirit of God decided that she was gonna pay Sarah's bills, that she was gonna help Sarah find work so that she could get back on her feet and out from under this dude's abusive authority.

And so that's exactly what happened because friends don't just look out for themselves, but they sacrifice to serve others. That's what my wife did for Sarah because that's what great friends do. So who is the friend that you need to sacrifice for? What is the thing that you need to give up to grow closer to them? Maybe you've got a friend who like really wants to do something with you, but you don't really wanna do that thing, but you're gonna do it anyways because you love them. Maybe you've got a friend who has a real need and you can actually meet that need but it's gonna cost you, you're gonna do it anyway. Maybe for you, you've got a friend who like you love so much about them, but there's that one little thing about them that annoys you and you're actually gonna just get over it because it's really not that big of a deal.

If you wanna build strong friendships, the first thing you've gotta do is make time together a priority. The second thing that you've gotta do is sacrifice yourself to serve your friends. And the third thing that you need to do is keep Jesus at the center. Keep Jesus at the center. In verse 42 of that passage in Acts we read that, "All the believers were together and had everything in common". Now to be clear, this does not mean that they were all alike in every way. That's not even close to true. All of these different believers came from a variety of backgrounds. They were different in lots of ways when it came to their personalities and their preferences. But the reason why they had everything in common is because what mattered most held them together. They kept Jesus at the center. And when Jesus is at the center of your relationships, you will soon discover that your differences do not divide you, they actually strengthen you.

One of my best friends is a guy named Vince Parker. And he and I are different in so many ways. Like, he loves cool clothes and sneakers. I prefer cheap ones. I think Lord of the Rings is the greatest movie series of all time. He thinks I'm a nerd. He loves traveling and visiting different churches around the country. I will not get on an airplane for anyone except my wife because I am terrified of heights. Now, all of those little differences could easily divide us, but they don't, because our faith in Jesus unites us. And that when it's at the center makes it so that our differences don't push us apart, they actually build us up and make us better.

So if you wanna build strong friendships, then maybe it's time to keep Jesus at the center. Maybe it's time to stop focusing on the things that are different between you and your friends and actually focus on serving Jesus together. And I think what'll happen is that when you put him at the center, when you make him your focus, serving him your mission, then you're gonna see how the things that are different about you and your friends make you all better and help you work better together to accomplish the mission that Jesus has put in front of you. If you wanna build strong friendships, do what those early Christians did, make time together a priority. Sacrifice yourself to serve them and keep Jesus at the center.

I wanna give you two really simple ways that you can apply this message to your life. The first way is for those of you who have not yet made being at Switch, worshiping God with your friends a habit, that first option is this. To make it a goal to be here every week this fall, because that is one of the best ways that you can make time together a priority by being here every Wednesday night. The second option is for those of you who are here consistently, like you're already here, this is a priority, it matters to you, but you still want to make your friendships stronger. The second thing is this. Create a plan to spend intentional and regular time with your Switch group outside of Wednesday night. If you do, here's what you're gonna discover, is that when you bring your friendship outside of the walls of the church, something really cool happens, and you and your friends, your walls actually start to come down in ways that you didn't even realize they needed to. And the depth of relationship ends up becoming really, really special.

So if you want to make strong friends, make time together a priority, sacrifice yourself to serve them, and keep Jesus at the center. The thing about Jesus is he's pretty brilliant, right? Like, he knew what we needed. He knew the thing that would solve the problems of loneliness in our lives, and that is why he put the church in place. That's why this is the thing that he left behind. And what's so beautiful is that the church, people following Jesus together, has been God's primary strategy to change the world from the very beginning. And what Jesus wants to do again is the same thing he did then, to use a group of friends committed to him to change the world.

That passage of scripture we read ends in verse 47 by telling us that these believers were "praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who are being saved". Your friendships have the power to make or break your future. When you have the right friends and you invest in those relationships, they will make you better, they will make your future brighter, and you will do the same for them. So make time together a priority. Sacrifice yourself to serve them and keep Jesus at the center.

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much, that you loved us enough to enter history as a human being named Jesus, to live in a way that showed us what life could really look like, to die on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins, to rise from the dead proving that you truly are the creator of everything. And it's amazing to know that you want a relationship with us. You've invited us to be a part of your family, a part of your church. So God, I pray that every single one of us would recognize that we have a part to play in your mission, that every single one of us can grow in our friendships with one another. And so God help us do exactly that. Help us to love each other the same way that you have loved us. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Now, I know that there are some of you right now who as you're hearing this message, all of that sounds really, really good, but you don't actually have a relationship with Jesus. Like, you've never made the decision to follow him, to trust him, to give your life to him. And maybe that's why you're here today, to make a decision that will change everything for the better. The gospel is the good news of what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will do through Jesus. The gospel is the good news that God loves you so much that he became a human being, died on the cross as a sacrifice for your sins, and rose from the dead so that anybody who puts their faith in him would be saved and have eternal life with him. And there are some of you that your next step is to begin a relationship with Jesus.
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