"Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom"
2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV
Building on the foundation of the last chapter, it becomes clear that God’s design is for human beings to live in fellowship, first with God and then with other believers. The early chapters of Genesis mention two things regarding fellowship: God spending time with Adam, and then finding a companion for Adam. Humankind was created to interact and relate.
Interestingly, Genesis 4 reveals that one aspect of punishment from God was being denied the pleasure of other people’s company. After killing Abel, Cain replied to the Lord,
“My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence…” (Genesis 4:13-14 NLT).
The eternal punishment of damnation in hell also means being alone, never seeing another soul ever again. Therefore, a lifestyle of being alone is not something to seek after.
“Friendship is unnecessary,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “like philosophy, like art …. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
It is fascinating to see how God knits believers together until they become as close as family.
“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21NLT).
Think of the believer’s life as one of the many building blocks in God’s church or temple. Oftentimes God even uses those that have been scarred and abused. When Nehemiah was endeavoring to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem the enemies mocked and shouted,
“Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” (Nehemiah 4:2 NLT).
God delights in building beautiful things out of broken people. Believers spend way too much time wallowing in past hurts, forgetting that Jesus brings deliverance and acceptance into his family.
Imagine a believer knowing all of the above yet still setting out to do life alone. First of all, think about how much that person would miss out on because of the choice to live in isolation. Second, that person would be going directly against God’s intent and design, and this disobedience would cause the believer to never come into fellowship with all of the other incredible people that God is shaping into lively stones. Third, choosing to do life alone would rob others of the gifts and friendship that a believer carries.
One of the true signs of a renewed life is the desire to befriend and hang out with other believers. The current societal trend, however, is leaning more and more toward isolation—people online scrolling through screen after screen and all the while becoming more skeptical and cynical. Research, however, has shown that laughter indeed is contagious and that smiles and human interaction result in positivity.
To the one who may be uncomfortable with stepping out and meeting new people, take courage. Young Ann Frank said, “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
Keep in mind, a large number of people who have not experienced the transformation that comes from a relationship with Jesus. These may be the most welcoming people yet to come across!
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians. 1:13 ESV).
How does a believer engage? First, attend church services. Become a fixture at a particular service and campus. Do not go flitting around like a hummingbird from flower to flower. Be attentive as God guides with His peace at church services. Be intentional by sharing names when meeting people and do not forget to smile. William Arthur Ward said, “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” Trust God to assist when meeting others,
“God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6 NLT).
This is God’s plan and will. Cooperate with God’s grace to carefully join together His family. The reward will be looking back months from now and giving thanks when recalling how God has built many prized friendships! After settling on a church home, do not stop there.
“Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts” (Acts 2:46 GNT).
It is one thing to get to know people at church, but it is even more pleasant to know people up close and personal at someone’s home. Small groups take place in living rooms and coffee shops and at workplaces. It is worth the effort to discover where these groups are meeting all around the city.
Do not underestimate the power of these small-group settings. Growth happens in the context of these relationships.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV).
It is even more rewarding knowing a small group at a deeper level than the larger group at a church service. It is exciting to see the diversity of people God brings into His family. Be ready for the unexpected!
The culture of the early church was unique. Coming from a background of segregation and exclusion within the Jewish belief system, the early church merged into a remarkable union of Jew and Gentile. These young believers were so impacted by the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah and the power of the resurrection that unity such as had never been known before resulted. The early church ate together, worshiped together, and shared possessions with one another without church buildings for the first 150 years!
This is a powerful model of unity for the modern church. All believers should embrace this example of Christ-based harmony and unity. Be encouraged to pursue this level of friendships through B-Groups. Many new friendships are also formed at the Freedom Encounter. Be open to meet many new believers that are walking through the same challenges and seeing victory through Christ.
One of the reasons that God facilitates relationships is to teach the church how to be more loving, giving, and selfless. In friendships, three major investments need to take place. The first is time. Relationships will never be healthy unless there is an investment of time. Second is transparency. Relationships that are strong and rewarding are open and transparent. The third is resources. Being cheap never helped anyone develop a healthy relationship.
Remember, God has equipped believers with the things necessary to be a good friend. New believers will find it helpful to connect with a mentor to help them grow in Christ. It is amazing how quickly a new believer can grow spiritually and draw strength from other Christian friends, who in turn draw strength from the new believer.
As Thomas Aquinas so rightly said, “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.”
Be sure to spend some time in prayer as you prepare to attend the Freedom Weekend. The chapters of this book are designed to prepare believers for what can be expected at this amazing experience. Countless numbers of lives have been transformed as Jesus is lifted up and His power is displayed. Get ready to encounter Him!