Overcoming Hindrances to Friendship • Acts 15:36-41
Pastor Tim Tseng • July 17, 2016
1. Our core Christian mission is making disciples who make disciples (Matthew 4:19; 28:19-20). Everything we do should lead to this priority. Small groups are not merely support groups or social hangouts. Bible studies and Sunday schools are not just about acquiring knowledge and debating ideas. The goal is ALWAYS to become better disciples who make disciples.
- In the faith and science class, the central questions are “how do we encourage scientifically minded people to follow Jesus?” and “how our children can become disciples who thrive in a scientifically minded culture?”
- As people prepare for marriage, the central questions are “how to encourage singles to seek relationships that are centered on following Christ? how to prepare couples for marriages and family life that are centered on following Christ?”
- Happiness, personal fulfillment, satisfaction are not the goals of children’s ministry, new marriages, parenting, and family ministries. Following Jesus as we live life is. “seek first his Kingdom – and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33). Secondary goals are important, but Jesus and his kingdom come first. And the wonderful, ironic truth is this: The healthy, abundant, and joyful life God wants us to have comes after we prioritize him.
2. Disciple-making only happens where there is trust and accountability. Trust and accountability only happens where there is authentic, biblically-based friendship (which is built on loving relationships – come to the EM retreat!) But making and keeping friends is so hard and often discouraging. Three hindrances to this type of friendship often happen today:
- Hindrance #1: Superficial Relationships. Like untossed feta chickpea orange salad, when we stay apart from others emotionally and spiritually, there is no real flavor or depth in our relationships. When we surround ourselves only with people like us or who think like us, our relationships will be superficial. Paul teaches us that the mystery of the gospel is when Jewish and Gentile Christians break down their religious and cultural barriers to become a new people (Eph. 2-3, Acts 1-2).
- Hindrance #2: Not recognizing that some circumstances are beyond our control. The friendship of Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 20) could not truly survive the fear of King Saul. We, too, need to recognize that we cannot control all our circumstances and learn let go sometimes.
- Hindrance #3: Not being self-reflective. Had Paul and Barnabas been more self-reflective they may not have split up in Acts 15:26-41. Our challenge is to know ourselves well enough so that we do not hinder friendships by our personalities and behavior.
3. Key to overcoming hindrances to authentic friendship: Reflecting God’s image into our relationships (imago dei). The key quality is hesed, steadfast love. Ruth’s willingness to risk her future to support tragedy-stricken Naomi and follow Yahweh is a supreme model of steadfast love and commitment.