The truth is your friends are affecting your future whether you realize it or not. Do you have the right people in your life to point you in the right direction? In this message, we look at how to have real community with friends that are committed to Christ.
Welcome, friends in the room and Fort Worth; Houston; El Paso; Fayetteville; Phoenix; Boise, Idaho; and all of the other Porch.Live locations, especially all of us in the room. We are continuing the series Roaring 20s, how to have 20s, the decade between 2020 and 2030, that roar in every way you want them to and every way God wants them to. Not to just survive the next decade or your 20s but to thrive in a way that leads to the type of life God wants and, ultimately, you want.
Tonight, I'm going to start by telling a story that will give us some direction for where we're going. In college, I had a chance to be on the track team where I went to school. My first year of college, I showed up. Track is a spring sport, so the fall was a time of conditioning and training and doing a bunch of exercises, getting ready for the season coming up.
I threw the javelin, which is the most random sport on the planet, which explains how I was able to do it at that school, because there are like three of us out there who do it. So, I was with all of the throwers. You have javelin, shot put, just people who were part of the throwers group. The biggest challenge in the conditioning season or the fall semester that we had… There were a bunch of tests you'd have to do and a bunch of weight-lifting things. Hear me roar.
There was also this thing called the obstacle course. The obstacle course was this test that our coach named Chico, who was like a mad scientist, had put together, and it was something that was the most dreaded of all of the different tests we had to do. It was at the end of the semester, so you spent the entire semester training, and then you had to end it by doing this obstacle course he'd put together.
Here's what it was briefly. Basically, you would take these weights or these shot puts that weighed like 16 pounds. You would have to run and snake the bleachers, which means run up and run down, and basically run up all around the stadium, set the weight at the top, come back down, run the bleachers again, pick up another weight, run around the track, jumping over hurdles, and then snake the bleachers again, set it down, all for time.
I didn't know exactly what to expect and how hard this would be. I show up on the day the obstacle course is there, and everybody… It's like their least favorite day. You can just tell everyone is getting ready for it. As a freshman, you really don't know exactly what to expect. I've never done this before. You have this mixture of all this insecurity of "Am I about to die?" and all of this pride, like, "These pansies! I'm about to take this thing down and set a new record."
The coach looks at me and says, "Hey, you're the youngest. You'll go first. Set the pace." So I step into the line, getting ready for this. I'm about to show Usain Bolt here. I take off. I pick up the weight, and I run. I snake the bleachers, and things are going okay. I'm going up and down and up and down. I get to the top. I'm finishing lap one. I set the weight down there, continue running, go and pick up the second weight. I'm about to start rep two.
I start to run around the track, jumping over the hurdles. I get back to the bleachers to snake them again, and it was like everything in my body that was going, "Man, I'm a phenom…" Literally, at some point I look over, and the coach is showing another coach my time of lap one, and I'm like, "Dude, they're about to move me to the sprinters' team. That's what's about to happen." I get to that first bleacher step, and my body is like, "Shut 'er down!"
Lactic acid fills my legs. I didn't even know this much lactic acid existed in your legs. Everything that was going from a sprint literally shuts down and comes to a complete halt, and it becomes like a walk for the rest of the time trying to do these bleachers. It was to the point of embarrassment, where the entire track… All of a sudden, they're out there in the field, and everyone's attention goes from whatever they're doing to, "Look at…" Like, out of pity.
You know those moments, where they're like, "Someone please make this stop. I feel terrible for him. Look at him. He's so unathletic." Like, such a snail's pace. I didn't even know if I was going to be able to finish it. I kept moving and finally got to the very end and totally collapsed. My coach comes over, and he says, "David, that was the fastest first lap I've ever seen, and that was the slowest second lap I have ever seen."
I lost to everybody, and it wasn't even close. It was like 6 minutes, 6 minutes, 6 minutes…49 minutes. Guys who weighed 300 pounds and were shot-putters were jogging past me. It was just one of those occasions where what had started so well and had so much momentum all of a sudden came to such a halt, and my ability to even keep running was no longer possible.
What does that have to do with what we're talking about tonight? Well, tonight we're going to examine one of the truths and principles from God's Word that we're doing throughout this series that we're covering. In this young adult age, there are certain issues that are at the forefront of things that if you're going to thrive or have 20s that roar, you need to know how to handle these different issues, and handle them not just according to your friend's opinion or the latest blog but according to God's Word…things like dating, finances, career. What does it look like to approach these topics well?
Tonight's topic isn't any of those but I think is as important as any other topic we're going to have in this series, because if you don't get this topic right, it will hinder your ability to keep running. It's the reason so many Christians go out with a bang or have this season in their life where they're like, "I'm on fire for Jesus. I'll never walk away. I'm all in. I'm going to become a missionary," and then something happens, and slowly they begin to drift away from their faith, and they don't even know if they believe in God anymore.
It's responsible for why so many people who claim to be Christian and pledge their life to another person who claims to be a Christian stand at an altar and say, "Until death do us part," and then a number of years later sign papers that say, "I don't want anything to do with you. I want a divorce." They didn't apply this principle, this biblical truth. It's the reason so many of you, candidly, feel so alone right now, and there's an anxiety that washes over you, and you wonder if anyone out there cares.
It's the reason so many people who claim to be Christians don't actually look any different than the world around us and give a bad name to Christ. It's this idea related to this topic: your friendships. Tonight, what I want to talk about is having the right friendships. The Bible over and over says that if you get this wrong, you can know the path you are headed on is not going to be a path you're going to like.
It has been well said, "Show me your friends and I'll show you your future." The Bible says that over and over and over. So, what I want to talk about is, in this stage, making sure you have the right friendships and relationships around you, that your squad is filled with the people that the God who's there wants to be a part of that.
I want to define what type of right relationships you should have. The right friendships, biblically… These are the people, no matter who has been my crew… The world says, "Ride or die." It is not "Ride or die" with the wrong people. The friendships I should have should be relationships where I live authentically in relationship with people committed to Christ.
The type of friendship that should mark your life is living authentically in relationships, ongoing, with people who are committed to Christ. This is the thing that if you're back in church… We get this story all the time. You're like, "This is my year. I'm going all in. I really want to get serious." I can tell you right now whether or not 2020 is going to be a year where you grow closer to God or not if you tell me who you're running with.
If you are a follower of Jesus and you want to really see and experience the transformation, the type of life…you want to head toward the right marriage someday, you want to make sure you're not being a fool as it relates to your money, your career, all of those different things… At the epicenter of that, directly related to your ability to wisely navigate those arenas, is going to be the friendships you have around.
Let me unpack this sentence. Every single word in that sentence was intentionally chosen: that you would live authentically in relationship with people committed to Christ. What do I mean by that?
1 . Live authentically. This is probably the hardest one, because 90 percent of you in the room are going to be like, "Dude, check the box. I feel like I'm done. I'm going to go see the food trucks. I live authentically." And you don't. You manage information. You don't tell the whole truth.
You don't actually live in a way that has other believers in your life who know where you're hurting, where you're struggling, where you're having a hard time, where your mind is tripping on toxic thought after toxic thought; who know your Internet history; who know the relationship you're in; who know the ins and the outs and all of the different ways you are living or not living according to God.
I know some of you are like, "No, I really think I am." For the vast majority of you, this is not something you are experiencing, and I'll unpack why I say that in a second. Then the others of us, maybe you're in a place where you're like, "No, I really am living authentically with a Community Group and with my friendships, people who love God." This is a tension that never goes away. It's something to constantly pursue.
Living authentically. What do I mean by that? The Bible says in Hebrews 3:12-13, "See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage…" In other words, here's the remedy to make sure none of you allow sin to get buried in your heart and begin to grow and grow and harden your heart and turn you away from God.
The way you prevent that heart hardening is by doing this: "But encourage [exhort, call out] one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today'…" This is like him saying, "Every day that ends in Y." "…so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." You're to have relationships with other people in your life where you are open in such a way where they can speak into your life and you can speak into theirs the places where they need to be called out and where you need to be called out.
James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." Do you have people in your life who you can actually be honest with and confess sins to and they don't respond by making fun of you or being like, "Dude, it's cool; everybody does it," but they sit there, they pray for you, they come alongside and encourage and hold you accountable; where you can be authentic, known?
Ephesians 4:25 says, "So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors [one another] the truth, for we are all parts of the same body." This means not managing information. It means you being honest and telling people the whole truth, being specific about where you're having a tough time, and living in the light, not with every single person everywhere and posting it all on Facebook but with authentic relationships in your life where you can be real with other people. The Bible says this is to mark our lives.
It's funny living in 2020. One of my favorite things about living today is social media, this explosion of social media that the vast majority of human history has not had anything like. Just with Facebook and Instagram and Twitter… It allows you to keep up with high school friends you would otherwise have no idea what they're up to.
I know high school friends' kids' names or people in my tribe that previously, had there been no Facebook, no Instagram, I would have no idea what's going on or that you have a dog or that you live in Phoenix or any of the different ways you're able to connect. Not only that. You're able to know about one another's lives in ways that are both awesome and fun to connect with or know what's going on and kind of hilarious.
There has never been a time in human history where you would feel like, "I need to share with every friend I have, ever, and all of my family and even some strangers that this avocado toast I had is so delicious. You've got to try this recipe. Link in the bio." There would never be a time where I would say that or never be a time where I'm like, "I need to tell every person out there everywhere about my workout I just had, so I'm going to call up all of my friends. 'Guys, it was brutal. This WOD…you wouldn't believe it. It was just…'"
It would never happen, but now with social media, we all feel compelled to be like, "Hey, I'm going to get this out there, and click. 'Hey, guys. This is what I did today. Here's what's going on in my life. Look at this sunset. Look at how beautiful it is.' I need to tell everyone everywhere about this sunset." It's just a funny time, but it also is a great time, because it leaves us connected.
I think one of the dangers of social media is that it teaches us to be amazing managers of people's perception of us. It's just kind of part of the game. Everyone's social media… I know we all know this. You look at Instagram or Facebook and you're like, "Yeah, that is not actually their real life." We're all doing it, and you can even make money off of doing it by being called an influencer, where you are shaping the perception people have of you.
We, without even knowing it, are becoming better and better managers of people's perception of us. What do I mean? Not long ago, it was Mother's Day, and my wife and I went and celebrated. Here's a picture from mine. We had Mother's Day brunch. There are two little kids. This is great. Underneath is a caption of "Callie, you are the GOAT of moms. You're the best." Something sweet, really romantic. You know what I'm saying.
But here's what you don't know in that picture. On the way to this brunch for Mother's Day, we're in conflict because I didn't get her a card for Mother's Day. I know. Stop judging me right now. I got her other gifts, and I had our kids sign the card, and just different conflicts. So we're in conflict there, and then at the brunch we're there with family. Our kids are going crazy. The daughter is sick. She won't sit still. The entire thing was miserable. It was like, "The Mother's Day brunch is disgusting, and this is the worst Mother's Day brunch of all time."
But if you were to just look on my wall, you'd be like, "Oh my gosh. I'm so envious about what they have right now." Or I don't know what emotion you would have, but you would go, "Oh, that looks like it must have been such a great brunch." It was a terrible brunch, terrible morning. I'm still recovering, to be honest. That's not true, but we're excellent…
I'm not trying to mismanage or trying to throw it out there… Nobody wants to go to the Instagram page that's like, "This actually is a deceitful picture and not accurately capturing what's going on." My point is without even realizing it, we are experts at managing what people think and trying to manage the perception they have of us, what they think about us.
Where this becomes really dangerous is it begins to bleed, for a lot of us, into our real lives, where we've taught ourselves to be so good at it that when it comes to actual human relationships…not Instagram relationships, real friends…we're constantly in the mode of managing information, managing people's perception. Don't actually be honest. Try to say what you think they want you to say. Try to be the person you think they want to see. We're constantly keeping these superficial relationships.
The tragedy is all of us share the deep desire to be known, to be accepted, and to be loved, and as long as I decide I'm going to manage what you think about me and not actually going to tell you where I'm having a tough time, not actually going to open up my life, you can't actually love me, because you don't actually know me. You know some superficial version of me. My fear for many in this room is that you're going to go your entire life, and you will have the depth of friendships of an Instagram relationship.
Today in this room, I would guess the vast majority of us have very few people we can be real or authentic with, who know us. I know some of us do, and we're pursuing that in community, and we're opening up our lives, but thousands listening to me wherever you are and inside of this room live in this way where it's just basically, "I'm terrified of you actually knowing the real me, so I'm going to put out the me I think everyone wants."
So no one ever gets to love the real you. They get to love some manicured version of you. As Christians, we are called to live in the light and have real relationships marked by living authentically. So, what does this mean? It means you, in your small group, if you have one, going and sharing about the areas of your life where you're having a hard time, where you are needing God to take work, sharing, struggling.
Things like this: "I'm struggling this week to believe that God is good because my mom has cancer and I don't know if it's going away." It means sharing, "Hey, guys, I need to confess. This week, I went farther physically than I wanted to in my dating relationship with her. I need you to hold me accountable. Help me think through boundaries. I want to bring you guys in, and I just want to confess that. I don't want to walk in the dark with that."
It means sharing, "Man, I'm really struggling over anxiety about my job and, while I'm at work, what other people think about me and what I'm going to do if a layoff happens." You just bring that, and you say, "This is where I'm really struggling. Will you pray for me?" It means being honest about times where life can be really hard and sad and sharing, "I'm sad. I'm sad this week. I'm disappointed about my relationship status.
A lot of my friends are moving on to the next phase of life. Some of them already have kids. Maybe most have kids, and I feel like God has forgotten me. I'm not sure it's going to happen. Whether or not it will, I just need you to know I'm a little depressed in this moment." You bring others in. You don't over-spiritualize it and try to pretend like, "Hey, I lost my job. All things work together for good. Everything is fine," if you don't actually believe that.
You don't minimize it and pretend that things are not hard when they are. Maybe the biggest takeaway some of you can have is to learn, whenever you're weeping about something really hard in your life and someone is like, "Man, I'm so sorry," not to say, "No, everything is fine." One thing is a clear signal. When someone is bawling about something hard in their life and they respond with, "Everything is fine," everything is not fine in that moment, and it's okay.
As followers of Jesus, the relationship God designed and wired you for is to be known and loved and cared for and to have that with other Christians inside of your life. The challenge most of us get into is, "Dude, what are they going to think if I bring that to the group? I'm anxious about this. I need to confess I clicked on this. I need to confess I crossed boundaries physically with my girlfriend. What are they going to think about me?"
Let me answer that question really quickly. Here's what they're going to think. Are you ready? They're going to think you're a lot like them, only really honest. They're going to think, "Huh. They don't have it together either. They're just more honest than I am." That's what they're going to think. Let me tell you what they're not going to think when you bring to group and you're like, "Hey, look. We've been dating. We've been trying to pursue purity, and we messed up this week. Here's what we did. Hands went places they shouldn't have gone," and you confess that to the group.
Here's what I've never heard happen. The group sits there. "Oh. Huh. Okay, yeah. Oh wow. Man, thanks for sharing that. Are you telling me there's a girl you're dating who you find really attractive and you hope to marry and that led you to cross boundaries physically? Oh my! What sort of pervert are you? I don't even know what to do with this. This is just… My mind is blown. How could you?" That's insane.
It doesn't make it right, and it doesn't make it something you should allow to take place, but it never happens where people are like, "I don't even have a category for that. Wow! You guys really like each other and… What?!" I've never heard the story of a girl or a guy who brought forward, "I'm struggling in this season of singleness right now, and I'm just disappointed because my timeline and where I hope to be… I'm realizing it's not possible. It's not happening for me."
I've never heard the group come around and go, "What is wrong with you? Trust God already!" No. If they love Jesus, they're going to be good lovers of people like Jesus was, and they're going to say, "Man, thank you for sharing that. Let me pray for you. I'm there. Me too. I have experienced that. How can I walk with you and encourage you and remind you?"
There's this lie all of us believe, as crazy as that lie is, that, "What are they going to think?" They're going to think you're honest. If they love Jesus (and you should be in authentic relationships with people who love Jesus), they should respond like Christ calls us to.
2 . Living in relationship. That's not a typo or being redundant. That's included because it means you should be in ongoing, consistent, continual relationships with a group, with specific people. Not just random one-off conversations with a priest you confess to, not just random one-off conversations with somebody down front, not just random one-off conversations with somebody who lives in Omaha and somebody who lives in New York and this friend you had over here and your mom every once in a while.
Consistent, ongoing relationships; that you would have friendships where you are authentic and you are in relationship. Consistent, ongoing, regular relationships together. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:24, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day [of Christ's returning] approaching."
Paul says, "Hey, don't give up. Keep meeting together. Some people are in the habit of not meeting together. Don't be like those people." He anticipates there are going to be people who are like, "You know what? I love Jesus. I'm good just me and Jesus, no church." Paul is like, "Don't be that guy. You don't want to be him. You want to be someone who continues to meet together."
Then he uses interesting terms. He says spur. That's a horse metaphor. Somebody has spurs. They push and encourage one another toward being more loving and having their life filled with more good things, good deeds. They come alongside and encourage. They're relationships where people are going, "How can I help you be more of the girl you want to be, more of the guy you want to be, more of the husband you want to be, more of the follower of Jesus? I want to be a source of helping you get there, and I need you to be a source of that in my life."
Let me ask you a question before we keep going. Do you have those types of relationships? Do you have friends in your life who spur you on in your faith? Not every once in a while, not a pastor, not somebody you met one time or a counselor in isolation (or only) but people in your life, a group of believers around you who encourage and spur you on to be more of who God calls you to be.
Like I said, by this I don't mean that if you're walking through, you live authentically, and you just randomly call, and you confess one sin to your friend John over here, and then the next week you call Carl who lives over here, and then the next week you call Bill who lives over here. You have people in your life who know what's going on in that group, and you don't meet with them separately. They're all a part of it, and you're doing life and walking together.
These have been some of the guys who, for the last five years, have been in my life, all of the guys who are at the top. For the last five years, every single Friday morning we've met together for breakfast. On Thursday evenings we meet as a group. They are not impressed with me. They don't think anything about me other than, "Pastors get to be Christians too. We know you're messed up just like we are, and let's all come together and encourage one another."
They've walked alongside and prayed for, and as we've walked through hard times in our marriage, they know where we're struggling. They know the temptations that take me out. It's not perfect. We meet together in everyday, ordinary moments. We talk about what God is teaching us. We talk about where we need to double down and love our wives better. We talk about the different ways we just need God to win in our hearts because we're believing different lies.
If you were to show up for one Friday morning, you wouldn't be like, "Oh my gosh! It's just magical. There's an aura of Spirit dust everywhere. Wow!" It's just ordinary moments. In those moments, when you put them together over time, God does extraordinary things, because those authentic relationships where people encourage, and you walk together, and they support you and remind you of who God calls you to be and call out the areas of your life where you're not being the man God calls you to be… Those are the ways God transforms people.
It's not a perfect group. There is no perfect group. But do you have a group of people who are in your life, walking alongside of you? Community, or the types of relationships I'm talking about, are like any relationships. They are forged not found. Any great relationships are forged not found. In other words, they take work.
It's just like a great marriage. Let me pop the bubble for anybody out there who thinks someday they're going to get married, and they're going to find the one, and this person is going to be… You wouldn't say you think they're the one, because you've been around long enough, and you're like, "I know they don't complete me. They're not the one, but they're pretty great."
They're going to be someone you're going to get into marriage with, and if you want to have a great marriage, no matter how well you click… You guys like the same movies, TV shows, sports, songs…everything, whatever that is. It's going to take work to have a great marriage. If you're sitting and you're engaged right now and you're elbowing, like, "Not us, baby. It's always going to be honeymoon…"
The honeymoon will be over within a week, and then you'll be into a place where you have to work, because you're like, "Oh, wow. You're a girl, and this is not as easy as I thought." And she's like, "Oh, man. You're a guy, and you smell really bad, and this is not as easy as I thought." And the work begins, because great marriages, like any great relationship, are forged. You don't find them. Some of you don't believe me right now, but that is the truth. They take work.
So it is with community. Great relationships take work. They take prioritizing, especially when you're post-college. For me, some of my closest friends in the world were all in the college phase. They're guys who love Jesus and who I still keep up with to this day, and we're such close friends, but the way we formed relationships then was almost not even fair, because you're in college.
You're like, "Dude, we spend all the time together. We have three hours of class a day, and sometimes we don't even go, and then we just do whatever we want, and we're at Whataburger until 3:00 in the morning, and we're living together." You have all of this time to spend together. Now you have a job, and you live separately, and you're meeting people who are in your small group who you've never met before, and you're trying to form relationship.
You're like, "This isn't as easy as these other friends," because you haven't spent as much time with them as you have those other friends. It takes prioritizing, pursuing them, being patient, and time, and working toward that to create those types of relationships. In case you're wondering, if you're sitting in a group, there's not a group out there where there are not times where everybody is like, "I don't think I really want to go tonight" or "I don't think I really want to be a part of that."
Every single Friday morning at 6:00 a.m., I'm like, "Oh, I do not want to go to this again," and then I get there, and I always leave going, "Man, that was such a great reminder. I'm so glad I was a part of this." So, when you're driving in your car and you're like, "I'm sitting in traffic, and I do not want to be a part of this," you're probably doing it right. Push through and pursue in relationship living authentically with people who are committed to Christ. It's going to be worth it. In the end, you're going to win.
3 . People who are committed to Christ. Not living authentically in relationship with a CrossFit community or living authentically in relationship with a neighborhood around you or living authentically in community with family members. None of those. Living authentically in relationship with people who are committed to Christ.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:14, a verse we've read many times before in the context of marriage, "Do not be yoked [partnered] together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:33 said, "Do not be misled…" As in, "Hey, what I'm about to tell you is something where a lot of people end up misled. They're fools or they don't realize that this is a true thing. So don't be misled. Don't be like them. Here's something you need to know."
"Bad company corrupts good character." Who you run with is more powerful than your character. Think about that. That's what he just said. That is a crazy verse. Paul says, "Look. You can have great character, be raised in a great home, make convictions at a deep level that you'll never do X, Y, and Z, but if you run with the wrong crowd, you are going to run in the wrong direction."
The company you keep is more powerful than the character you have. The company you keep…who's around you, who's in your inner circle, who speaks into your life, who influences you, who you spend the most time with…is going to be more powerful than the convictions you hold. Think about that. That's not an opinion; that is the Bible.
It has been rightly summarized… All throughout Scripture it says you can see your friends and then see your future, where you're headed toward. Paul says, "Do not be deceived. Who you run with will determine where you're running toward." We've all seen this. In case you're like, "Really? Is it really that powerful?" think about some of the decisions you made in life and how they were directly connected to who you were around.
Here's what I know. The first time you smoked pot was not in isolation totally by yourself. It wasn't one day where you were like, "You know what? I feel like pot sounds good. Let's try that out. Hey, Pot.com. Do you know where I could get some of this?" No. You were around somebody at somebody's house and they were like, "Hey, man. Do you want to try?"
The first time you smoked a cigarette, probably the first time you drank alcohol, the way you informed your perspective on sex and relationships. Think about all of the different decisions. All of it was directly formed by whoever you ran with. It can be incredibly powerful in a negative direction or incredibly powerful in a positive direction.
The reason some of you ended up doing a Bible study is because you were hanging out with a friend from work, and they were like, "Hey, do you want to do this with me this year?" and you started doing that, and God got ahold of your heart in a unique way. For others of you, the way you date has been directly connected to the people around you, because you've had wise guys or wise girls say, "I don't think she's right for you. I don't think this is a good relationship for you to be in," and you made the decision, "I'm getting out, because I continue to hear that same thing from people in my life."
I remember the first time I heard somebody talk about, "I don't want to be addicted to pornography, so I'm going to sign up for something called Covenant Eyes, which is this software, and I'm going to send it to you every single week." This was like 10 years ago for me. He came over and told me that at my house. Do you know what that created in me? A response that said, "Me too; I don't want to look at this anymore," and we got on Covenant Eyes together.
I don't know that I ever would have done that without him. Ten years ago, and one of my closest friends to this day. Who you run with is going to shape the direction you are running toward, for good or bad. Are you running with the right people in your life? Paul says, "Hey, I don't care how many times you go to The Porch, how important God is to you, how good of a boy or girl your mama raised you to be. Bad company trumps that all day long." Are you running with the right people in your life?
Here's what the right people in your life look like. People who are committed to Christ are going to have these qualities because they're committed to Christ's Word, the Bible, and living in line with it. When you find friends who are committed to Christ, they speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:29). They want to speak the truth to you, not to beat you over the head but because they love you, and do so in a loving way.
They mourn with you when you mourn, and they rejoice with you when you rejoice (Romans 12:15). They come alongside, and when it's hard, they're there for you. When things are going great, they celebrate with you. They counsel you from God's Word (Colossians 3:16). They don't give you their opinion, like, "Hey, I saw on Ellen the other day that maybe we should do this." They say, "I think God has something to say about this issue," and they speak from God's Word and counsel your life in that direction.
They're willing to say hard truths, even if they think it's going to wound you. If it is something you may not be aware of or in order to protect you, something you may not see, they're willing to call out blind spots. That's Proverbs 27:6. This one alone is so huge. Do you guys know the show American Idol? If you watch that show, you know what I'm talking about, where every single season there are people who go on there and can sing, and then there are the people who go on there and cannot.
You'll watch, and you always think, "How has no one ever told you this before? How are you singing 'Gangnam Style' right now in front of 30 million Americans and everyone is laughing at you right now? How did nobody in your entire life go, 'Hey, dude. You can't sing, bro. You do not need to be doing this'?" They never had any faithful friend who was willing to say, "Hey, man, we're going to find you another hobby, like basket weaving or something. This is not really what I think you're called to do." How?
The same thing, tragically, is true for a lot of us in the room. You've never had a real friend in your life, and you've been in one messed-up relationship after the next after the next after the next. You get around people who are actually truth-tellers, and you begin to describe your dating relationship and how you always date these deadbeat jerk guys, one after the next, and they are able to say, "I think the common denominator is you. Has anyone ever told you that you may be the reason you continue to date deadbeat guys?"
You've never had anybody speak truth like that in your life. You've never had anybody willing to say, "Hey, I think you're bitter toward your dad. It sounds like you may hold a grudge toward him. Am I right? Maybe I'm wrong." But willing to say not what they want you to hear or not what they know you want to hear.
They're like, "I love God and I love you more than I love what you think about me or more than I love what I want you to think about me and more than I need you to like me, because I love you, and if I'm obsessed with you liking me, I may not be able to love you if it means telling you something that's hard to hear." Do you have friends like that in your life? Friends who are committed to Christ will encourage you when you're fainthearted, when you're like, "I'm exhausted."
They're generous toward you and your needs as a source of provision in your life (Acts 2:45). When you're financially in a hard place, they're coming around you, helping make ends meet, pay bills, cover things. They forgive you when you hurt them as Christ forgave them (Colossians 3:13).
They don't hold on to grudges. They're not like, "You hurt me. Bye, Felicia! Peace. I'm out of here." They work through hurts with you. They work through conflict (Ephesians 4:3). They're diligent to work through conflict. When you hurt them, they move toward you, because they want to see it resolved for the sake of being unified. Do you have relationships like that?
By implication, the other takeaway from this is that it's not even just having the right relationships in your life; it is removing the wrong relationships from your life. These next two minutes is going to be the thing some of you listen to, and it's going to change your life forever. Am I saying there may be people in your life who you need to go to and say, "Hey, I don't think we can hang out anymore. We at least can't hang out in the same way anymore"? Yes.
I know you're going, "Dude, are you kidding me? We're boys. Do you know how much we've been through? We've been through all types of stuff. This dude was here for me when I went through the darkest moments in my life. They've been in my life forever. Are you telling me I just need to ghost them and walk away?" No. But I am saying you need to step away and sit them down and have a conversation and say, "If it's true, I'm not sure we can be friends in the same way we have been, at least right now."
You take them to lunch. You sit them down. You say, "I feel like God is doing something in my life, and I'm trying to focus on my relationship with him, which means I can't spend the weekend partying anymore. I'm not sure I can come to your bachelor party in a month. The stuff that's going to be there… I feel like it's going to pull me down.
It's not because I think I'm better than you. I just think I'm better off following Jesus than I have been, so this is the change I'm making right now. I still want to spend time with you. I still love you. If you want to come with me to small group, to church, I want to hang out with you, just maybe not at happy hour and maybe not at the bar and maybe not at the places that we have been, at least right now."
You don't ghost. You don't just go radio silent. You speak the truth in love. If you're thinking, "What if they're like, 'Oh, okay. Really? Oh, you can't go to the bar anymore? What's up with that, dude? You don't care about me? Oh, are you so much better than me now since you found Jesus?'" May I suggest that if someone only wants to hang out with you if it involves alcohol, maybe they are not as close of a friend as you think.
If someone only wants to hang out with you and it involves whatever thing God says shouldn't be in your life, they may not be as close as you think. Yes, the Scripture does say you are to walk with the right people and have the types of relationships around you where you live authentically in relationship with people who are committed to Christ.
For some of you, tonight is your night, and you're going to take a step that is going to totally transform who you're going to be in 2030. You're going to take your first step. You're going to get plugged into a church, you're going to get into community, and you're going to experience life change. You're going to experience more of what Jesus called you to be, more who you were made to be.
Others of you are not going to listen. You're going to continue in relationships that are going to continue pulling you down, and one day, you're going to wake up and remember this message or maybe you're going to have a friend who invites you back again and you're going to be reminded that, "Oh, God does love me. He hasn't forgotten me. He wants me to experience life, and one of the ways he designed that to be experienced is through relationships with other Christians in my life," and that day you're going to get it, hopefully.
Let me close by saying this. If you could have a friendship or be in relationship, a non-romantic one, with anybody on the planet… I want you to think to yourself, "Who would I want to be friends with?" A person, anybody on the planet. You could be friends with Justin Bieber. You could be friends with Selena. You do you. Whoever you would be excited about being friends with. Maybe it's a mentor…Mark Cuban in the business world. "I'd love to have a friendship with this person." Who would that person be?
If the qualities that make you want to be that person's friend do not include the quality, or at the top of those qualities, godliness, that they love Jesus…"They're someone I admire in their walk with him; they're someone who is a godly person, who I want to have a relationship with because every time I'm around them they make me want to be more like Jesus"…your priorities are off or at least not biblical. The God who's there wants you to have relationships, and they will show you your future. Do you have the right ones?
If you're hearing this for the first time… Maybe you've been back in church after a while or maybe you are still trying to figure out this entire God thing or Jesus thing out. Here's what I want you to hear me say. What you need to do is not take the first step of going and getting into a small group; you need to take a first step in responding to the God who has already stepped toward you.
I asked the question, "If you could be in a friendship or relationship with anybody on the planet, who would it be?" Do you know how God answered that question? Do you know how God would answer that question? "Hey, God, if you could be in relationship with anybody out there, who would it be?" You.
Listen to me. The God who is there has not woven creation into such a way where he's waiting for you to work your way toward him, that he wants you to strive and get your life together and clean yourself up and stop doing that and put yourself together, and then you can have a relationship. He's a God who so desperately wants to be in relationship with you he went to the furthest extent possible by sending his own Son to die in your place.
He did so by paying for all the sin in your life, every sin in my life, every sin inside of this room, every sin that has ever been done by anyone listening, whether you're there right now or at some future date on the podcast. Every person, all of it, paid for, because he wanted to have a relationship with you, because he answered that question. "Who would I want most? You."
So many people have bought the lie that "The God who's there wants to rip you off. He wants you to follow a bunch of rules. You need to be in church a bunch. You need to read your Bible X number of times, and then you can have a relationship." It is a lie from hell. God is so crazy about you he sent his own Son to make a way so that despite anything and everything you've ever done, all of the ways you don't deserve to have a relationship, you could have one.
Not by earning it but by accepting it, by saying, "I believe. I believe it's true. God, you came. You reset the calendar 2,020 years ago. You died in my place. I don't think I'm good enough to have a relationship with God. I don't think I'm good enough to go to heaven, but I believe you paid for my sin and rose from the grave. You conquered death, and I believe in that. I receive, if it's possible, that free gift. I'm not trusting in me; I'm trusting in you." In that moment, that relationship you were made for begins. Every relationship in this earthly life will fall short if it is not grounded and founded on that relationship. Let me pray.
Father, thank you that despite every way we have tried to satisfy the loneliness, the aches, the anger, the places in our souls that are crying out for you, and we try to fill them with sex or pleasure or success… Despite all of that, you died in our place. You gave your life so that we would not just have good friendships here but we could be a friend of God forever.
So, Father, I pray for anyone in this room who has never received that free gift, that your Spirit would now do what only it can do and allow them to trust not in how good they are or bad they are but in you. I pray for people in this room who don't have real relationships…they're lonely, they're anxious, they feel like no one cares, and they're afraid of what if someone knew…that you would break through the walls and you would move them by your Spirit to take the next step, whether that's opening up to their small group or getting plugged into a church, this one or another one.
Father, would you help us? We are weak, and we know that in our weakness you are strong, and you've given us community to encourage and help one another. Would we lean on that and walk with others and experience all the life and a decade ahead of us that roars through your provision of the gift of the people of God. In Christ's name, amen.