reNEWed Part 4 – Renewed Community

reNEWed Part 4 – Renewed Community

This is our final week in the series called “Renewed”.

Since life has a way of making us feel stuck, where we can feel like life is happening to us rather than us living the full life that Jesus offers, from time to time and certainly more than once, we are in need a renewal. As we have walked together through this series the past few weeks, I hope that each and every one of you have experienced some kind of renewal or are working towards a renewal within your life.

Some of the ways we can be renewed is through, what I believe is the first step, a Renewed Spirit. God renews our spirit as we repent and trust Him to forgive us of our sins, and we once we repent, we are then reconnected with Him.

From there, we have a Renewed Purpose. Knowing God created us in His image, we know He created us with a plan. Our God offers us a renewed purpose as we trust Him to guide us in that plan.

And God Renews our Love too.As we allow Him to remind us of His great love for us, we can renew our love in return for God.

It is because we have a God who is so intimately involved in our lives that we never have to resign ourselves to a hopeless and broken life. We can always experience renewal.

So today, the last week of this series, I want to look at the community with which we have surrounded ourselves. Who we are is largely a result of the people we have chosen to call friends. The choice of who we fellowship with may be one the most important decisions we make in life.

POINT 1: CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY

Now I know what’s going through your heads when I say that. I know because it’s gone through mine. If you are 35 or older, you think this point is for the young crowd. No. Everyone needs to listen up. You show me your friends, and I kid you not, it will reveal the direction of your life, no matter how old you are.

Some of us today have chosen wonderful friendships that constantly encourage us and always push us forward. A good friendship is a two-way street. You give and you receive in a selfless and committed community.

However, some of us find ourselves in friendships that are harmful to us. You don’t have people who encourage you or want what is best for you. You find yourself choosing people who take advantage of you and only look out for themselves.

Or (and this is especially true for those 35 and ups) you find yourself having few, if any friends. Some of you are thinking, everyone has a least one friend. But not everyone has someone they can call on when they really need to talk. As you get older, friends change. You grow distant from the friends you had in high school, college or at a job. You change jobs and before you know it, you lose touch. It happens.

So maybe today you need to hear this….God can help us experience renewal in our community of friends.  

The kind of people we need to strive to be and the kind of people we should strive to surround ourselves with, are people who are obedient to God. Because when we follow God’s commands and we walk in His ways, it enriches our life and it protects us from unnecessary harm.

Think about the disciples. They were twelve ordinary men who became a tight group of friends committed to following Jesus through the ups and downs of life. John, one of those twelve, was pretty familiar with choosing a fellowship with people who would intentionally live for Jesus. John wrote the book of 1 John and within that book talks about the importance of being mindful of who we walk with in life. Here’s a piece of it…

1 John 2:5-6
5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

John offers an effective and sure way of testing the community in which we find ourselves. He says the mark of a committed Christ follower is someone who keeps the commands of God. So are the people you surround yourself with, keeping the commands of God?

This kind of person takes God at His word.

  • They believe that it is important to repent of sin (Matthew 4:17).
  • They believe it is important to serve people as they serve Christ (Philippians 2).
  • They believe it is important to be reconciled with one another (Matthew 5:23-25).
  • They believe it is important to keep their word (Matthew 5:37).
  • And they believe it is important pray for one another (Matthew 21:13).

When you go through truly difficult times in life, that’s when your true friends are revealed. When you’ve lost your job, lost a loved one, when you’ve gone through something traumatic, who calls? Who comes to visit? Who can you pick up the phone and be truthfully honest with? Those are your real friends.

Overall, we must have a clear idea of our current community, who we surround ourselves with. We should ask ourselves, are we and those with whom we spend most of our time with, keeping God’s word faithfully.

POINT 2: BEFRIEND GOD FIRST

Who should be your friend above anyone else? Who should be your friend first?

Just one chapter before, John points out the most important community that we should be committed to. Without being committed in this vertical relationship, then our horizontal relationships with people may experience significant strain.

1 John 1:5-6
5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.

John tells us the message that had been passed on to him. The message is simple. The message is that God is light. In God is all goodness. There is no darkness in God what-so-ever. He is trustworthy. He always does what is right. And in God, everything is exposed.

God already knows everything, so before you think, I don’t like that God will expose everything, God already knows it. It doesn’t mean He’s going to tell the world about it. It means He’s going to expose it between you and Him so you can have a reconnection with Him.

Because what does sin and darkness do? It literally separates us from God. Why? Because God is the light. He is goodness. John says so look, since all darkness is exposed when living in the light, then we don’t actually have a tight friendship with God if we are living in the darkness, in sin. We cannot claim to have community with God and yet live in sin. That would make us liars. Because a friendship with God will expose the all dark corners of our lives. And that’s a good thing, a real good thing.

Because the best thing about a friendship with God, is that in that relationship, He allows us to get rid of anything that shouldn’t be in our lives. Without the light, without God, the darkness allows brokenness and sin to just remain hidden. And that’s not good. Cause that means you live in regret, in anger, in bitterness, and you live in misery.

And if you are still trying to hide your darkness, then you’re not really living in the light with God. If we want to be in fellowship with God, if we want to be a friend with God, then we must walk in light, and allow Him to get rid of any darkness.

It reminds me of what it is like when you are trying to rid of pests in your home. When you move something like a piece of furniture you haven’t moved in a long time, and underneath it, you find a hairy, long legged spider. He sits still for a moment wondering if you see him. And as soon as you start to lift your foot, he knows your coming and zoom! Off he goes hiding under the trim.

It’s like cockroaches. I hope none of you have experienced this, but if you enter a room in the dark, and cockroaches are in there, they are all hanging out doing their thing. And all of a sudden you turn on the lights and expose every corner of the room, and they scatter. I know, GROSS! So is your sin.

When God is light, and we walk with Him, we are able to see clearly our sinful attitudes and dark thoughts. They are no longer hiding under the trim. We are able to get rid of them. Because when we walk with God in light, then we invite Him to clean us up so we can be renewed and become all that God desires for us to be, and be an even better addition to any community He places us in.

POINT 3: WE NEED TO WALK WITH OTHERS IN THE LIGHT

To add to this idea of having fellowship with God, if we walk in the light with God, then we also can better walk in our relationships with others.

A healthy community. A strong group of friends begins with a deep connection to God, and that connection allows for genuine and beautiful fellowship with others. If you look at your closest friendships, would you say they make you more like Jesus? Do your closest friends encourage you to make choices and decisions that you are proud of?

When we walk in the light of God, we have nothing to hide. We are able to be honest with our friends. Maybe today you don’t get the sense that you could really bring the serious matters of your life to your community for help. Maybe today you get the sense that you are having to keep some of who you truly are from your community because they would be offended, angered, or disappointed. Maybe today you know you want to walk in the light, but your community feels very dark.

It does not have to stay like that. You could begin to ask God to bring renewal to your community. Maybe you could be the catalyst for renewal in your community by letting God do a work in you and let your light shine so that others can see. Sometimes it just takes a little change for a whole community to be renewed.

There is a story of a low-income community in Mexico that was full of violence and crime. The city had tried for years to curb the danger for the families who lived there. It was not until the city decided to allow a small crew of artists paint the city like a rainbow. 200 homes and numerous blocks were changed from run down and dirty to vibrant colors.

Because of this, the most interesting thing happened. Violence dropped. Crime dropped. The city became a safe haven. All because of a little paint. A little change, and the community was renewed.

POINT 4: YOUR LIFE COULD BE THE KEY TO RENEWAL

You can be cleansed of all sin. Your community could be cleansed of all sin. But it happens in only one way: by the blood of Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:7
7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. You don’t first get rid of your sin to invite God into your life. No, you invite God in to help you get rid of your sin. You see, we were never meant to live this life alone. God’s intention has always been for us to walk with Him by the power of the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ.

And we were always meant to find strength and encouragement by walking in the light alongside others. We find strength from a fellowship with God and a fellowship with our friends in order to offer hope to others with whom we come into contact. Your life could be the light that someone else needs to see that could light their way to the truth of Jesus’ sacrifice for them.

Maybe today you have one of two choices to make:

  1. Maybe you need to begin to pray and intentionally search for a renewed community in order for you to live more in line with God.
  • Maybe today you need to recognize that your life can be a light to someone else. Who is one person you can share the good news of Jesus’ love with?

The community you choose could be the difference between living in darkness or living in light. We first must enter into fellowship with God, and that fellowship will ensure that we live in the light of truth. The Greek work John uses is koinonia, which means fellowship or communion with God, or more commonly, with fellow Christians.

It is a beautiful thing when groups of people fellowship with God and enter into fellowship with one another.

So take an assessment of those whom you fellowship with. Name the ways in which they encourage you to live in the light of truth. If you can’t name any, it might be time to find some new friends. Ask God for a renewed community that will support you in becoming who God has designed you to be. 

Father God,
Thank you that you allow and want us to live in the light with you. Thank you that you give us a safe place to get rid of all our darkness. And thank you that you welcome us into a friendship with you. Help us to think of at least one person that could help us to live into Your light, and give us the courage to reach out to that person. And help us to consider at least one person who we could offer your light to. And help us to make a commitment to take action with that person this week.In Jesus’ name, Amen.