Speaker: Rev. Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: October 16, 2016
Text: Connected for Good: Generous Friendships
And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." And all who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
When many days had passed, the Jews [a] plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,
[b] lowering him in a basket.
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
a. Acts 9:23 The Greek word "Ioudaioi" refers specifically here to Jewish religious leaders, andothers under their influence, who opposed the Christian faith in that time.
b. Acts 9:25 Greek through the wall
c. Acts 9:29 That is, Greek-speaking Jews
God created us for fellowship-both with Himself and with one another. We're designed for connection. Each of us desires a place where we belong-a home, a family, a place where we're known and loved.
This longing is at the heart of the Christian life because God intends for us to be connected for good. As we deepen our communion with God, we find ourselves coming together as a community that knows and loves one another. And we express "one-anothering love" to the community outside our doors.
God is working to make us more like himself-more generous. Generous in our friendships, our marriages, our world.
Acts is a careful history of the development of the earliest church. The author (Luke) is careful to include details about location, government processes, key figures, and other important details. This suggests both that the author was careful to research details of the narrative and that he was likely even an eye witness of the events he describes.
Luke states that his account in Acts is an extension of the project he began when he wrote his gospel account. Acts picks up after Jesus' ascension and offers a literary map of the progress of the Christian message into the ancient world beyond the borders of Palestine.
1. Saint Anslem wrote, "God is within himself a sweet society." By this he meant that God enjoys fellowship within himself-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God models for us self-giving, mutual love and communion. Is this a new thought for you?
2. What does this tell you about the nature of the Christian life?
3. On an average weekend, how many people do you see at First Pres whose names you do not know? How many close friends do you have within the congregation? How might you go about changing that?
4. According to some studies, contemporary Americans have 66% fewer close friends than they did twenty years ago. In fact, 25% of Americans report having no close confidants at all. Is this a problem? Consider your own life, how are you for friends? What about Christian friends?
5. We need friends who are farther along the journey of the Christian life. Who are your elder brothers and elder sisters in the faith? How well are you connecting with them and sharing your life?
6. We need friends who will walk beside us-peers who commit to follow Jesus together. Who is walking with you? Are you connected to a group? Are you serving in a ministry? Those can be powerful and natural ways to connect with new friends.
7. Who is coming behind you? How are you investing in the lives of younger believers?
8. Luke records that "had peace and was being built up." After 18 months of turmoil, we are moving beyond it into a new period of peace and growth. Do you feel the change in the congregation? How is God inviting you to be a part of this new growth?