Just Walk Across the Room 2) Developing Friendships

Just Walk Across The Room

2) Developing Friendships

Text: Luke 15:1-7


Last week we looked at how taking just 10 steps, to just walk across a room, could change someone’s eternal destiny. That’s what Jesus did for us. In fact, he crossed from heaven to earth in order to give us the greatest gift, himself and his death on the cross that we might be reconciled with God. In fact Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we might continue his mission to seek and to save the lost. The question I want to look at this morning is: What is our goal in just walking across the room? The truth is that each one of us are surrounded by hundreds of people, some of them family, some of them friends, but many of whom are perfect strangers. Our goal as Christians is to see as many of these people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. So the big question is how do we do that? Well the obvious answer is just ‘tell them the gospel,’ and that’s what we’re going to look at next week. But today we’re going to look at how we can develop friendships with people who are far form God. We don’t just walk across the room, we walk across rooms in order to build relationship with people. The goal of walking across the room isn’t to just have a chat, or to pass the time, but to develop friendships.


1) Why we don’t develop friendships

But before we look at why we should build relationships with people far from God, I want to look at why as Christians we tend not to. Most Christians know that Jesus’ final words were, ‘go and make disciples of all nations. (Mt 28:19)’ Most Christians know that Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could be ‘his witnesses. (Acts 1:8)’ Most Christians know that they are ‘Christ’s ambassadors, imploring people on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20)’ Most Christians know that they are called to ‘16 …let their light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. (Mt 5:16)’ The problem is that we know it, but we just don’t do it. We know that as followers of Christ we should be reaching out to others with the gospel, but for some reason we don’t.

a) Excuses

Firstly, we have a tendency to make excuses. I’ve heard plenty of different excuses why people don’t share the gospel with others, and I’ve made plenty of the same excuses myself. But probably the best example of someone who made excuses in Scripture is Moses. God came to Moses in Exodus 3 and said, ‘10 …go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. (Ex 3:10)’ God gave Moses a mission and Moses made just about every excuse under the sun not to do it.

i) Who am I?

Moses’ first excuse is found in verse 11, ‘11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11)’ Who am I? It’s a classic excuse, ‘I’m a nobody, I’m not an evangelist, I’m not intelligent, I don’t have everything together! I’m just an unschooled ordinary person!’ So how did God respond to that? Verse 12, ‘12 And God said, “I will be with you. (Ex 3:12a)’ And that’s exactly what Jesus has promised us, ‘19 … go and make disciples of all nations… 20 …And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Mt 28:19-20)’ Basically God is saying you are a nobody, but I’m not, and I will be with you. We don’t fulfil God’s mission on our own, God is with us.

ii) I don’t know what to say!

Moses’ second excuse is found in verse 13, ‘13 Moses said to God, “…what shall I tell them?” (Ex 3:13c)’ Basically, Moses is using the excuse, ‘I don’t know what to say!’ I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people use that one, ‘I wouldn’t know what to say!’ So how does God respond to that excuse? Basically he tells Moses exactly what he needs to say. And the same is true for us. Jesus says, ‘19 …do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Mt 10:19-20)’ And besides divine intervention, everything we need to know is found right here in Scripture. Often we don’t know what to say because we don’t know what God has told us to say.

iii) What if they won’t listen?

Moses’ third excuse is found in Exodus 4 verse 1, ‘…What if they do not believe me or listen to me? (Ex 4:1a)’ What if they ignore me, what if they won’t listen? Ultimately, that’s not our problem. We haven’t been sent into the world to convert people, we’ve been set into the world to tell people about Jesus, and how they can be saved from their sin through faith in Him. What God basically says to Moses is that his power will be with him, and the same is true for us. When we proclaim the gospel we can have confidence that it will change people’s lives, not everyone’s, but those whom God has chosen, those whom God has prepared, will respond to the gospel. And as we saw last week, it’s not always about them coming to faith, but to move them that bit closer towards God.

iv) I’m not a good speaker!

Moses’ fourth excuse is found in chapter 4:10, ‘10 Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent… I am slow of speech and tongue. (Ex 4:10)’ That’s one I’ve heard pretty often as well, ‘I’m not a good speaker!’ God’s response is one of incredulousness, ‘11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Ex 4:11)’ If you didn’t get the sarcasm, basically God is saying, ‘Oh no, you can’t speak properly what am I going to do, all my plans are wrecked!’ Actually, God says, ‘12 …go, I will help you speak… (Ex 4:12a)’ God’s power makes up for what is lacking in ourselves. Paul writes about the Christians in Corinth, ‘5 …in [Christ] you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge… 7 …you do not lack any spiritual gift… (1 Cor 1:5,7a)’ God gives us everything that we need to fulfil his will.

v) Send someone else!

Moses’ last excuse, is actually just plain old defiance, verse 13, ‘13 But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (Ex 4:13)’ Moses gives up on the excuses, they’re obviously not getting him anywhere, God has an answer for each one, and so he just plain tells God he doesn’t want to do it. So how does God respond? Verse 14, ‘14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses… (Ex 4:14a)’ It’s only now that God finally gets angry. I think I would’ve lost it after Moses’ third excuse. But I wonder how much the fact that we don’t share the gospel with others makes God angry. God has given us salvation in Jesus Christ and he has given us the Holy Spirit and we sit and make excuses, ‘I wouldn’t know what to say! It’s not my gift!’ It’s not my personality, I’ll mess it up!’ In the face of all our excuses however, the Bible says that as followers of Christ we are called, equipped, and expected to share the gospel. If you’re the type who makes excuses, don’t, they don’t hold water anyway. God promises to give us everything that we need for doing his will, all we have to do is do it!

b) Evasion

But we don’t just make excuses, we also evade our responsibility.

i) Our natural tendency

There’s a trend in many evangelical churches that the longer a person attends church the fewer non-Christian friends they have. And to a certain degree that’s a natural transition. For many of us we grew up in church and we went to Christian schools, and some of us even find employment in Christian organisations, we just walk in Christian circles. But often when you become a Christian you find yourself gravitating towards other Christians. After all why wouldn’t you want to spend your time with like-minded people? I’ll answer that in a moment. But what tends to happen is that over the years we have fewer and fewer evangelistic discussions with non-believers. We share the life-changing plan of salvation less and less because we have fewer friends outside the faith. In fact, there’s almost a direct correlation between how long you’ve been a Christian and how often you share the gospel. Statistics show that once you become a Christian contact with people outside of the faith decreases. Work becomes about doing your job, rather than influencing the eternal destiny of your workmates. Family functions are about relaxing, rather than taking the opportunity to make spiritual headway. Errands are run with one eye on the clock and the other on your to-do list, with zero consideration given to the needs of the person standing at the checkout. The problem is that unless we take proactive steps to stop this trend we reach the end of our lives in an evangelistic vacuum. The danger is that just before we come face to face with God we are at our all-time evangelistic low.

ii) We make deals

Maybe you’re listening to this and you’re thinking ‘But not everyone’s good at this evangelism thing!’ But how do you reconcile that belief with the belief that evangelism is a critical function of a Christ-follower? God wants you to do it, but it’s too hard. The truth is what many of us do is we evade our responsibility to share the gospel by making deals with God. We say, ‘God, I’m really not cut out to walk across rooms, I’m really uncomfortable taking risks, so here’s the deal – I will invest myself in spiritual development, I’ll read theology books, I’ll volunteer at church, I’ll help at a soup kitchen, as long as I don’t have to share my faith with anyone.’ We’ll do almost anything to avoid being uncomfortable.

iii) We avoid unbelievers

And if we don’t confront this natural tendency we end up avoiding unbelievers. We become so cut off from non-Christians that we actually get annoyed when we have to interact with them. Instead of walking towards people who need to know God’s redemptive love, we avoid them. We develop an aversion to unbelievers, going to great lengths to avoid the very people Jesus came to redeem. We fill up our lives with family and church activities, in order to avoid anything that we find awkward or uncomfortable. And the truth is I see these tendencies even in my own life. I make excuses and I evade my responsibility to share the gospel, and sometimes I even avoid non-Christians. We don’t develop friendships with people far from God, instead we make excuses and evade our responsibility.


2) Why we should develop friendships

So if they are the reasons we don’t, why should we develop friendships with unbelievers?

a) Jesus did

Firstly, and most importantly, because Jesus did. Last week we looked at how Jesus walked across the universe in order to save us from our sin. And he did that not because it was easy, but because we mattered to him. And we mattered to him not because we were such wonderful people, but the very opposite, we were sinners, we had rejected him, we deserved his condemnation, we deserved death, and yet he died in our place.

i) Jesus developed friendships with sinners

And we see this attitude all through Jesus’ ministry. Jesus didn’t hang out with people like him, because first of all there was no one like him. Rather we read in our text that Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them (Lk 15:2). Matthew actually tells us that Jesus was known as, ‘19 …a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” (Mt 11:19b)’ Jesus developed friendship with sinners. Jesus reached out to people who were considered the worst types in society. If anyone would’ve been uncomfortable around thieves or prostitutes it would’ve been Jesus, but they were the very people Jesus came to seek and to save.

ii) Jesus developed friendships with us

What’s more Jesus developed friendships with us, which is obvious seeing as we’re sinners as well. Jesus tells his disciples, ‘13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (Jn 15:13)’ That’s what Jesus did for us, he laid down his life for us. Jesus came, not just to save us, but to make us his friends. The heart of Christianity isn’t just a legal transaction where our sin is dealt with on the cross and we are declared righteous before God, it’s really about our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus crossed the space between heaven and earth in order to restore our broken relationship with God, to transform us from God’s enemies into God’s friends. Jesus developed friendships with people far from God in order to make them friends with God.

b) See potential

So how did Jesus overcome his natural aversion to the sin in people’s lives? How could Jesus, who was truly holy and pure, reach out to sinners, to unbelievers, to people who were totally opposite to him in nearly every way? The answer is that he saw the potential in every person he met. He had an uncanny ability to look past the obvious flaws in people’s lives and see who they could become if the power of God was unleashed in them. In a worn and world-weary prostitute he saw a woman who would anoint his feet as an act of worship. In a simple fisherman named Simon, he saw a faithful disciple named Peter. In a dishonest tax-collector named Zacchaeus he saw someone who was outrageously generous. In a cowardly Jewish leader called Nicodemus he saw someone who would risk everything for his sake. In a legalistic, pharisaic persecutor of Christians called Saul Jesus saw the apostle Paul. Our problem is we look at such people and we think there’s no way such people could ever be saved, but Jesus looked at these people and said ‘26 …with God all things are possible. (Mt 19:26b)’ Jesus looked at sinners, at people far from God, people who were liars, and cowards, and crooks and he saw what they could become through faith in him, he saw how the Spirit could transform their lives. How antagonists could become allies, how the old could be made new. How the fallen could be restored, how the prideful could be humbled. How the weak could be made strong, how derelicts could become disciples. Basically, how foes could become friends. That’s why Jesus developed a friendship with you, because despite your obvious flaws he saw what you could become through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I want to ask you this morning: Do you see the potential in people? Do you imagine what your neighbor might be like if Jesus touched their life, if the Spirit transformed their heart, if they started living for God instead of for themselves? You know some guy called Joe, who swears and parties and womanizes, do you say, ‘What would Joe, even a guy like Joe, be like if God ruled and reigned in his heart? Joe would be incredible if Jesus invaded his world?’ I get to hear so many people’s stories and many of them start off with ‘I was a mess, I was so selfish, I was so angry, I did such stupid things,’ and now they’re completely different people. Many of the people you love today were people who you couldn’t have loved 10 or 20 years ago. Maybe the people you find hard to love today will be people who you couldn’t imagine living without in 10 years time. The truth is that the Holy Spirit can accomplish outright miracles when Christ-followers stick their necks out and share the gospel with people far from God. I wonder if 22 years ago John de Jong ever thought that the rebellious long-haired metal head that he encouraged to get involved in the worship band would one day become a pastor? Do you believe that God can take people far from God, people like your neighbours who party until 2 in the morning, or the young hoons who live down the street, or the guy who doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, or the girl who’s made some bad decisions, and make them his child?  

c) Building Friendships with people far from God

The truth is that you will only see God’s power at work in people’s lives if you get close enough to them to see it. Even the most Christ-like Christians will be totally ineffective in evangelism unless they get near to non-Christians. If we want to see relationships grow, bridges being built, and God opening doors, we need to build relationships with unbelievers. Unfortunately we tend to preach to those who are already saved, when it’s those who are lost who most need to hear about Jesus Christ. So I want to encourage you to build friendships with people who are far from God.

i) How to do it

So firstly, how do you build friendships with non-Christians?

1. Create a list

Firstly, it’s helpful to just create a list of people you already know who are non-Christians. They might be family members, of old school friends, or your neighbours. But the point is that they are people you already have some level of relationship with, and you can start thinking about how you can develop those relationships into friendships.

2. Look for opportunities

The other thing you can do is just keep your eye open for people that cross your path, and initiate a conversation with them, and see where it leads. I’ve been taking Bethany and Zac to soccer every Monday evening and a particular dad has initiated conversation with me twice now. To be honest I don’t go out of my way to talk with people at soccer, but I can’t shake the idea that this is an opportunity to build a friendship. Next time I’m going to just walk across the soccer field and see what happens.

3. Get Creative

And if you don’t know any non-Christians, get creative. There are dozens of ways you can get out of your own little Christianized world. My mum joined chat’n’choose, and suddenly she knows dozens of non-Christian people. You could come along to Footprints in the Park, you can join a sporting team, have a street party, invite your neighbours over for coffee. Whatever you do, don’t give in to the natural trend towards evangelistic isolation, be pro-active about developing friendships with people far from God.

4. Open your life

Next, you need to deliberately open your life. That means, like we saw last week, allowing God to interrupt your schedule in order to build relationships with unbelievers. It means opening your home to strangers so they can become friends. It means going the extra mile, and instead of breaking your record for how fast you can get through the checkout, seeing if you can take it slow enough to have a chat. I’m sure John is thinking, ‘Stop talking to the people on check out I’m paying these people by the hour.’

5. Be natural

Fifthly, be natural. This is all about building friendships with people far from God. It’s about the process not the end point. You don’t have to set up a stadium in your backyard so you can go all Billy Graham on this person, be yourself. Understand your personality, and don’t try and be someone you’re not.

6. Be interested

Next, be interested. Ask about the things that they are interested in. Paul actually says, ‘22 …I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Cor 9:22b)’ Paul isn’t being inauthentic, pretending he likes something when he doesn’t, rather Paul is saying that lost people matter so much that he looks for any opportunity to engage with them for the sake of the gospel. Paul looks for opportunities to build bridges rather than walls. Particularly look for things that you share in common with others. You wouldn’t believe how often I find myself talking cars, or Pink Floyd, or cross-stitch for that matter, because that’s what people are interested in.

7. Be sensitive

Finally, be sensitive. When dealing with non-Christians we can’t judge them according to the same standards that we judge our fellow believers. There’s nothing that will shut down the communication channels faster than a judgmental attitude. Last week we looked at the woman caught in adultery, and Jesus could’ve judged her, he had the right, he knew the truth, probably better than the Pharisees, but Jesus, in not condemning her, made it possible for her to hear the gospel. Jesus never expected people who had lived their entire lives far from God to be holy when he encountered them. What really mattered to Jesus were irreligious people who were willing for him to make them holy. It’s not about where they’ve come from but how Jesus can reconcile them with God. We live out the gospel when like Jesus we offer grace to sinners, rather than condemnation.

ii) How to fit it in

So you’re probably wondering how do I fit all this in? Where do I find the time to develop friendships with people far from God? Well the answer is I don’t know! But what I do know is you need to wrestle with it. Just start somewhere simple. Make a commitment to not just walk past people but to stop and say hello. Pick just one person at a time and see what happens. Be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Whatever you do don’t let the natural drift take you away from developing friendships with people far from God. Don’t go to heaven with a list of excuses instead of a list of names, people whose eternal destinies were changed because you walked across the room to befriend them. It’s all about your priorities, do lost people matter to God, do lost people matter to you, what are you going to do about it? Maybe like Jesus we need to leave the safety and comfort of the 99 in order to go in search of the 1. Amen.

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