Transforming Ordinary People into Extraordinary Followers of Christ

For Each Other – a post from Noah Winstead

Many of you have heard my testimony and all of the frustration that my life brought me before encountering Christ.

I can sum it up in two sentences by stating that during my Freshman Year of college, I realized I had been living on the futile power and false wisdom that I could use to glorify myself. Everything I did was to impress people, increase my glory, or validate myself. In spite of these years of living in a manner that craved the attention, love, and the affection of others, I’ve realized that during that phase of my life I didn’t feel God’s presence and love and I ended up searching for it as desperately as possible in all the wrong places.

When running, dating, and grades all failed to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart, I was heartbroken and finally decided to actually turn towards the only One who could fulfill and empower my life.

A New Kind of Community

Since then, I’ve been working to create community and always be around those who will encourage me in my faith, I’ve had better friends than I’ve ever had before. This has taken the form of entirely new friends, but also old friendships newly united under the same Gospel!

I realized just the other night how loved I feel by, not only you guys, but by all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve never felt this way before. Why didn’t I feel this way before?

Then the enormity of the realization hit me that none of this love has come from any one person directly. It’s all from God!

As James says in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

This fellowship and love from my friends that I feel is all a result of God’s blessings on us. While I believe that everyone here is a genuinely nice person, as broken and fallen humans we don’t emanate goodness unless we allow Jesus to transform us and change our hearts. When you really encounter the Ultimate Love from above, the only natural reaction to it should be to share it with others. Without this love from above, we wouldn’t be able to be for each other!

Bearing the Gospel for Each Other

All of this said, this encouragement that we give when we affirm and critique each other is absolutely necessary if we are to be faithful bearers of the Gospel to the rest of the world.

Knowing that you’ve seen and encountered the true love of God, I want to challenge each of you to be for one another. Just as God is for us, we must be for each other since these relationships are so important for our ministry and for tapping into the power of fellowship. In fact, the Bible says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” To negate the opposing viewpoint, it is written in Proverbs 18:1, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Isolation from one’s community, let alone one’s community is devastating and it is time for us as Christians to acknowledge this.

In pursuit of an ideal, the early Church that immediately followed the Pentecost is incredibly inspiring to read about as well! Acts 2:44 says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This early church that began in Jerusalem grew to thousands of followers from only 120 in a very short matter of time! What would our church look like if we were truly for each other?

How do we do this? It’s not about making up some definition for “being for each other”. It’s about taking who God is and how he works all things for the good of those around him and imitating that to the best of our ability.

Thus, we need to point others to Christ in all of our interactions if we are to do this. It takes a careful balance of grace and accountability. We’ve got to extend forgiveness, empathy, and understanding (grace) to those around us who are struggling with different sins, sufferings, and circumstances. At the same time, we’ve got to challenge each other to overcome these things by relying on our power in Christ.

The enormity of the Gospel and ingraining that into our lives requires this grace and accountability. Therefore, our friendships with each other should mutually push us to maintain and follow through on quiet times, talk to our classmates about Jesus, kill sin daily, and pray constantly for each other!

What of the greatest visible example of fellowship (and perhaps discipleship) present in the relationship between Paul and Timothy? These two men were united under the same goal and their love for each other and their mission is so evident in this! In 2 Timothy 1:2-4, Paul writes to Timothy while awaiting execution in a Roman prison:

To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.

What kind of love is this? Being engaged in powerful friendships like this one is the direct result of the wonderful power that we have access to in Christ.

If anything though, Jesus has to be the greatest example of friendship that the world has ever seen. When Lazarus died in John 11, Jesus wept in true sadness minutes before he raised him from the dead. The only explanation for why an omnipotent, omniscient God would shed tears over something that he could and would change is that he loves us as friends! Jesus later says in John 15:12-13:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Whoa. It is said is Romans 5:7-8:

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I read this passage on Friday and the true power of it lies in the fact that Jesus did lay down his life ultimately for his friends, friends who aren’t very good. Friends who are really messed up, actually. Oh how often we fail to live in such a sacrificial way. Ultimately, with this in mind, I hope that we can start looking for the best possible outcome for each other and push each other to be more like Christ every single day! That’s my challenge for all of us.

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