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Learning to Experience Authentic Community, Part 1

From the series Momentum

It’s been said that in order to find a good friend you need to be one first. There is a lot of truth in that saying. Chip shares, from scripture, how to build deep, meaningful, authentic relationships that stand the test of time.

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Message Transcript

Unfortunately, in the place where God designed for authentic community to occur, people have an amazing experience. They walk into a room, they sing some songs, they sit down, they listen, they get up, they walk out alone. And we call it “church.”

If you’ll open the notes, I’d like to dig in with you and learn from a couple Old Testament characters who model for us what authentic community really looks like and, better yet, how to experience it.

Let me give you just a quick, little background. Jonathan and David are a great story. 1 Samuel 18 opens up and it’s the story of David’s life and David is a little shepherd boy and there is a big battle and everyone is afraid of the big, bad Goliath and he’s a giant. And the nation of Israel is paralyzed.

And in this window of moment, a story that many have heard, this little shepherd boy takes some stones, slays the giant, becomes the national hero. After becoming a national hero, he actually is quite the musician as well. Saul, who is the present king actually asks, “Well, who is your dad?” He tells him, “My dad’s name is Jesse,” and basically Saul says, “I want you to stay in the palace with me.”

In other words, this is a neat young man, God’s hand is upon his life, “I want you to stick around with me.”

Now, in chapter 18, Saul has a son named Jonathan and we are going to, it’s very cryptic. In fact, we are going to go through these two men’s relationship very quickly, but the principles out of it are absolutely amazing.

And so in chapter 18, verses 1 and 2, we are going to learn about the relationship between Jonathan and David. And what you’re going to see is that in this relationship, there are going to be seven essentials of biblical community.

If you, in your heart, want to get connected; if you want to learn to have deep friendships; if you want to go beyond the superficial, I’m telling you, you can look at Jonathan’s life and David’s life and their connection and what happens, and you’ll learn the seven essentials, some very practical ways, to really be loved from the heart and to love other people from the heart.

The first essential is to be aware. God orchestrates circumstances and chemistry. And you say, “Well, where do you get that?” Well, follow along, chapter 18.

“After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond,” or literally the text says, God knit their souls together, “a love between them and they became best friends. From that day on Saul kept David with him at the palace and wouldn’t let him return home.”

So he says, “You know, God’s got His hand on your life, boy, I want you to stick around.”

And then something happened between Jonathan and David. And I think this happens now and then and I would say, be aware because what we have is, literally, a shepherd was not a high-class job and he was the youngest boy of all the sons. So David is on the low, low rung of the social economy of the day and Jonathan is a prince and he is going to become the next king, or so everyone thinks.

Sometimes you miss the greatest people God puts in your life because you have an unconscious filter about the kind of people that you will really connect with. And the kind of social status they need to have, or the color of skin that they need to have, or the amount of education that they need to have, or a lot of unconscious things, how pretty or how they dress or where they have been.

And I think this is very interesting that you need to be aware that God might bring the very best friend you’ll ever have from a different socioeconomic, ethnic, age, background that will blow your mind.

But you have to be aware. You have to be open. You have to be able to say, “You know something? God doesn’t see as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

And He may have someone in your relational network right now, and it’s not that you’re a willful, prejudiced, “I never want to be that person’s friend,” you’re like me, all of us are what the psychologists call, we have been socialized and we have this unconscious box. And in our unconscious box, some people get in and other people don’t and we are most accustomed to love people and connect with people like us. David was very, very different than Jonathan in terms of social status.

The second thing we find is, be intentional. We rarely drift into authentic community. Be intentional. Look at verse 3. It says, “And Jonathan made a special vow to be David’s friend,” by the way, we are seeing him moving downward in his social mobility. He takes the initiative. He’s the prince. He’s got the money, he’s got the power, he’s got the position, he gets to call the shots in the palace, other than his dad. And he makes a special vow. That means he makes a vow before God but what he’s doing now, he’s making a vow and he is verbalizing, “David, I want to be your friend.”

“And he sealed the pact by giving him his robe, his tunic, his sword, his bow, and his belt.” Now, I wish we had about three hours. That phrase right there would make for a great sermon. If we could spend the time and talk about, what would it mean for a prince to take his robe, his tunic, his bow, his sword? All the elements that reflect his power, the net-net is he is saying, “I’m laying aside my power, my prestige, and my position and I want you to know that I am committing to you, I want us to be on even terms and, David, I want to be your friend,” and he actually verbalizes it.

Friendships – you just don’t drift into friendships. Making deep friendships, authentic community, has to be a priority. You need to have what I call, Intentional pursuit and intentional commitment. Those are the two things that he does.

Jonathan pursues David. He sees something in his heart, he sees something in his life, he sees something about David that says, “I want to get to know him better.” It’s not just that he’s a hero and he killed the giant. There was something about David’s faith, there was something about David’s walk with God. I think Jonathan, it says, “God knit their hearts together.”

It wasn’t something that they produced or made happen. God orchestrates circumstances, God orchestrates chemistry, but we have to be intentional. You get around people, and you can’t just sort of say, “Well, I’m glad we’re in this group.”

As good as it is to have a small group and lots of needs, the fact of the matter is, mentoring and deeper relationships need to occur.

There’s only so much you’re going to do in a group of eight or ten. And, really, there are maybe one or two people in the group that your heart starts to get connected to and you need to say to them, “Hey, why don’t we grab coffee this week?” Or, “I heard that you run. Tell you what, I like to run. Could we go for a run?”

In other words, it takes intentional pursuit or it stays fairly shallow. It takes intentional commitment. Now, what I hope you’re hearing is, that means, probably, you’re going to take some time away from something else in order to do it.

And so from Jonathan and David we learn you have to be aware, you have to be intentional. And then you have to be honest. And what I mean by this is share the last ten percent.

If we had a little more time, you could see that David, go ahead and look at verse 5, “Whatever Saul asked David to do, he did it successfully.” So Saul makes him the commander of his army. And then notice, “The appointment was applauded by all the fighting men and the officers.”

So he is becoming famous. He goes out to battles and basically his popularity is getting higher and higher than the king. The king becomes increasingly jealous and so he comes up with multiple ways that he thinks he’s going to get rid of him. And so he even offers, “You can marry my daughter,” but the real game plan is to send him out into harm’s way to get him killed.

Well, David keeps disappointing him because he keeps winning and winning and winning. And finally, it comes out that he wants to assassinate him. And so we pick up the story in chapter 19.

“Now Saul urges his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his close friendship with David, told him what his father was planning. ‘Tomorrow morning,’ he warned him, ‘you must find a hiding place out in the fields. I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. And then I will tell you everything that I can find out.’

“And the next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. ‘Please don’t sin against David,’ Jonathan pleaded. ‘He has never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. Father, have you forgotten about the time that he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it all!’ And then Saul listened to him.”

And what we find out is Saul listens for a little while and his jealousy and his fear – Saul is a great study of insecurity. By the way, desperately insecure people have very difficult times with deep and great relationships because they compare all the time and they are threatened.

But this is interesting. Great friendships, and it goes multiple directions here, you have to be honest. And what we tend to do is we are honest with about the first ninety percent. Now, if my dad was the king and I had a really good friend that he was going to kill, I think I would go with something like, “You know, David, it may be a good time for a vacation. You know, really. You ought to get out of town. Here’s my private donkey, here’s a few bucks, there’s a resort. Why don’t you get out of here right now?”

It took a lot of courage to get one hundred percent honest with his father. Or he could have said, “Oh, Dad, you’ve got to be kidding. That’s not real…” He went all, “What about this, Dad? What about this? Don’t you remember this?” Jonathan told the last ten percent and confronted his father with his sin. And Jonathan had the courage to tell David one hundred percent of the truth.

And that door needs to swing both ways. And what our temptation is we tend to tell people about ninety percent and then when it gets uncomfortable, when it gets right to the point where we could really get rejected, we bail out. And, “I don’t want to say that.” And, by the way, it’s usually the big, white elephant in the room. All their friends see the same thing.
When you find someone who tells you some really, really hard truth that hurts your feelings and your initial reaction is you want to reject them and get angry and mad, I want you to know you have probably just met one of your very best friends.

Because if it’s an issue in your life, almost everybody else sees it, but very, very few people care enough and love you enough to tell you.

I remember the very first time this happened to me, I got so angry. This fellow, I was in a discipleship program and I was there all the summer and we were having a little evaluation at the end and my workaholic tendencies had played out. I had memorized all the verses, I did all the stuff they asked me to do.

I just thought that if they were going to rank people in this little summer program, I’m maybe a nine or a ten. You know, being as humble as I was, I thought probably just a nine. But down deep in my heart, I was pretty sure I was a ten. Seriously.

And this guy named John, he said, “Hey, let’s go out for a coffee. I’d like to tell you some observations I have about our time together here this summer.” And, it was literally, well, you know, “I’ve kind of been waiting for this moment, you know? Bring it on.” So…

And so he says, “Maybe this would help.” And so he wrote down on this card, “Galatians 1:10, Luke 16:15, and John 5,” and if I remember right, maybe, “30.” And he goes, I’d really like you to read these over. I said, “Well, I will.” He said, “No, why don’t you just go ahead and read them before we talk.” And only the Navigators can do stuff like that.

So, okay, I read them. “For that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” Next verse, “How can you please God when you are seeking the favor of men?” Okay. “I would not be a bondservant of Christ if I was still trying to please men.”

“Chip, I have watched you. I think you’re a people pleaser and you’re very arrogant and I don’t think God will ever use your life until you address that issue.” And I wanted to get up and jack the guy right in the jaw.

It was probably one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me because when the truth was known, I was a real people pleaser and very arrogant and I bet lots of people had seen it before but John was the first person to look me in the eye, tell me the last ten percent, and give me some biblical criteria to change.

You want great friends? Tell them the last ten percent. Oh, it could cost my friendship! Well, yeah, it could. Or it could make it.

Fourth, we see is: Be available. When crisis comes, friends arrive. We find that the story continues and Saul and David are going through a number of different things. And then by verse 20, Saul is really out. He’s got the SWAT team after David and so in chapter 20, verse 1 it says, “David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan.” So he is fleeing. This tells you a lot about the relationship. He finds Jonathan. And basically he says, “They are trying to kill me.”

“‘What have I done?’ he exclaimed. ‘What is my crime? How have I offended your father so that he is determined to kill me?’ ‘That’s not true!’ Jonathan protested. ‘I’m sure he’s not planning any such thing, for he always tells me everything he is going to do, even the little things. I know he wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!’ Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, ‘Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, “I won’t tell Jonathan – why should I hurt him?” But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!’”

And now listen to Jonathan’s response, “Tell me what I can do.” David is saying, “Hey, man, you don’t get it. He’s after me. He’s trying to kill me. I was dodging spears the other day and I ran for my life. He is after me!” And his son is going, “No, I’ve talked to Dad! There’s no way he is going to do this!”

What happens in your friendships when two different stories come out? What happens in your friendships when you’re thinking, “Whoa, whoa, wait a second. This is really, this doesn’t make sense!” What do you do and where do you go?

Jonathan is available. Jonathan listens, Jonathan basically says, “What do you want me to do?” Basically, David is going to say, “I need you to get on the same page with me and you need to find out whether this is really true of what your father is trying to do,” and he is available.

There is a great Proverb. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Crisis often reveals who your true friends are. When crisis comes, there is cost. When crisis comes, there is sacrifice. And when crisis comes, the people that show up and ask this question, “What can I do?”

I remember, it was a really intense time in my life with schedule and travel and my dad was very, very sick. And he didn’t have much time to live. And I had a friend who, because of his business, owned a plane that he flew to different places.

And I’ll ever forget, he said, “When your dad gets near the end, you call me. I don’t care where you’re at, I’ll come pick you up and I’ll take you. You need to see your dad. You’ve had a long up and down journey with him. You need to see him before he dies.”

And I’ll never forget getting one of those calls that says, “If you want to see your dad before he dies, you need to get here as soon as possible. He’s not going to last more than another twenty-four or forty-eight hours.”

And I remember sitting down and this is really interesting. I remember sitting down thinking about what Gary said and then thoughts like, I don’t want to put him out. I mean, like, how much gas would it cost and, I mean, I know he, but. I know he, but.

And I just thought, You know? He said he wanted to do it. I just can’t imagine anybody doing that for me. And I just realized, You know something? I guess I just need to humble myself and receive, and I called him on my cell. I was working out downstairs. I said, “Gary, I just got a call.” It took me ten minutes to work it through. And he said, “Get over to the little airport. It’ll be thirty minutes. I’ll have you there in Durham in a couple of hours.”

And I got in his plane thirty minutes later and we flew in the middle of the night, he and his son, and he dropped me off in front and he said, “I’ll come back and get you.” He said, “We’ll take care of the hotel,” he had rented a car, took care of everything, and I had a window of opportunity, that I will share a little bit later, with my dad, because someone… And, boy, you talk about a friend, he was available. Are you available? See, we have convenient friends and we have real friends.