Our faith is meant to be active, not passive. One sign that my faith is active is that I am connected to God and others.
SIGNS of an active faith
We continue this morning in our series based on James 2:14-20. James reminds us that faith must be evidenced by life change and action. Faith without works is not limp, not lame, not slow but DEAD.
We defined an active faith as: “living our lives in obedience to God, believing that He is right and trusting that His way is best”.
Let’s look at our fourth sign of an active faith:
To have an active faith we need to be intentional about our connectedness. Networking.
Networks are a concept that continues to grow and dominate our society. We talk about them a lot and our lives are “dependent” upon them.
We live in a network loaded society with a myriad of devices that are designed to keep us connected, yet as a culture we continue to feel more isolated, depressed and alone. We lack TRUE connectedness.
“Our time has been called the “age of loneliness.” It’s estimated that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness, and while we’re more connected than ever before, social media may actually be exacerbating the problem.”
“research conducted by psychologists at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah found that social isolation (both actual and perceived) may be more deadly than obesity”
According to that article in the Huffington Post, social media may be creating the isolation for many… and it is killing us, literally!
“A professor of communications at Iowa State University… says that the encroachment of digital communication into our social lives can amplify feelings of isolation. He describes texting or Twittering in the presence of others as a "prescription for loneliness." Such behavior, he says, sends the message that someone somewhere else is more important. "The human heart is suffering from lack of authentic interaction," he says. "Just being able to engage genuinely and politely with your neighbors is a better fix than Xanax could ever effect for mental stability."
It may not be the technology itself, but our lack of control with it. The way that we abuse it, or abuse others by being addicted to it, is killing our relationships and connectedness.
“The larger issue lies not with technology, but with Americans’ individualistic ideology… Our quest for independence may also be responsible for our current crisis of loneliness. We know from decades of research … that our greatest need—after food and shelter—is for social connection. From birth through old age, we need to feel that we belong. Yet we can easily become isolated from one another. Some of us get competitive when we compare ourselves with our peers; others get trapped in 12-hour work days or scatter across the country in the quest for achievement. We drown in workaholism and the busyness of life, then numb ourselves with alcohol and Netflix. Yet social connection is what we all desperately want—that sense of deep and powerful intimacy…”
According to that article, the American mindset is making the problem worse. We isolate ourselves.
So here is the vicious cycle or relationship decay: we isolate ourselves by being too busy, then try to fill in the need for relationships by “connecting” with people on social media, and in the process, erode the relationships closest to us by ignoring them, which leads to more isolation… and the cycle continues.
You are I ARE made for relationships. We are meant to be connected. We do need a network, and we need to be a part of a healthy network.
Let’s start with a quick theology of our need for Biblical networking.
The FIRST network we need is with the trinity.
From the time man first sinned in the garden, sin has separated us from God. That was not the original design. From that point on, all of creation has felt the separation from God and longs to be reconciled to God – brought back into relationship with our Creator.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:8–11, NLT)
We were his enemies, but because of Jesus we can now be friends of God. We have a new relationship! Listen, this relationship is so important, so valuable to God, then he paid a huge price so that you and I could have this relationship. God the Father gave his Son to die for us so that we could be connected to Him. That is how valuable you are to God, and how much he wants a relationship with you.
But that is just the start. We need to REMAIN CONNECTED to the trinity. We talked a bit about this last week in our growth message, but let’s quickly look at a few verses that talk about being connect or networked to the trinity.
“Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.” (1 John 3:24, NLT)
How do I remain in fellowship with the Father? Simply obey. An active faith means “ living our lives in obedience to God, believing that He is right and trusting that His way is best.”
“But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.” (1 John 2:27–28, NLT)
We need to remain in fellowship with Christ. We do that by loving others (READ JOHN 15)
“But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” (Romans 8:9–11, NLT)
Know what I love about this set of verses? The awesome positivity of it!
You and I are ALWAYS connected to the Spirit. But can we be honest? We do not always allow the spirit to control us, do we?
UPWARD Network. That is what this is. It is our vertical relationship. We need this relationship more than anything else in this life. Without it, we cannot realize ALL that God wants for us in our other relationships.
The really cool news is that the initial network was set up by God, all we have to do is get plugged into it, and then spend time connecting with God. This is a pretty easy network to join and stay connected to, and it is such a joy to be a part of.
To just be connected to God is incomplete. It is faith without working it out. It is dead. There is no such thing as a solo Christian. We were MADE for a relationship with God and SAVED for our relationship with others. We connect UPWARD so we can connect OUTWARD.
In 4 words: we need each other. Let’s try a little exercise here. Repeat after me, “I am needed”. That feels good, doesn’t it? We all want to be needed, and we all ARE needed in God’s network. Now, look at the person next to you and say, “I need you”. That was awkward wasn’t it? We don’t like to admit that we need others. That whole American isolationism showing up again.
For some reason we believe that if we need others we are weak, and yet we know that we are stronger together:
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12, NLT)
In this passage it says that when we network with others we help each other succeed, pick each other up, keep each other warm, and protect each other.
A network with a perfect Father in heaven, and a Son who sacrificed everything for us, and a Spirit that indwells us to help us in every aspect of life is an EASY network to want to be a part of. However, the concept of being inter-connected with a bunch of imperfect people is a different thing all together! Nonetheless, we need this network so much!!
WORKSHEET: the ONE ANOTHERS of scripture. There are WAY too many verses to go through each of these in a month, let alone 10 minutes of a sermon.
Why do you think God put so many references in the Bible about the way we are to connect with each other? Because it is VITAL to our lives.
This type of network, this type of community is not natural in America, so it is sometimes hard for us to comprehend or envision what this could and should be.
I believe that most Christians understand the “one-another” concepts of the Bible. I think most churches struggle to see it in action. It is not a question of “WHAT” do we do, but “HOW” do we do it?
I want you to comprehend something here. This OUTWARD network is only possible out of an overflow of our UPWARD relationship.
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” (1 John 4:7–12, NLT)
[MORE @ John 13:34, Romans 15:7, Ephesians 4:32, John 15]
Love comes from God, so if we are not connected to that network, we cannot give that kind of love. If that love is in us it needs to flow out to others.
What we receive from God (in this case, love) is not brought to full expression until it is shared with others. [eg: “faith without works is dead”].
OK, so it’s time to get a bit toooo practical ? How do we develop these kinds of connections? How do we plug into our networks?
Need some volunteers with smartphones and social media apps. I am going to name off some networks, you tell me what you learn about people on those networks. What will you NOT really understand or learn from my social media network?
So those networks are only really going to give a surface connection which is not a real relationship. There is a difference between your “real” friends and your “facebook” friends. One you can easily “unfriend” and the other you cannot ?
So to break the isolation and surface relationships, we need to figure out how to really network with others.
Since we are talking about networks, let me geek out on some network stuff.
WHITEBOARD: diagram a STAR network & MESH network. Most churches in America work like a STAR network. The church and the pastors are the hub and everyone comes together a few times a week (at the most) and each person is connected to the church through the services and programs. However, the Biblical concept is more like a MESH network. A MESH network is a LOCAL network where all NODES can connect to each other without having to go through any central hub or hierarchy. It is DYNAMICALLY self-organizing and self-configuring. THIS is what the church is supposed to be!
“I want [the church] to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. (Colossians 2:2a, NLT)
MOST businesses do not build a mesh network because the cost is too high. I think most churches and therefore most Christians struggle with the same thing: we do not MESH because the price tag is too high for us.
We do not want to pay the price because we do not understand the immense value of what God ahs designed in His concept of the church.
I KNOW that I cannot MAKE you connect with each other, but I am willing to try!
Blue & white pieces of paper. Guys blue, girls white. White your name, address, phone.
Create cards that say things like: “invite your self to their house” or “invite them to your house” or “send them a card of encouragement” or “pick up a little gift for them” or “plan a day/evening together”, etc.
EVERYONE who puts in their name takes an activity card. After you have all of the names, have ladies pick a ladies name and guys pick a guy name. CHECK the name – if it is yours, put it back.
That means that each of you will have 1-2 weeks to connect with one other person in the church, and someone else will have to be connecting with you. So you should have 2 connections in 2 weeks if you chose to participate.
“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:18, NLT)
Be committed to weekly worship. And keep a short account of sin in your life. In a moment we will share “communion”, which is a celebration of our connectedness with God through Jesus.
Folks, we are created for UPWARD and OUTWARD relationship. We were saved to NETWORK and MESH together. I am confident that as you and I learn and experience more and more what it means to be knit together, we will begin to understand the awesome purpose God has for us.
“Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”” (Matthew 22:37–40, NLT)