Next Level Relationships

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In this message, some of our NextGen teaching team share with us how Jesus models building godly relationships and the importance of them in our lives.

Alright. Hey, Valley Creek, let’s take a moment to welcome each other together today. Wherever you’re watching this from, let’s all welcome each other together. It is good to be one church that meets in multiple campuses and carries the hope of Jesus to thousands of locations. We’ve been in the middle of 60 Days of rest and joy and relationships. It’s been so good. The Holy Spirit’s been moving through our church family and we’ve gotten to have a few different conversations during our time together. We’ve had conversations on rest, conversations on joy and I’m happy to tell you that today we get to have a conversation about relationships. But not any conversation about relationships, we get to be led by some of our student teaching team today. And here’s why this matters. You see, we believe so much in the next generation. We believe that they’re not just the generation of tomorrow, they are the generation of today. Gen hope.

And so our student teaching team gets to hang out with our students all the time. Who better to learn a little bit about relationships from? So here’s what I want to do, I want to ask you to lean into this. I want you to receive it not just as them talking to our students, they’re talking to all of us. This is a word for all of us. So we celebrate the next gen, we celebrate the development of new communicators here at Valley Creek Church. And so I want to cheer on each and every one. I want you to lean into it for what God wants to speak to us. Here we go, a conversation on relationships starting right now.

Well, hey Valley Creek. We get to spend a lot of time with students and it’s the greatest thing in the entire world because they are constantly teaching us so much about what it means to follow Jesus. And something we’ve had to learn about students is that they don’t do anything without relationship.

You can invite them to the coolest thing in the entire world, but if their friends aren’t there then you’re kind of just going to get an “ah” response from them. But if you stick them all in a room, they can have the greatest time ever. And we’re thinking like what is that? Well, they’re modeling for us the kingdom truth of just how important relationships are. That it doesn’t matter if you’re 12 or 112, you were made for relationships and they impact everything in your life. I mean you know this to be true, when your relationships are good and you and your spouse are being kind to one another, and you have good communication with your kids, and you have the favor of your boss, life is awesome. I have rest and joy just based off the fact that my relationships are good. But when they’re not good and you’re overthinking scenarios and you’re tiptoeing around every situation, it’s kind of hard to have rest and joy, right? It makes you sick.

And so it’s almost as if the quality of your relationships determine the quality of your life. But not almost. The quality of your life is directly determined by the quality of your relationships. They’re a big deal and Jesus knew this. And that’s why when one day he was asked, it’s in Mark, and someone came up to him and said, “Hey, what’s the greatest commandment?” Essentially like out of all the commandments that, you know, we’ve been told to keep and if we were just only get one right, Jesus, like if there’s only one that we could focus on, what would that be? This is what he had to say, Jesus said that the most important commandment is this: to love the lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength. And the second is equally important, to love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these. I wish you catch that. Out of all the commandments, hundreds, in the Bible, of everything that God has ever said about following Him and what that looks like, the two most important ones are all about relationship, to love God, love others, and they’re equally important.

So can I just ask you? Do you view the relationships in your life with this level of priority? That if you were to get nothing else right in this life, if you were successful in nothing else, but you loved God and you loved others, would that be enough for you? Does your life, the money you make, the vacations you take, and all your church activity, does it all come back to this? You see, the temptation I think that we have to fight is compartmentalizing our relationship with God away from our relationship with others. And there’s a practice in the American church where we look the part and we say we’re following Jesus and we do all the things, but we leave a wake of relational carnage wherever we go. Almost like Wizard of Oz, like pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Like yeah my marriage is falling apart, and I treat my parents with disrespect, I get into fights on Facebook a lot, and um, you know, I’m mean to people who serve me in stores and I switch churches every time I get offended. But me and Jesus, we’re killing it, like forget all them, let’s go change the world, baby. It kind of misses the point, doesn’t it? You see, following Jesus is the process of bringing everything into your life into alignment with the truth of Jesus. And Jesus says that these are equally important, that there is no separating them and the Bible later goes on to say that there is no loving God outside of loving others. And you want to know what a great thing about students is? Is that they don’t. They don’t separate the two. They know that they can’t love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength without others. And while adults think life is easier done alone and without relationship because, you know, gotten burned too many times, students think the opposite.

They know that relationship is really all that matters at the end of the day. And so adults, we need to learn from our students’ passion for relationship because it’s something that’s also true of God. God, the whole reason He’s ever done anything is for relationship. Think about it, before creation He existed in relationship, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The only thing that was not good in all of creation when was humanity was alone, not in relationship. And at the fall, it was relationship that was broken when we hid from God and we started to blame each other. We destroyed relationship. And as hard as we tried to put it back together again, we couldn’t. We needed a savior, enter Jesus. Jesus came to show us what it meant to have amazing relationships and redefine them that our relationships with each other could be full of serving and forgiveness and kindness.

That we could relate to God with no fear, no hiding, no shame, no blame. And on the cross, everything that was broken about relationship was restored, both then and now. And that’s why in Philippians 2, it tells us that, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset is Jesus,” because Jesus is now our standard for relationship. We don’t have to live down to the brokenness of the world, we get to live up to the standard of Jesus. But what was his mindset? You see, the gospels tell us that Jesus always prioritized his relationship with the Father and that all of his relationships came from that. And so it didn’t matter if people were going to abandon him because Jesus knew that the Father was never going to abandon him so he wasn’t going to abandon them. It didn’t matter what people thought or what it cost because he knew that God would choose relationship every time, so every time Jesus had a choice he always chose relationship.

And he knew what we say around here, that the relationships in our life, they actually how we treat them. It shows us what we believe about our relationship with God. And that relationships are a gift from God, that flow out of our relationship with God, that should bring us back to God and ultimately make us more like God. So think about some of your relationships and what a gift they are to you. God gives you a spouse so that you can show them the unconditional love of God that has committed itself to you for eternity. And if I don’t treat my spouse with unconditional kindness, I got to go back to God and remember that He has given me unconditional kindness. He’s given us parents so we can actually show them what it looks like to be a beloved son or daughter who obey out of love, not fear. And when I don’t obey my parents, I have to go back to God and remember that God is worth obeying. He’s given us children so we can show them the heart of the good Father who wants nothing more than to bless us. And if I don’t treat my kids with kindness and serving and love, I got to go back to God.

Friends, God is a friend who loves at all times. If I don’t love it all times, I got to go back to God. And here’s the cool thing is that even when relationships don’t look like that and they fail and they’re broken, we still have a chance to have Jesus’s mindset when we go back to God. And so when this feels maybe out of reach, I can’t live up to that standard, all we have to do is go back to God. You see, what we’ve been learning from students but really what we’ve been learning from Jesus is that it doesn’t matter if up until this point you haven’t had relationship. It doesn’t matter if up until this point you feel like you’ve made a mess of your relationships your entire life because at this point what Jesus has for you is amazing relationship.

And maybe is it that he stresses the importance of our relationship with each other because it’s actually about being in relationship with God. And hey, God wants us to have amazing relationships with each other because he wants to have an amazing relationship with you.

So I think we can all agree that Jesus wants us to have amazing relationships. And so what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about three of the ways that students have been showing us how to have amazing relationships. Everybody say three. Oh come on, we get a little loud in students. Everybody say three. Three ways and those three ways are honesty, serving and fun. Honesty, students love honesty.

They love authenticity. And when I say honesty, I don’t mean honesty like, hey bro, you got food in your teeth honesty. Or how about the honesty that says, well, I’m just being honest so then you can share your opinion with someone. No, we’re talking about a life-giving honesty that declares purpose and identity over someone. And if you look at Ephesians, Scripture tells us that, “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Jesus.” So by speaking truth in love, we will grow more and more into the image and likeness of Jesus. And I think what a lot of us think about speaking honestly into others, we tend to go negative. We tend to think that honesty is when we call someone out but real honesty is when we call someone up. That’s real honesty. And so you might be wondering what this looks like. Well, the Scripture tells us that we’ve got a treasure chest of hope within us. And so can I just ask you? Do the people in your life know that you see their treasure?

Are the words — is the honesty and the truth that you’re speaking over them helping them discover that treasure? Because oftentimes, treasure’s buried. And so we get to use things like honesty to help others discover that treasure within themselves. And Jesus, he did this all the time. In fact, Jesus loves speaking honestly into others. Do you know what phrase Jesus said more than any other phrase in the Bible? Any other phrase. “Truly, I tell you.” I mean Jesus was never like, hey, I hope I can say this or this might be good. No, Jesus always had a confidence and an authority as he declared honesty and identity over others. In fact, in John, check this out, he goes even bigger, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing and they will do even greater things than these.”

That verse is profound because of the honesty that it declares over my life and over your life. We will do greater things than Jesus did? When’s the last time you spoke honesty like that into someone’s life? And hey, the same way that we need to speak honesty over others we need people in our life declaring honesty over us. And we’ve seen this pay off in major ways for students. Like when a student turns in a project and a teacher calls up their creativity and their imagination. Or how about when a coach tells a student that they have the gift of leadership and the ability to lead others. Or when a student encourages another student, thanking them for their friendship and what it’s done for their identity. Come on, those kinds of relationships. And we don’t have to wait for these kinds of relationships or for this kind of honesty to come to us, we can go first. The same way that Jesus went first for you and I, we can go first. So don’t wait, be the first one to speak awesome and life-giving truth into the lives of others.

And the second thing that students are showing us about how to have amazing relationships is serving one another. And I know for a lot of us when we think about students, we may not typically think about something like serving but the reality is we see this all the time. As students are following Jesus, they’re serving one another. And Jesus was the perfect picture of what it looked like to serve others. And if we check this out in Matthew, it tells us that, “The son of man did not come to be served but to serve others and give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus reminds us that serving isn’t something that we do, servant is who we are and nothing puts the love of Jesus on display like servanthood. In fact, it was a few weeks ago, we had one of our amazing movement nights and something that we get to do at movement night is play this game called 9 Square and 9 Square is a lot of fun but boy is it a task to set the thing up. You got to — these giant PVC pipes, it takes a full army, it takes an even bigger army to tear the thing down.

Once you get it down, you got to get into its case, you got to get it through the door, you got to put it in the closet. I’m telling you, it’s a process. And so a few weeks ago, another student director and I, we were just trying it with the two of us. And what we would call a valiant effort, others might call a hopeless effort. And as he and I were trying to disassemble it, put into its case, we noticed that all of a sudden some hands start to join us and they start to take it apart with us. And as we look up, we see that it’s a group of students. And these students didn’t ask if they could come and help, they simply saw a need and met it. And they didn’t just stop there, they actually helped us take it apart, put it in its case, walk it through the doors and get it all the way to the closet. And isn’t that a picture of how Jesus served others? When Jesus saw a need, he met the whole need. And when Jesus saw a need, he didn’t have to ask about meeting it, he simply met it.

You see, I think for a lot of us we think that asking is the polite thing to do, but oftentimes the right thing to do is to just do it. That’s the right thing to do. And what it also taught me is, it’s a simple lesson, but anytime I have the thought of ‘would this help others’, the answer is typically yes it would. And hey, before we move on from serving because serving others is the right thing to do, you know what else is the right thing to do? To let others serve you. And I don’t mean sitting on a throne, letting someone serve you grapes, I mean having the humility to let someone meet your needs. Like can I just ask you, is it easy for others to serve you? Because if everything in our relationships tells us about our relationship with God, then maybe we’re struggling to receive from others because we’re in a season where we’re struggling to receive from God. Or maybe we’re struggling to serve others because we’ve forgotten how much we’ve been served by God.

But you know what? Today, God has a lot that He wants to give you, so receive it in Jesus’ name. And hey, the last thing that students are showing us about how to have amazing relationships is there has got to be some fun. And y’all, students know how to have some fun. I’m just saying. And when I say fun, I don’t mean fun in like a worldly in a fleeting kind of way. I mean fun in like a kingdom, in a life-giving, in a glorifying way. Like are your relationships marked by joy? Do they bring you life to the fullest? Is there laughter? Because these are the types of relationships that we’re seeing in students. And like I said, students know how to have some fun. So one more story for you. It was a warm April’s eve not too long ago and I was driving around town with another student director and we had the windows down, 95-degree air blowing through, and we were singing some music, more like screaming some music. But we were singing some music and not just any music but a cappella music.

And not just any a cappella music, Christmas a cappella music. So just picture this, two grown men driving around town, middle of April, windows down, screaming that we were rocking around the Christmas tree. And why you might ask? Because we were having fun. Now, your fun may look a little different than mine. For instance, yours may not get you weird looks at an intersection, but amazing relationships always have an element of fun. Check this out in Proverbs. It tells us that, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Come on, a cheerful heart is good medicine. And so the same way that we have medicine to bring healing and wholeness to our bodies, Jesus has given us things like laughter, joy, fun to bring healing and wholeness to our relationships. And so maybe what some of our relationships need more than anything is just some fun breathed back into it. We don’t need to over complicate it, we just need to have some fun.

So hey, mix it up, try a new hobby, pick up an old hobby, sing Christmas a cappella music in the middle of April. But whatever you do, do it with an amazing relationship and let it create that cheerful heart the way that God intended it to do. So three things, honesty, serving and fun. Three of the ways that students have shown us how to have amazing relationships and these are for you, and these are for me. They’re not just for students, they’re for us because Jesus wants us to have amazing relationships.

So I have a couple of plants at home. Do I have any plant people out there? Okay, all two of you. Awesome. Uh, to be honest, I’m not very good with plants. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m absolutely terrible. It takes a couple days before they turn around and get thrown out. Anyone else with some dying plants at home? Okay. But here’s what I’m learning, I’m learning that if I could just consistently water those things and get them in some sunlight, they eventually, instead of being an eyesore, they become something beautiful. Instead of something that I want to throw away, it becomes something that enhances the environment. And the thing is the plant doesn’t do anything different. I’m the variable. When I change, it changes. And what I’m sensing is that there are some relationships that are like those dying plants in our lives, and Jesus wants to bring them to their full potential. We are learning a lot from our students. And one of the things that we’re learning is the value of just going first. Something about going first allows that relationship to flourish. And I think that’s because that’s what love does, like we love God because He first loved us, right?

I mean Jesus pursued us and pursues us, and it draws us in and it changes us. Jesus wants us to have amazing relationships. And if today you’re hearing all this, you’re like, man, my relationships don’t look or feel like they are flourishing, I want you to check out this verse with me in 2 Corinthians. It says that, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them and He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Jesus went first. And according to Romans 5:8, it was our worst condition, like he pursued us and restored everything that was once lost and broken between us and God. Like I was the dying plant that the world wanted to throw away, but Jesus went first. And because he went first for us, we can go first for them.

Like the quality relationship we have with others is it’s up to us. I think so many times that we look for relationships to fulfill something in us, but ironically in the kingdom it’s the opposite. That when you give it away, you find it. Like you want love? Give it away. You want people to care about you? Go care about people. You want people to speak kingdom realities over your life? Start doing that for those around you. You want joy and laughter in relationships? Come on, be the first to bring it to the table. What if we just went first? In fact, what if we redefine success in our relationships not based on what we get out of them but how we can invest into them. See, you and I today, we get to be in right standing with God because of what Jesus already did for us, not based on anything that we’ve done, but because he went first even though we mess up all the time. Like how many of you have messed up at least once already this week? I know when it’s only Sunday, I know me too, me too.

But the thing is that God sees us through the finished work of Jesus. He sees us through the lens of Jesus. He sees the best about us because Jesus went first and restored everything. So what if we went first to love, forgive, encourage, care for, serve, bring joy and laughter to the table, if we just went first? And if that throws you off, then maybe today you just need to receive those realities over your own life. Like Jesus loves you. He calls you beloved. He says, you are worthy of relationships. And he served you well with his life, his death and his resurrection and sending the Holy Spirit to lead us and do life with us and talk about joy. Like he said in his presence is fullness of joy. Jesus went first for us. And if you would just receive those things into your life, then you could start to water the relationships around you.

You could start to put some sunlight on the relationships in your life. And maybe — maybe something that you wanted to throw away could become something that adds so much value to your life. And I know some of you are like, but bro, you have no idea how terrible my relationships are. You’re right, I don’t. But Jesus does. And my plants, they didn’t get beautiful overnight either. Like it was consistently watering and putting sunlight on those things. All I’m saying is that grace changes us. Like there is no defense for love like when somebody loves you, it changes you. Jesus pursues us, draws us in and it changes our life. Like what if we just went first? One day, Jesus was out with his disciples and the disciples they got into an argument with a parent of one of the students.

I’ve never been there. I don’t know what that’s like. Um. But the disciples are like your student is bothering Jesus. And Jesus grabbed the student and said, actually the kingdom of heaven is like one of these. And the thing is we’ve been learning so much from them. And what if one of the things that we could learn today is the value of just going first so the relationship could flourish? If you’ve ever been here on a Wednesday night for student circles, you know that it’s normal to have new students walk through our doors. And if they have a friend group, they show up and often their group is up at the front like waiting for them, celebrating them, high fiving, fist bumping and it’s awesome, it’s a great night. But you also would know that it’s normal for us to have new students walk through our doors that have never been here before. They don’t have a friend group and they get welcomed by everybody out front with the signs and they make their way in and they get checked in.

But you can always tell because they’re a little bit distant, a little bit quiet, a little bit unsure, maybe anxious, maybe even intimidated until another student goes first, makes their way over, introduces themselves and invites them into their friend group and it changes everything for that student. And I just wonder, like if we went first in our relationships, could it change everything for our relationships? Would they flourish? I want you to just close your eyes with me for a moment wherever you are, just for a moment, I want you to think about this. Jesus let go of our offenses so that he would never have to let go of us. So now, we get to let go of their offenses so that we never have to let go of them.

If the Holy Spirit has been bringing to your attention a name, a relationship, maybe it’s a spouse, maybe it’s a sibling, maybe it’s just a friend, maybe it’s a co-worker, whatever that relationship is, where you feel that there’s brokenness there needs to be healing, I need some water, I need some sunlight on this relationship, I want you just to imagine that person right now the way God sees them in the finished work of Jesus, the very best about them. Imagine them that way. And what if you just went first? Jesus right now, we just want to say thank you for going first for us. Jesus, thank you that you went first when we didn’t deserve it, we were nowhere near deserving, but you went first anyway, restored everything in our life. And so for those names that you’re bringing to our attention right now, Jesus, would you give us faith and courage to go first in those relationships believing that you are bringing healing and restoration?

Even right now in this moment, you’re doing the work in our hearts, you’re churning our hearts. The love of God is changing us so that we can go out and begin to love them and go first for them. And so we believe for healing in marriages, healing in other relationships. God, wherever there has been that stress God, we pray for healing and peace and flourishing life. For the amazing relationships we do have in our life, we say thank you. Thank you Jesus for putting people in our life who are life-giving, who point us back to you. Those relationships that are flourishing, would you help us to continue to water those relationships? And for the people in here who just feel like, man, I’m in a season of loneliness, I actually just wish I had a relationship, by faith we are prophetically declaring over your life there are relationships for you.

There are relationships for you here at Valley Creek, in a circle, on a serve team, in this family, God has relationships for you and we’re going to say thank you in advance for the relationships that you’re bringing into our life. So Jesus, thank you that you have amazing relationships for us, in Jesus’ name, amen.

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