In the second week of this series called "Identity" we focused on acceptance and particularly acceptance with friends. We began the night with splitting the group into 2 groups and having them make a list of as many cartoon/tv show/movie friends. They came up with a huge list that included Batman and Robin, Mickey Mouse and Goofy, Mario and Luigi, etc. I tied this into the message later on. Our worship set then included "Ain't No Rock", "Forever", "Breathe", and "More Like Following in Love".
So as we think about all the friends we have in life: school, church, work, activities, and social media we all at some point or another have the desire to belong to a group or to be friends with a specific person. The thing we have to remember is that when we belong to a group of friends we often take on the characteristics of that group. We used the example of Mario and Luigi. They are brothers in their video game world, but for this example we assumed they are also friends. We focused a minute on Luigi. The truth is though that aside from Mario, Luigi doesn't have much of his own identity. He takes on the identity of being Mario's brother, and being similar to Mario. There is nothing wrong in wanting to have friends because we were not meant to live life alone. However we need to check ourselves and see why we desire to belong to a group. Often times it originates from our insecurities. The main problem lies when our desire for acceptance into a specific group becomes so strong that we lower our standards, we allow ourselves to be subjected to stuff we normally would not be around, and then we give into sin we would not normally participate in. If you have to change and/or do things you know are wrong in order for someone to like you, then they are not a real friend.
We then talked about a popular group of people in the Bible. This crowd had it going on with the way they dressed, their intelligence and education, etc. When people saw them they knew what crowd they belonged to. This group enticed people to join and was a group that many people wanted to belong to. I am talking about the Pharisees. We look at them and think badly of them for their religious rule and traditions and we know how Jesus called them out on many occasions. But they would have been one of the popular crowds back then. When you read Galatians 1:6-10 we see that Paul is writing the churches in Galatia about the false teaching that is going on. Paul had taught them the truth in salvation through Jesus Christ, and Jesus alone. However a little bit later they started teaching that Paul had not taught the whole truth and that you had to also observe some of the Old Testament law in order to gain salvation. The Pharisees had impressed some beliefs on the churches of Galatia. So Paul here is challenging them with the truth and saying that it is more important to follow and believe truth, than to be a people pleaser and fit in their crowd. It is never worth following a false doctrine in order to feel a part of a group.
So how can we turn things around so our identity is in Jesus instead of in our friends? First we have to allow Jesus to be our best friend. The more time you spend with someone, you begin to take on their identity. If you spend more time with Jesus then you will begin to be more like Him. When we read about the love of Jesus in John 15:12-15 we should be humbled and desire to grow closer to Him. The second thing we can do is be a godly friend to others. When we think about Job's friends, we usually think about how they were jerks and told him that his sin had brought on the devastation in his life. But every time I read Job 2:11-13 I am amazed at how his friends were there with him grieving and mourning with him during that time. How often do we grieve over the pain a friend is enduring?
So we have to think about why we desire to fit in with a group. We are going to desire to be friends with someone or a group at some point in our lives, but why? Are we going to lower our standards because we will end up following a false doctrine and give into sin. It is never worth that.