By Eric Warren

No one likes to be different.  As the old proverb goes, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.”  If you’re as unfortunate as I am, you have quite the arsenal of stories that entail truly how awkward you were through the years of middle school and high school.  Looking back now, I can definitely laugh but, at the time, all I wanted was to be like my friends and not have much about me stick out that they could point and laugh at.  These days, I have the benefit of retrospect and, looking back, I should have cherished those little quirks and everything else that made me unique.  What we offer here at Brentwood Baptist is a life that is counter to “fitting in.”  Christianity has developed its own culture, especially here in the South, that includes a high regard for image and routine that does not exactly mirror authentic and genuine relationships.  We hope to provide something that flies in the face of that superficiality; however, there is a certain cost.
Something that Christ was very persistent in was His teaching that those who follow Him will suffer.  In so many words, “If you don’t suffer, you’re doing it wrong.”  In Matthew 10, Jesus talks about His followers being “sheep amidst the wolves,” which doesn’t need much explanation.  Those who dare to claim the name of Jesus have a huge target painted on their back.  Being a true follower of Jesus is different; you stick out and, as said earlier, the nail that sticks out gets hammered.  Christ called his first disciples away from their boats, away from their jobs.  In today’s day and age, a lot of people find their worth and their definition in their job; so, to be called away like this would be giving up a huge part of what defines you in this worldly life.  You’d better believe that life with Jesus is different.  A couple chapters earlier, we are given the account of one who passionately wishes to follow Jesus and His ministry.  His only request to Jesus was that he be allowed to go home and bury his father, to which Christ said, “No, follow me completely or not at all.”  You’d better believe that life with Christ is different, it’s counter to the ways of the world and there is a cost in following Him.
This is a somewhat bleak message that I am sharing with you; I understand that.   Last week, I shared with you an importance of being fed by Scripture and not just the portions that make us feel warm and fuzzy, but also the parts that make us feel convicted, that put a pit in our stomachs.  Those portions are just as important to our nourishment because they only reveal the gravity and the power of God’s saving Grace.  Christ prepares us for such adversity in His teachings in John’s gospel account when He says, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”He also provides us encouragement by stating immediately before, “However the World may hate us as followers of Christ, know that the World hated Him first.”
Again, I know this is not necessarily the most uplifting message to take in, but consider this.  We are on the brink of Group Connect on August 23, where we hope to attract mass amounts of people seeking to plug into LIFE Groups.  We have been inviting you to come alongside us in prayer for these Group Seekers, for everyone tied to the event, and for those in charge of facilitating it.  That request has not changed, but something we ask of you also is to pray for transformed hearts through these LIFE Groups.  Paul states in the twelfth chapter of Romans:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                                             – Romans 12:2

 We ask you to pray not just for people to find nice social groups, not just friends, but life change and enduring, Christ-centered relationships.  There is a cost to following Jesus; it is counter to the ways of the World.  It’s not just a tweak here and there to make you a nicer person but a foundational change at the most basic level.  We want you to pray for hearts that either are genuinely captivated or will be genuinely captivated by Christ so that they can read news like how the world will hate them, and they will still see the immense joy behind such a statement, which is found in the truth that yes, the world will hate us, but the perfect and holy God is crazy about us.  That is true and genuine relationship that, in the midst of hard news, in the midst of difficulty and adversity, we still cling as hard as we can to our Heavenly Father.
Things to Pray For: 

  • Genuine relationships to be born and fed through these LIFE Groups.
  • For genuine hearts to live publicly so that Group Seekers can be given a clear picture of a captivated heart for Christ.
  • Hearts that are able to take in the hard news and still relentlessly pursue the ways of the Father with joy in their hearts.