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Talk

Have you or someone you know ever become so committed to something, even something positive (like healthy eating or exercise), that it became annoying to other people?

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When I first committed to faith in Jesus, some amazing changes took place immediately. Miracles really.

My language had been pretty vulgar; hardly a sentence came out of my mouth without at least one expletive. After I accepted Christ, no one ever told me to stop swearing, or that profanity offended God. I just stopped cold turkey. My appetite for bad language shriveled up just like the wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy doused her with water. I had a new desire to please God with my language and intuitively knew that mine didn’t currently.

Even though my new faith changed certain habits right away, I still struggled with other decisions to live for Jesus, especially when it came to drinking. Part of me still craved the popularity that came with my drinking buddies, and how a good buzz seemed to make it easier for boys to like me.

Unlike swearing, I had to proactively give drinking to Jesus. When I asked him to take the binge-drinking scene away from me, I admitted I couldn’t say no to it without some supernatural strength. And you know what? Jesus came through. Over time, heavy drinking lost its appeal. I could smile at friends and say, “No thanks, I’m good. I’ve had enough.”

I think this change was easier for me than it was for my friends. I sensed they weren’t quite sure who I was anymore—because I was definitely becoming different. Once, I opened my door and found someone had purposely left some pot for me in my room. I got the message: I was making my friends really uncomfortable and they wanted the old me back.

Talk

Since committing yourself to Christ, have you had any awkward experiences with friends or family who knew you before you became a Christian? What happened and what was that like?

Context

Jesus traveled through Israel at the start of his ministry, specifically calling 12 men to be his disciples and join his nomadic ministry. While in Capernaum, Jesus invited a tax collector named Levi to follow him. In occupied Israel, tax collectors were members of the community employed by Romans to collect taxes, like the Sheriff of Nottingham amassed taxes for King John in “Robin Hood.” Tax collectors were detested because Roman taxes were excessive, even fraudulent, and collectors were considered villainous. Levi became a Jesus follower anyway, and invited Jesus to a dinner party at his home to introduce Jesus to his friends.

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Take turns reading verses from Luke 5:27-32.

Talk

  1. When Jesus called Levi to follow him, what strikes you about Levi’s response in verses 27 and 28?
  2. What kind of people did Levi likely hang out with, given his reputation as a tax collector?
  3. The Pharisees avoided Levi’s friends and complained about them. What did this reveal about their hearts and about Jesus’ heart?
  4. Tax collectors were known for being greedy, so what surprising lifestyle changes did Levi make?
  5. Imagine you were at Levi’s party with his friends and having fun with them. Describe the atmosphere, food and drink, conversations, and jokes.
  6. Most people don’t invite just anyone into their home. Levi invited Jesus to his party, so what does that tell you about Levi’s relationship with “tax collectors and sinners” and with Jesus?
  7. What do you think the comfort level was like among Levi, Jesus, and Levi’s friends at the banquet?
  8. When Jesus didn’t shy away from Levi’s party, what was he implying to his critics about his mission and who matters to him?

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I’ve learned to pray for wisdom when it comes to telling a friend I’m not interested in getting drunk or high anymore. I always want to say it without demeaning them or sounding holier-than-thou, but it’s tough to say no and still show I care.

I sat in a bar with a relative I used to party with—she with a beer, me without—when she asked, “Does my drinking make you uncomfortable?” I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to say, “Not really. Does my not drinking bother you?” She got really quiet. It was obvious to both of us that it did.

That eye opener was the starting place for me to practice being like Jesus with her. He hung out with all kinds of people without making them uncomfortable. Like him, I could start building trust, proving she was still important to me, that I didn’t judge her for her choices and I wanted our relationship to grow.

With her and the other important people in my life, I ask Jesus to help me be like him—that my lifestyle choices will intrigue them and not turn them off from longing to know him.

Watch

  1. Take a stone and think of a lifestyle change you believe Jesus is calling you to make and perhaps you are even struggling to make. As you listen to the first few minutes of the song, allow the stone to symbolize your struggle as you pray.
  2. Allow the same stone to symbolize how God has been faithful to you. Take a few minutes to remember what God has done for you. Draw strength from your knowledge of who God is and how he has cared for you in the past to help you give him the struggle you feel inside as you consider the change to be made.
  3. Finally, admit to God that you cannot change without his grace, strength, and power. Tell him that you are completely dependent upon him to change.

Talk

  1. What is one lifestyle change you feel God is leading you to make?
  2. How do you expect your friends to respond when you make that change?
  3. What are some practical ways to keep including your friends in your life without compromising on that lifestyle change?

Bible Study

Read Psalm 77:1-20 as your prayer to the Lord and give him the lifestyle change you’re struggling to give up.

Listen for God to speak to your heart from his Word. Record what you believe he is saying to you.

Reminder

During the session, you thought of some practical ways to keep including your friends in your life without compromising on the lifestyle change you've decided to make.

Have you tried any of them yet?

Books

This book focuses on four developmental tasks--bonding to others, separating from others, integrating good and bad in your life, and taking charge of your life--that will heal your inner pain and enable you to grow emotionally and spiritually.

This book highlights God’s formula for making change and finding lasting deliverance. It is only through Christ that we have true freedom.

Jerry Bridges explains how God has equipped you to lead a holy life, how reason and emotion influence your will, and how habits and personal discipline play a part in holy living.

Audio

“Character is the will to do what’s right regardless of the cost.” What does renewal and transformation have to do with character? In this podcast, you'll discover that to be renewed and transformed, you need to understand what God's truths are.

“It is often said that you can tell what a person is like by the company he keeps.” Jesus kept bad company for a good reason. You ought to have bad company if you are a follower of Jesus. John Stott gives a compelling argument for keeping and fostering relationships with your non-Christian friends.

Articles

Making lifestyle changes that are healthy for your Christian journey can often alienate people who need Jesus. This article highlights how to continue friendships with the “wrong crowd” by doing so in community with other believers.

Getting your friends to even recognize that they have a soul worth nurturing is foundational. Geoff Gordon urges you to consider ways to help people connect to their spiritual nature and begin conversations about God.