Act upon Your Recommendations

Blind Faith (No. 4, 2015)
Weekly Devotional for January 22, 2015
Act upon Your Recommendations

A wonderful restaurant new to me has been highly recommended by A friend who
goes there often. I’ve been meaning to try it out. It is not the fanciest
bistro in town. It is not necessarily “the place” to go in town for steaks,
or barbecue, or catfish. Those dishes are served, but none is exceptional in
comparison to similar offerings at other places. According to my
enthusiastic friend, however, whatever you order in this restaurant is well
prepared and graciously served, and the welcoming atmosphere promotes good
conversation and relationship building over the meal. The proprietors greet
each guest warmly and make people feel at home. It sounds like the kind of
place that I really enjoy, and I intend to go there soon.

But I haven’t been there yet. Why? I guess it’s because I often don’t
remember the place until I am already seated at another restaurant placing
an order or being served. Like many others, I find myself going back to the
same familiar eateries, even though I tire of their sameness. Then I wish
that I had thought about my friend’s recommendation in time to make plans to
go there.

Another time I think about the intriguing new restaurant is when
I see my friend who told me about it. Not that I think about it every time I
run into that friend, but when the topic of places to eat comes up in our
conversation I do remember all the good things he has said about the
restaurant, and I get the urge to go. Maybe he will take me there with him
for lunch some day soon!

Have you played out this scene with your friends? How many of us
have been introduced to favorite places to eat by a friend who has found it
satisfying? How many times have we first gone there when a friend has
invited us, or met us there, or has taken us there personally? Aren’t you
much more likely to go to a new restaurant with someone who invites you to
come along, rather than going by yourself on your friend’s recommendations
alone?

What is true of your response to a friend’s word about someplace to eat is
true of people’s reaction to your recommendations for a place to “break the
Bread of Life” in Bible study and worship. Someone might be interested in
coming to church because of the good things you have said about the
welcoming atmosphere, the deep friendships, and the spiritual nourishment
you have found there. But most often more than just pointing the way is
needed for people to check out the satisfying experiences and fellowship to
be found at the Lord’s table. All the good things you say about your church,
alone, may not be enough to get them in the door. Besides, an introduction
to Jesus goes infinitely further than encouraging someone to become a loyal
church patron. Recommending relationship with Jesus and his followers in a
church is all about following Jesus more closely. Your own enjoyment of
relationship with Jesus and other Christians can be heightened by bringing
friends along with you. Jesus, the proprietor, and all the servers in a
church befitting good recommendations greet each guest and make them feel at
home. You might be surprised at who would come with you at your invitation
to Jesus’ place.

One of the first stories of people becoming Jesus followers
shows the crucial role of a friend doing more than just talking about Jesus,
but bringing people along to Jesus with them. These early “regulars” with
Jesus found their own spiritual hunger satisfied, and they eagerly talked up
the new source of their satisfaction. But they did more: they took their
family and friends with them. Here is how John tells the story:

One of the two men who followed Jesus after they heard John speak about him
was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. {41} The first thing Andrew did was to
find his brother Simon and say to him, “We have found the Messiah.”
(“Messiah” means “Christ.”) {42} Then Andrew took Simon to Jesus. Jesus
looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called
Cephas.” (“Cephas” means “Peter.”)
{43} The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said
to him, “Follow me.” {44} Philip was from the town of Bethsaida, where
Andrew and Peter lived. {45} Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have
found the man that Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote
about him. He is Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” {46} But
Nathanael said to Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip
answered, “Come and see.”
{47} As Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said, “Here is truly an
Israelite. There is nothing false in him….” {49} Then Nathanael said to
Jesus, “Teacher, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”(John
1:40-47, 49 NCV)

Andrew was enthusiastic about his discovery of Jesus, and he took his
brother, Simon (Peter) Johnson with him to enjoy the spiritual feast. The
Johnson boys apparently spread the good word about Jesus in their hometown,
so Phillip was primed when he had his first opportunity to go with Jesus.
When Nathanael hastily dismissed Phillip’s glowing recommendation of Jesus
with a tired cliché, Phillip made sure that his brother didn’t miss out,
saying to him, “Come and see!” Jesus turned out to be all that Phillip had
said about him, and much more. But they might have missed the best
relationship of their lives, had they not told each other and then taken
each other to Jesus.

When the word about Jesus spread far and wide, another approach to the Jesus
experience involved these first followers. John describes a day when the
“major franchise” Jewish leaders were bemoaning the crowds going to Jesus.
Some Greeks had heard the rave reviews about Jesus. They organized their own
party, and found a way to get reservations to meet Jesus. John tells this
story, too:

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.
{21} They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request.
“Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” {22} Philip went to tell
Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. (John 12:20-22 NIV)

Phillip and Andrew welcomed the travelers, just like regular guests of
Jesus.

Who have you told about the wonderful spiritual feast with Jesus
your friends can find at your church, Bible study group, or service
opportunity? Have you done more than just talk about how good it is? Have
you invited them to meet you there – or, better, to come along with you – so
you can introduce them to the proprietor, Jesus, and to your favorite
servers? If you have been reading the positive reviews, but haven’t made it
to Jesus in awhile, what about getting a party together and going in a
group? I’m sure you will find that servers will greet you just like one of
the regulars, and will help you enjoy Jesus and the warmth of his place.

You can’t go wrong for satisfying your spiritual hunger and
finding deep friendships and fellowship at Jesus’ place, a welcoming,
serving church. Be sure to try it out, become a regular, spread positive
recommendations, and take someone along with you.

-J. Edward Culpepper