Chapter 3: Life Lessons on Friends
1. Bad company does corrupt good morals, but even the darkest of the dark need to see the Light.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” It is easy to be deceived into thinking that we are strong enough not to be swayed by the influence of evil people. Without even realizing how we are being influenced and changed by being around certain people who talk certain ways and portray certain attitudes, we start to copy them and learn their ways of behavior. This is why for Christians it is so important to be around those who live out their faith in authenticity and purity and why it matters to sit under teaching that is right. We have got to choose our friends and associates wisely because we will start to become like them the more we are around them.
Mark 2:16-17 says, “When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?’ And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” This passage cannot and must not be used as a rationale for doing what evil people do and for participating in their evil deeds. By being a friend of sinners, Jesus didn’t compromise Himself or put Himself in positions where He could have been easily led astray or given His Father a bad name. What distinguished Christ’s evangelism from those who just want an excuse to do sinful things and go to sinful places while using evangelism as a rationale is that Jesus made it clear that He was going to them as a doctor, so to speak, to cure their illness. He was not going to them as one of the gang but as a physician to a hospital filled with sick people. His mission was clear, His purpose stated, and His identity clearly revealed. If the unsaved didn’t want to hear about truth and righteousness, then they wouldn’t have kept hearing Him out. In other words, Jesus was not trying to get anything selfish out of His evangelism efforts, and He wasn’t trying to conform or belong. Actually, He was setting Himself up as a target by unbelievers who hated Him, particularly the self-righteous religious leaders who hated sinners. We do the gospel no good if we don’t love sinners enough to speak to them and be seen with them. However, we do Christ no good if we go to be with sinners to enjoy their sin and show them how “normal” we are and how much we are like them. Rather, we must be clear and obvious that we are going to them as a spiritual doctor to cure them of their eternal sickness of sin. There is nothing wrong with that kind of friendship with sinners, for preaching the gospel never corrupted anybody.
2. Do not follow after unbelievers who scoff and mock at Christ, and beware of professing believers who come to doubt His goodness, His power, and His unwavering commitment to do exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Psalm 1:1 says, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” Those who mock Christ, truth, eternal judgment, consequences for sin, and all that is good, right, and pure have a lot of followers. As Christians, we have no part with these, but rather we are to be firmly planted in the truth of loving God’s Word and delighting in His ways. This is fairly obvious, but what is less obvious is that it can also be toxic to be around those who profess Christ and yet who flaunt the grace of God as license to sin. There are also those who profess Christ who do so simply because they are trying to make business contacts within the church or because they enjoy influencing other people. Others profess Christ and yet go to church only to make themselves feel good with preaching that is nothing more than a fleshly pep talk to try harder or to get God to give them more stuff. Others know the truth and yet have given up on God doing something amazing, powerful, wonderful, and even beyond what we could ask or imagine. They have settled in their walk with Christ in terms of what they will accept as what defines the church of Jesus Christ and as far as what constitutes faithful evangelism. They have lost sight of Ephesians 3:20 which says, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” Some claim to seek after this verse by becoming miracle chasers and looking for manifestations of the supernatural. They have forgotten that a life changed by the gospel and even a life that believes the gospel enough to preach it are themselves miracles of God. They have lost sight that the Bible is itself a miraculous revelation from God. God is at work in us and in the world around us today conforming people to His image and changing hearts and lives through the power of the shed blood of Christ. Nothing saps our joy more than being around those who name Christ and yet see no real life change and don’t care that there is little to show for their faith. There should be a passion and an excitement for truth and for the gospel.
Those who have to come up with certain additives to make church and Christ more exciting only reveal that they have lost hope that the gospel’s power is itself wonderful enough. We serve a God Who constantly overwhelms us with His goodness and His deliverance even if we only see it after the fact. But what counts is what we believe about Him in the present even if we can’t seem to see His goodness in a certain moment. His power is unending, His wisdom is eternal, and His goodness is perfect. When we come before God and His Word in true humility to be shaped and changed, we start on a journey that is the wildest adventure possible. It is so far from normal and so far off the beaten path that it is difficult to sustain, but it is worth the effort and the cost.
3. The only infallible Being is Jesus Himself, but finding others along the way who love Him deeply despite their imperfections is a great gift.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Sometimes people will let us down and do wrong by us, but Christ will never fail us. Thus, He is our only ultimate failsafe. However, He gives us people in life who love Him dearly and who can be a great encouragement to us. Sure, they will make mistakes at times, but so will we. Yet our hope is that we all have a Savior who never makes mistakes and Who is ready and willing to forgive us when we do. It is this shared hope in Christ that can truly bind two spirits together on earth in deep fellowship. Paul says of Timothy in Philippians 2:20 says, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” Paul had the opportunity to fellowship with other men of faith throughout his life, and he enjoyed their support as he went on various missionary journeys. Barnabas was known for his encouragement, and Silas sang praises with him while they were imprisoned together. Timothy was a kindred spirit of Paul’s because he had full confidence that Timothy would care for the believers just as Paul would if he was there. He knew Timothy’s heart, and he was confident that Timothy’s genuine concern for his fellow Christians would be exactly what they needed.
Paul didn’t have a naïve view of the world as though he was the only faithful person alive on the planet. He knew there were others, albeit a small minority of others, who shared a devoted faith in Christ, and these were a great encouragement to him throughout his life. They could support one another in prayer, they could partner together in ministry, and they could count on one another to do what they would have done if they themselves could be in two places at once. This kindred spirit is Christ in each of them motivating them to the same goals, same purposes, same ambitions, same desires, and same unity. As Philippians 2:1-2 says, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” True unity and real kindred spirits are possible only because of the same Holy Spirit in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ Who is very able to help us learn affection, show compassion, hold to sound doctrine, love, and focus on the same things that define our purpose on earth. Only Christ is perfect, but we can sure be encouraged by friends Who rejoice in Christ and who walk in His ways just as we also seek to do. A kindred spirit forms the basis of the deepest and most encouraging relationships this side of heaven.