How much time do you spend in secular or worldly influences in your everyday life? Battling the traffic to and from work or school; interacting with friends, associates, and colleagues during the day; surfing the web for a while; talking with neighbors and friends for a while; doing home chores; watching TV (how many hours?); checking in for a while with Facebook (or whatever your favorite flavor of social networking might be); etc….times at least 5 days a week, right? Then there’s the occasional secular hobbies and sports we might be involved in during the work week. And there’s the Saturday activities, most of which are non-religious. Hopefully, you get the point that the vast majority of our week is spent “marinating” in secular or worldly settings. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; otherwise, as Paul said, “for then you would have to go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:10) and no one would hear the Gospel.
It is, however, to get you to be thinking about how many of the approximately 112 waking hours of the week are spent with secular, worldly influences—in comparison to the time spent among positive spiritual influences. Also to think about what those secular or worldly situations/people/programs are usually trying to influencing you do. Godly stuff or not-so-godly stuff?
On the other hand, what will the spiritual situations and people in your life try to influence you to do? Get the point? I’m hoping that this contrast will make it clear how important Christian associations are in the life of the Christian.
The New Testament clearly teaches us, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV). And if this is true (and of course it is), then it is also true that good company will encourage good character and discourage bad. This is why Paul wrote, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13, NIV). Notice how many “together” encouragements he mentions?
This is why the very first Christian spent time with each other. They made friends with each other, they ate at one another’s homes, and gave their new faith a “fighting chance” by cultivating Christian associations. God made us social creatures: we want friends, we want to fit in, and we find ourselves influenced by others. This is part of the reason that the Lord gave us the church and commanded that we assemble (Heb. 10:25). Christians of any spiritual age (Christian “newborns” to the most mature) need to be careful about the influences with which they surround themselves.
Christians of every maturity level need to be friendly towards every brother or sister, new or old. Make the effort to make friends. Invite others to your home (aka, hospitality, a seemingly lost practice these days). Accept the invitation of others. Come to even the social events of the church. Organize a social event, a youth group gathering, a golden agers gathering, a young family gathering, a singles’ gathering. Make your best friends, your closest friends Christians. You might be surprised at the spiritual growth you gain in knowledge, in courage, in conviction, in moral character, in prayer, and in wisdom.
Research shows that Christians with several friends within the church are not as likely to fall away! Conversely, those with few or no friends within the church, tend to fall away back into the world. Let me encourage you to pursue friendships and relationships within the fellowship of the church.