“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of the sinner, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season.”
When you were young, growing up, and trying to find your way through life, did your parents ever advise you to choose your friends wisely? Did you ever hear, “Birds of a feather, flock together,” from them or other older role models in your life? I must have heard both at least a hundred times from my mother. If you were like me, you might have rolled your eyes and shrugged it off but truthfully, that advice is based on the biblical principles that God expects all of us to heed.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us to: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
I’m sure we have all heard cautionary tales about “good” people ending up in serious situations because they were with friends who didn’t really concern themselves with being “good.” Proverbs verse 20:1 is a warning to all followers of God to avoid becoming embroiled in the sins and evil acts of associates. The conundrum for us, is that we believers are called to go out into the world to share the love of Jesus Christ with nonbelievers. We are also called to witness to believers who may have lost their way from God's narrow path. We are likely to encounter all manner of sin and evil when we seek out the lost and our deceived fellow humans.
We are told to be aware of our friends and to discern whether or not God approves of our association with them, particularly those who may not be a positive influence on our relationship with Him.
Proverbs 20:1 states: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches...”
We can discern that sometimes our reputation is tarnished by the people with whom we choose to spend time. As long as our own behavior remains above reproach, then it is less likely for us to be accused of wrongdoing, but it’s God’s command that we avoid being tainted by those who continue their ungodly and worldly behavior. We are to separate our lives from those who live in worldly sin, while at the same exemplifying a life patterned after Jesus Christ.
Jesus often spent time and sat at meals with all manner of unbelievers and sinners. Those were the very people He came to save. To reach those lost children of God we must go among them and try to convey the love of the Father to them on a level they can understand. However, we are NOT to participate in whatever schemes, or sinful, immoral acts they may be engaged in. We, believers, are a separate people, a holy nation according to the Bible and we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into any behavior that would be displeasing to God. So, though we reach out to these brothers and sisters to share Jesus with them, we must not sink into sin with them.
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation...”
As we walk God’s path for us on this earth, we will encounter various other fellow travelers. Some of these will become temporary or permanent parts of our life. Many more will pass on by and we never see them again. Still, others may be deliberately sent to affect changes in us. Of these, it is so important that we understand who sent them, what their motives might be, and whether or not God wants us to open our hearts to a relationship with them.
How do we know whether the people we encounter are who they claim to be? This is so important in trusting those around us. Not everyone who claims to be a believer will be proven honest. Some might think of themselves as believers but have never been told the proper way to seek God. They must confess their sins, repent, and ask forgiveness to be saved. They may not have followed through into forming a personal relationship with Christ. Still others may feel they are saved but when the test of their faith inevitably comes, they turn and walk away. Others may try to deliberately imitate the Christian way of life for their own gain by deceiving others. So, as believers, how do we recognize other real believers? The Bible says we can know them by the fruit they bear.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."
“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?”
“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”
“Every tree that bringeth forth not good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”
“Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them.”
What should we look for in the fruits of the people around us? We watch their actions to see if they align with God’s Word. Does their behavior fall in line with Scripture? How do they treat others, when they think no one is watching? Are they kind, considerate, and thoughtful with others? Or do they seem to be naturally self-centered? How do they react to things that make them angry? Do they exhibit Godly temperance or do they act out violently? The Bible tells us what marks a real believer and the attributes of the spirit living within us: the fruit of the spirit.
Though these precious and important scriptures may seem like a lot to take in, we know that they are vital in maintaining a good relationship with God, while at the same time sharing that relationship with those who are lost and desperately need a relationship with Him. We do not need to be wary or suspicious of every person we meet whether it is a believer or a nonbeliever. However, it is so imperative that we have a line of prayer to God and a knowledge of the Bible to help us see the truth of a person's character. We need to hold firm in our faith and commitment to God. In whatever way we approach these people, we know God goes with us. He will be right there to give us the proper words and the will to resist any temptations that might come from them. In fact, it is best that we do not attempt to go into a faith-sharing situation unless we know God is directing us to do so and we cover our interactions in prayer. He will protect us and guide us as long as we seek Him first and do not plunge ahead on our own.
We reach out to you and seek your presence as we work among the lost to share the love of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you will open their hearts to the truth and save them from their sin. I know Lord, that you will protect us from all temptation and strife that may come from our efforts and engagement with lost and hurting souls. I love you, Lord. Please bless the seeds that are sown among the lost. Please nourish them so that they might take root in your kingdom. Direct us in the best way to go into the world and share your message of love and salvation. Go before us, Lord, as we go to the fields to harvest.
In Jesus’ name,
Karen Butler Ogle