“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Yes, that’s right folks! The idea that one rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel originated in the Bible.
Okay, so there’s potential for a less-then-favorable result to occur if we make the wrong friends. So what? Everything has risks these days, right? And who’s to say that “good company” won’t become “bad company” as time marches on? We’re fans of “No risk, no reward.” We’re even bigger fans of #YOLO. And if we’re being truthful, all of this sounds a little overdramatic, doesn’t it?
Well here’s the truth y’all: Friends matter. What you do while you’re away from the unsuspecting eyes of your parents/church family matters. What you wear when you’re no longer living under your parents’ roof matters. What you say when you’re out of earshot of church folk matters. What you put into your body and what comes out of your body, where you take your body and how you present your body – all of these things matter.
Let me start off by confessing that I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted while I was off at college. Freedom, oh sweet freedom! Never before had I tasted anything so…intoxicating.
Growing up, my parents always reminded me that my friendships mattered, that I needed to be wise about the people I hung out with. Parents being parents, I told myself. Well it turns out, what they had taught me proved to be true. As I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, my once strong morals soon became ill-advised compromises. Things I had once stood firmly on suddenly didn’t seem as important. It was okay that I showed a little more leg, it’s not like I was going around seducing every guy that walked by. It was okay that I “couldn’t make it to church,” it’s not like I was converting to atheism or something. It was okay that I went to certain places and engaged in certain behaviors, it’s not like I was nearly as bad as everyone else doing the same things around me.
Bad company ruins good morals.
And it’s always a subtle, barely noticeable transformation of the heart and mind. Our standards slowly start to fall, our expectations follow right on through. That “still small voice” within us grows ever dimmer, ever smaller. Paul said, “Do not be deceived” – and yet, that’s exactly what happened.
Paul’s noteworthy response to this phenomena:
Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
1 Corinthians 15:34
A question to ask ourselves: Are we living as if we “have no knowledge of God?” Are we pretending that He’s not really there, that He can’t really see us, that He doesn’t really know what’s going on, that He isn’t really…real? Paul’s right – how shameful of us to live in such a way! And I’m not even going to front about how literally we need to understand his words. Yes, figuratively too. But I won’t shy away from the clear-cut diction Paul uses here. Many of us, at some point or another, will fall to the pressures of “college life.” Songs like “I Love College” very literally sum up how many of us spent a number of our younger years (or are spending them or will spend them). I’m trying to be as candid as possible here: We need to wake up. #YOLO ain’t cute anymore, y’all. Actually, it never was. Doing things just to do them is pointless. “Living it up” for the sake of “living it up” is even more pointless. In the words of Solomon, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” Mind you, these are the words of a man who searched far and wide to achieve lasting satisfaction for his soul, a man who caught every high, who partied nonstop, who had 700 wives and 300 other women “on the side.”
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
If we’re out crashing parties every day of the week, filling our bellies with as much alcohol as we can find, getting caught up in as many purely physical relationships as we have the energy for, if we are mindlessly feeding the desires of the flesh, then we can be certain of one thing: Death is beckoning us. The prince of the power of the air rejoices as he places our hearts in his prison of eternal dissatisfaction. There is nothing worse than the hollowness within an eternally damned soul.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
If you have never known the Lord, if you have never experienced His goodness in your life, ask yourself this question: Has the god of this world (Satan), blinded you from seeing the light of the Lord Jesus, in whom ALL things are made new? And if you do know the Lord, ask yourself the same question. Has your sight been set on the things of this world rather than on Him who created the world?
It doesn’t matter if we grew up in a Christian home, our parents’ faith won’t save us. It doesn’t matter if we go to church every now and then, the Lord is not satisfied by fickle, insincere acts – and believe me, He knows when we’re insincere. It doesn’t matter if we think we deserve to enjoy life, to enjoy our youth – we are entitled to nothing but the wrath of God.
If we truly believe that God the Father sent His only Son to die in OUR place on the Cross that dreadful day 2000 years ago, then it is time to start living like it. I’m reminded of a quote that a friend recently shared with me:
If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.
If this is true for you today, then turning your back on the world is not too great a sacrifice, examining your life and weeding out the bad is not too great a sacrifice, putting an end to all the compromises is not too great a sacrifice.
It’s not sinful to have fun or get out of your comfort zone or live spontaneously. Those are all good things! The Lord desires for us to enjoy life to the fullest – but in a way that glorifies Him, in a way that resists the flesh, flees from evil, and seeks solely to please Him. We have to realize that our actions do carry some weight. While they do not define us, they do have an influence on how those outside the faith view Christianity and our God. We need to understand this truth: We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ, we represent HIM while on this earth. Therefore, we must live accordingly, as living testimonies of the power of Christ to transform and renew.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16
We are “the aroma of Christ” – this is no little thing. It’s crazy that God would allow US to be used for His purposes as His vessels. May the weight of this honor and blessing burden our hearts to turn from our sinfulness and cling to the Lord.
Today marks the end of an era. Today marks the death of #YOLO. Stop living like “you only live once” and start living like you’ve been given a clean slate, a fresh start – one that you didn’t deserve. Start living like the NEW CREATION that you are!
I wrote this post in an effort to be real with the youth of our generation. I’m not trying to bash on college kids or scare high schoolers into staying at home for college. I’m saying all of this because I am guilty. I am guilty of doing all of the things mentioned above, from Sunday Fundays to skimpy Halloween costumes, from trying this, that, and the other, to giving pieces of my heart away. Take these words as you may. But I pray that those reading these posts would do so with gracious hearts. I believe it’s necessary for me to be honest, to prove that as believers, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Our past is our past, and by the grace of our Lord Jesus, we are NEW. Clean. Spotless. Pure. I believe that we were made for community. And without honesty, a sense of community is impossible to achieve. For those of you struggling with the things mentioned in this post: You are not alone. Trust me – been there, done that…to the nth power. And believe me when I say this: Your story does not end here, in the bottomless pit of remorse and guilt. The Lord loves you just the same. No matter how much you’ve screwed up, no matter how much you’ve compromised. I say this from experience, so that you can know His promises are true! The grace and mercy I have experienced in my life proves Him over and over again. Our God is not a partial god – He does not love any of us more/less than another. What He promises me, He has promised you as well. So I encourage you to dive into Him, head-first. I challenge you to get real about your faith. I humbly request you to examine your life and make changes as the Holy Spirit leads. My heart is burdened for the youth of the Church. And I pray that hearts may be won for Him!
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:10a