There are many who use the statement that Jesus was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19) to rationalize their social alliances and “after-work” camaraderie with immoral and ungodly people. They do this without any concern or attempt to harmonize the clear statements of Scripture which warn that “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33), rhetorical questions like, “What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14), or God’s admonition for Christians to “go out from their midst and be separate from them” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Jesus did of course dine with “tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 9:9-10), but what many seem to purposefully overlook is that Christ’s agenda in those settings was clearly stated – “I came to call sinners to repentance” (Mt.9:12-13; Luke 5:32). Christ’s enemies tried to make him out to be a companion of evildoers, along with calling him “a glutton and a drunkard” (Matthew 11:19), which also was not true. Obviously, all Christians will have necessary interaction with ungodly people in this world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), and like Christ, we should periodically plan strategic times with immoral people, not to “take part in” their lifestyle, but rather to “expose it” and to plead with them saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:6-14). But when it comes to “down time”, “hanging out” or social interaction, the Scripture is consistently clear: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
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“The pursuit of happiness” is certainly our heart’s default position. It is our nature to want to experience feelings of pleasure, gladness and enjoyment. Unfortunately, at the present time, we live in a corrupted world, encased in corrupted bodies, pitted against a very powerful corrupted enemy bent on luring us with “harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). And therein lies the problem with the pursuit of happiness. If we thoughtlessly follow our natural appetites we will undoubtedly fall into a snare leading to multiplied pain and misery.
However, true happiness won't come until we are with Christ. For now, the focus of our daily pursuit must not be happiness, but holiness. What if we woke up each morning and, instead of asking, “what can I do today that will make me happy?” we chose to say, “how can I be more holy today?” Holiness is a pervasive topic throughout Scripture. Unfortunately, it has fallen out of vogue with today’s culture and even the church. We have lost our drive to be holy and righteous. We have replaced sanctification with license under the guise of grace. But if we are to be true followers of Jesus, obedient to His Word, then holiness must take a primary place in our lives.
This month at Focal Point we are excited to offer a resource to help pursue holiness, it's a book by A. W. Tozer called Knowledge of the Holy. In his introduction Tozer writes, “What comes to mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” This classic work emphasizes why it is so important we have a right understanding of God, and delves into core issues like the mercy of God, the love of God and the holiness of God.