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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When the storms of life sweep in and we become tossed about by things like cancer, unemployment, divorce, or foreclosure, it is absolutely vital we have something strong and reliable to grasp onto. In these critical moments we need a lifeline.
As a pastor who comforts and counsels people through difficult times, I have seen a number of these turbulent storms. And I have also weathered a few myself. I’ll never forget the day the doctors informed my wife and me that our unborn daughter Stephanie had a congenital disorder called Spina Bifida. That day would mark the beginning of a whirlwind of emotions, questions, surgeries, tough decisions, and close calls.
The reality is we all go through difficult times and I recently wrote a book on this topic titled Lifelines for Tough Times: God’s Presence and Help When We Hurt. In this brand new release, I share my own story of the difficult months and years following Stephanie’s diagnosis, and more importantly, I examine the biblical lifelines we can cling to in any storm we face. I truly hope you will read this book and be encouraged. For a limited time, you can request Lifelines for Tough Times when you give a donation of any amount in support of Focal Point.